Sunday, February 21, 2010

McDonnell's Proposal to Close Mason Neck Park Would Have A Negative Social and Financial Impact

Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to close down Mason Neck State Park has a lot of people very upset. At a meeting I attended this afternoon, for instance, there were people who had been extremely active in the Fairfax community for decades who were strongly urging everyone to tell the their representatives in the General Assembly that they strongly oppose the park’s closure. They were very quick to point out that thousands of people visit Mason Neck every year because it’s the only state park in Fairfax County and it’s a Bald Eagle habitat. Furthermore, there are educational programs such as the Elizabeth Hartwell Eagle Festival.

In addition to the fact the park provides great services to the thousands of people who visit the park, closing the park would actually have a negative impact on the state’s finances. As Gerry Connolly pointed out in a letter he sent to Gov. McDonnell, the revenue that the state would lose is actually five times greater than the money it would save by closing the park.
Last year, more than 88,000 people paid fees to visit the park’s day use area, and that figure does not include countless numbers of people who parked along High Point Road to explore other sections of the park abutting the day use area.

Furthermore, closure of the park will not save money for the Commonwealth. The negative economic impact of lost revenue to area businesses and lost sales tax and income tax payments to the Commonwealth is five times greater than the $101,904 the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation estimates the state will save by closing the park.

Visitors to the Mason Neck State Park last year spent more than $500,000 at local businesses in the area, generating approximately $27,500 in state sales tax revenue. That does not take into account additional revenue from the state income tax paid by those business owners and the day use fees paid by visitors to the park.
In other words, this park is a prime example of how a government program can provide a valuable social resource to the local community at the same time that it helps the local economy. The fact that McDonnell’s proposal would so clearly have a negative impact on the community both socially and economically also highlights how the GOP simply is out of touch with reality when it comes to the budgetary process. Fortunately, we have leadership from some of our other elected officials like Connolly to help stand up for what’s right.


  1. Mason Neck State Park is very beautiful but it’s management has made some very poor decisions which alienated many of it’s neighbors. The park maintains a policy which prohibits even it’s neighbors from hiking into the park (they can only enter from the main entrance). Large sections of the park were closed to the public without any public hearings or input. The park also did not evolve or grow as the Bald Eagles have over the years. When the park was founded it’s key purpose was to support the Bald Eagle which was on the endangered species list. As bald Eagle populations grew and ultimately they were removed from the endangered species list the park did not revisit it’s mission. Currently the park provides a boat launch, hiking trails and an environmental education center. On Mason Neck Pohick Bay Regional Park has a boat launch, Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, Gunston Hall, Pohick Bay Regional park and Meadowood Recreation Area all have hiking trails.

    To keep this park open I think there needs to be a stronger arguement than the ones listed above. The Eagle Habitat remains whether the park is open or closed (currently there are no plans to sell the property. The Eagle festival could still occur using Pohick or Meadowood though it's wouldn't be the same as the view at Mason Neck State Park. How is the figure of $500K substantiated?

    No one likes to see a park closed, maybe it’s time for the park to revisit it’s policies and better define it's mission

  2. OK,'s "Its" when it's a possessive, not "it's." Your weird punctuation makes it even harder to fathom your muddled arguments. You seem upset that neighbors can only enter...through the entrance. You complain that the park hasn't evolved from its original mission as a bird sanctuary, but then say, "the park provides a boat launch, hiking trails and an environmental education center." And, you seem to confuse the establishment of the wildlife refuge and the establishment of the state park.

    I think the author's argument (the park is popular and generates more revenue than would be saved by closing it) is a solid one, and makes more sense than whatever it is you're trying to say.

  3. Gunston Hall's boxwood maze and the swimming pool at the park, plus the eagles, kept my son happy 25 years ago. It was a brutal trip from Falls Church, but worth it. The park must stay.

  4. I was able to understand the first comment without attacking the person who submitted the comment. The comment states that the park has made some bad management decisions and failed to keep the parks mission up to date.
    The comment goes on to say that the resources currently provided by Mason Neck State Park are also provided by neighboring parks on Mason Neck.

    If you want a dialog in groups such as this, I would recommend refraining from attacks, otherwise the dialog stops.

  5. Anonymous (March 11 @ 2:41),
    You're right. We should have a conversation where we're all allowed to have our opinions and disagree without being disagreeable. That's why the second commenter to this post is entitled to have his/her opinion that the first commenter is wrong.

    I disagree with the tone of some of the other criticisms of the commenter, but I agree that he/she came to the wrong conclusion here. That being said, I personally think the first commenter had some valid points -- that we might want to look at what takes place at the park . However, you still cannot ignore the fact that the Park is not only a valuable social resource to the local community and actually generates money for the local economy. In a time when our economy is facing tough times, it would be wrong to close down a park that has such a positive impact both economically and socially in the community.