July 25, 2002
The Fairfax County Park Authority is developing a new public park. It has no parking and access, but ya'll come.
That was the message presented last week at a public hearing on the plan, but the proposal's obvious deficiencies did not go unnoticed by those attending.
"Not having adequate access would shortchange all the citizens in Fairfax County," said Judy Heisinger, president of the Bull Run Civic Association. "So I'm hoping you can arrange for parking so everyone can enjoy this."
Designated by the county as a "cultural-resource archaeological park," Lanes Mill Park is off Route 29 in the Lee Overlook area of Centreville. It's on eight acres bounded to the south by I-66, to the north by Route 29, on the west by Gate Post Estates, and on the east by Paddington Lane.
It's also at the confluence of Cub Run and Big Rocky Run, making it an ideal site, in the 1760s, for both a grist mill and a saw mill. The Lane family owned a mill complex there from 1752 to the 1830s. What's left there now are the ruins of the saw mill on Big Rocky Run, the grist mill on Cub Run, the wheel pit, tail race and mill races.
The wheel pit and tail race were part of the mill that housed the gearing mechanism; water exited the grist mill at the tail race. The mill races (long trenches) were used separately or in unison to supply consistent water flow from the Cub Run and Big Rocky Run streams to the water wheels. In turn, that water powered the grist mill to grind wheat or corn into flour.
What's planned now, said Park Authority project manager Todd Roberts, is a raised, walking-trail system to link all the site's features. He said the trail would be raised because "it's always wet there." It would be a loop trail within the park, joining an existing concrete trail running along Big Rocky Run.
Also proposed are information kiosks and signs. The Park Authority wants to preserve and protect the historic, natural and cultural resources at Lanes Mill and provide a setting to educate the public about 18th- 20th-century life and industry in the county.
That's all well and good. However, said Roberts, the Park Authority wants the public to park "elsewhere." According to its proposal, no parking spaces are intended for this site "due to its vehicular inaccessibility and wetlands nature."
Instead, visitors are expected to park either at London Towne Elementary or the Route 29/Stone Road park-and-ride lot, cross Route 29, hike downhill and somehow wend their way through the Pendleton Square townhouses to the park. Spencer Marker, president of the Historic Centreville Society, said parking and access are his board's primary concerns.
"I realize it's difficult," he said. "But to expect somebody to cross Route 29, go through a storage place and a townhouse community — I'm afraid it's not gonna happen. People won't use this park. Why can't there be a little pull-over by Compton Road [also south of the site] so people could go up the trail and down the stream?"
Marker also suggested access from Cub Run, linking to Braddock Road. "There could be one, long, contiguous trail, making for better use," he said. He also asked the Park Authority to do further archaeological research and surveys: "This is a historical treasure, so to get what's under the fallen rocks is important."
Dan Cruz, homeowners-association president of Gate Post Estates II, southwest of the site, said it's a "great idea to educate kids about some of the things we have out there." But he, too, favored a parking area on Compton Road.
In addition, he said, "I have concerns that people will drive to this [park], when it's actually an excellent site to walk to and get some exercise. And we're concerned about people parking on our closed streets and walking between the houses to get to the site. We've had some problems with trespassers [in the neighborhood]."
Frances Sullinger lives in the Pendleton Square townhouses, just northeast of Lanes Mill, where Stone Road was extended across Route 29. "We, too, would be concerned about people coming into our area to park," she said. "We have very little parking for ourselves and for our guests. It's a wonderful trail and we want more people to know about it, but it should be done right so it can be a joyful project."
Judy Heisinger noted that Lanes Mill Park is actually part of the Cub Run Stream Valley Park. She and others also pointed out that, because stairways currently lead from the nearby townhouses to the site, those in wheelchairs would be unable to access the new park under the Park Authority's current proposal.
"[But] people do park along Compton and walk along there — and they can use wheelchairs," said Heisinger. However, she said, "That trail continues on the Rocky Run Stream Valley side and then deteriorates because it's too wet. After you get across the water, it disappears."
She emphasized that both the school and park-and-ride lots are filled during daytime hours, so using them for park visitors isn't feasible. And since no signs in the townhouse area direct people to Lanes Mill, she said, those trying to reach it would have no idea where to go.
Heisinger also suggested parking off Route 29, near Gate Post Estates, and building a trail closer to that community, where the paved trail already runs to the Cub Run Stream Valley. This new trail could go to the confluence of the two streams and turn left across the Rocky Run stream to Lanes Mill.
Public comments may be sent by Aug. 15 to: Lynn Tadlock, Director of Planning & Development Division, Fairfax County Park Authority, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 421, Fairfax, VA 22035. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.