Where We Live: Lake Ridge, in Virginia's Prince William County

By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lake Ridge's five outdoor swimming pools and one spray park may have closed for the year, but now it's the dogs' turn.

The pooches of this large suburban community along the banks of the Occoquan Reservoir in Prince William County get their chance at a swim at the Tall Oaks pool Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Preregistration was required.) In a community known for its active youth swimming program, the closing of the pools marks a significant yearly shift, but Lake Ridge continues to have community events such as its annual fall yard sale, set for Sept. 25 this year, and fall festival, on Oct. 30.

Lake Ridge is a 7,500-home community just west of Interstate 95 along the southern edge of the reservoir. There are 1,800 acres of common area, including parks and woods; five swimming pools; 16 basketball courts; five tennis courts; and 16 tot lots. Three strip malls with grocery stores and other conveniences lie along Old Bridge Road, the main road through the community.

Though some homes are slightly older, most were built since 1972, when the Lake Ridge Parks & Recreation Association was formed. At that time, surrounding communities were given the option of joining the association.

As with many large neighborhoods, Lake Ridge can also be thought of a group of smaller neighborhoods with a variety of lot sizes and housing styles. According to Ron Pereira, general manager of the association, nearly half the homes in Lake Ridge are detached houses on lots as large as half an acre. About 35 percent are townhouses, and the rest are condominiums. There are also two apartment complexes, he noted.

Home styles primarily include Colonial, split-level, rambler and Cape Cod. There are also a few neighborhoods with Victorian and contemporary designs.

Many of the homes on the north side of the community have waterfront property on the Occoquan Reservoir. For association members without water access, the community maintains a boat dock.

The members have access to all community facilities and pay quarterly dues of $92.56, plus special assessments of up to $90 per quarter. The special assessments apply only to parts of the neighborhood with privately maintained streets, lighting, sewers, storm drains and retaining walls (about half of Lake Ridge homes).

"It's one of the best values for your money," said Gloria Price, a real estate agent with Century 21 New Millennium. It's a "beautiful planned community on the shores of the Occoquan" that has its own "neighborhood shopping, schools, churches, commuter services, lake, parks, pools, golf, library," she said.

For kids, said longtime resident Vicki Yoho, "it's a good place, because it's family-oriented."

Among other youth activities, with its five swimming pools, Lake Ridge has an active swim-team program. Lauren Yoho, Vicki's daughter, said she grew up on the swim team and "now I'm assistant coach."

Ron and Vicki Yoho are on their third home in Lake Ridge, a 3,200-square-foot Colonial. They bought their first home in 1987 after looking in adjacent Fairfax County. "Prince William County is not quite as pricey and is homier than Fairfax County," said Vicki Yoho.

Ron Yoho is on the board of directors of the Lake Ridge Parks & Recreation Association, whose functions include those of a homeowners association. With that sort of involvement, plus two grown sons who have also bought homes in Lake Ridge, the Yohos are solidly tied to the community. "We love it here. We don't plan on going anywhere else," said Vicki Yoho.

Lake Ridge has also attracted a relatively large number of military families over the years, because of its proximity to Fort Belvoir and the Quantico Marine base, said Pereira.

Price agrees. "A lot of people live here when they're junior officers and then when they get transferred back they want to live here again," she said. This percentage is expected to increase with the planned increase in personnel at Fort Belvoir under the military's base-realignment program.

Getting to the Pentagon or into the District is a more painful commute on I-95 than it was in Lake Ridge's earlier days, but the Virginia Railway Express station is less than three miles away. "The commute has clearly changed, but the VRE is actually a pretty good alternative for people who live farther out, such as I do," said resident Douglas Rasmussen.

Rasmussen and his wife looked for homes in surrounding areas such as Manassas, but they found their top requirements -- "convenience as well as aesthetics" -- in Lake Ridge's Lynwood neighborhood. "We were looking for a nice neighborhood with proximity to shopping and schools. I believe this neighborhood serves this purpose very well," he said. And, he noted, "we kind of liked the trees in particular."

"We moved in in 1986, and we've enjoyed it ever since," Rasmussen said.

Reggie Nieves, an 11-year resident, also values trees. "What we wanted was a home built around trees, not the other way around. In this neighborhood you can't even see the houses from the street, we have so many giant trees around this place," he said.

Nieves, who took first place in Lake Ridge's architectural landscaping award in 2001 for his manicured lawn and garden, appreciates the quality of his house, built in 1986 by Fairfield Homes. For example, "There's real wood molding," he said. The house is three levels, including a basement (many owners have finished theirs) and about 2,500 to 2,800 square feet of living space.

Nieves serves on the architectural committee, part of the homeowners association. "They keep us all in line," he said. I'm glad the HOA is a little strict. I keep thinking it's a blessing to have an HOA," he said, recalling a neighborhood he once lived in where his neighbor painted the exterior of his home purple with lavender shutters. "That takes away from the whole neighborhood," he said.

"We moved in knowing that -- as does everyone -- it's a criteria of closing to accept the covenants," said Rasmussen.

"We're very happy with the neighborhood and continue to enjoy it. For the foreseeable future, we'll remain here," said Rasmussen.

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