The Virginia Commission of Outdoor Recreation has awarded $1.4 million in park grants, including $500,000 for the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail park and $350,000 for two Prince William County Parks.
However, the matching grants -- which are part of $6 million in 1980 federal land and water conservation funds -- will be among the few continuing park improvement projects in Virginia, if Gov. John N. Dalton's proposed budget is approved by the General Assembly.
For the first time in almost two decades, the proposed state budget includes no funds to buy or develop park land. The Virginia Department of Conservation had proposed spending $7 million in capital funds to buy two new parks in eastern Virginia and develop 11 existing state parks, most of them still closed to the public, such as Mason Neck in Fairfax County and Sky Meadows in Fauquier County.
The only park money in the proposed budget is $1 million to match a special federal urban parks program.
In other area, the governor proposed that no funds be alloted to operate half a dozen new state parks that are ready to open or nearly complete. Ben Bolen, director of the state conservation department, said this week he had sent "an addendum" to the executive budget with a $403,300 request for funds to operate the new parks.
Park officials suggest that one reason for the governor's decision was that the state approved a $5 million park bond issue two years ago -- matching $5 million in federal funds -- that is still financing some park projects.
In addition, Dalton's park budget proposals would eliminate any state matching funds for the federal land and water conservation grants. If that plan is approved, federal funds could not be used for state parks, but only for local projects such as those to be funded by the $1.4 million in grants announced last week.
Under that program, in which local programs provide matching funds to the federal grants, $500,000 awarded to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority will be matched with $500,000 in park authority funds to pave the W&OD Trail from Vienna to Herndon, with a bridal trail alongside.
Part of the grant will be used to build four bridges and improve the W&OD railroad bed between Herndon and Leesburg, making it passable at least to hikers.
The grants to Prince William County include a matching grant of $208,500 to buy 167 acres for the planned Bull Run Mountain Park, along Rte. 15 and Catharpin Creek, and an additional $141,500 for cost overruns in development of Locust Shade Park betweek I-95 and Rte. 1 in the southern part of the county.
The town of Herndon will receive $85,000 in matching funds to cover increased costs on a town park for which the commission previously had approved $375,000.