Supervisor Ruth T. Griggs says that the Prince William County Park Authority should reconsider a plan to clear trees from 3.3 acres of Lake Ridge Park and re-route a nature trail to accommodate a golf driving range.
Griggs (R-Occoquan) said that a recent survey of her constituents called for more opportunities for "passive recreation," not another golf facility. She said the Park Authority did not do enough to inform area residents, saying some in the community were not aware of the size or impact of the project. Griggs has scheduled a meeting for Jan. 25 for community members and the Park Authority to discuss the proposal.
"You can take what I know about golf and put it in a thimble, but we're adding something not advertised as a need and taking away something identified as a top need," Griggs said. "So we're farther in the hole."
The driving range would be used for Prince William's chapter of the First Tee program, a national youth golf organization, said Jennifer Wollman, an associate director of development with the nonprofit. In addition to learning golf, participants learn about values, goal setting and overcoming obstacles.
"Our mission is to impact children who wouldn't normally be exposed to golf and its positive values," Wollman said.
The organization, whose honorary chairman is former president George H.W. Bush, has donated $100,000 to start Prince William's program. First Tee was founded by five major golf organizations: PGA of America, LPGA, USGA, Augusta National Golf Club and the PGA Tour.
Beth Robertson, a Park Authority spokeswoman, said that 80 children participated in the program last year and 110 were on the waiting list. The new driving range would be the centerpiece of the county's program and would allow more children to participate. She said the rest of the $300,000 cost of the driving range would be raised locally.
The driving range would be open to the public when not being used by First Tee, and range fees would be go toward the program, not for general Park Authority coffers.
Robertson said that the range is designed to have a minimal environmental impact and that Lake Ridge Park, off Smoketown Road, was never designed as a wilderness oasis. The park's master plan had long called for an amphitheater on the site of the driving range. Robertson said changing the use to a driving range, which was done a year and a half ago, will take up less space than an amphitheater.
Robertson said that only 125 yards of the 1.5-mile nature trail would be moved and that park officials pledged to increase the overall length of the trail.
She disputed Griggs's contention that the Park Authority could have done more to let area residents know about the plans.
"I don't know about that -- there were public hearings, mailing, fliers posted," Robertson said. "We did as much notification as possible."
Griggs said she is not opposed to the driving range.
"I'm not opposed to program for kids but taking away some of the good things that exist," she said. "I bet an amphitheater was a higher need than a driving range. I think there was a real lack of conversation with the community."