The Prince William Board of County Supervisors said it would block all funding to the Park Authority if it moves forward with plans to build a driving range at Lake Ridge Park.
Supervisor Ruth T. Griggs (R-Occoquan), an outspoken opponent of the proposal, said she would not support the county's budget for fiscal 2004 if it includes any funds that could be used to build the driving range. She also threatened to tie herself to a tree over the matter.
"If that's what it takes to get attention, then it's worth it," Griggs said Tuesday, adding that the Lake Ridge community supports her efforts.
At issue is a Park Authority proposal to clear 3.2 wooded acres of Lake Ridge Park to build a driving range. Clearing the trees would necessitate moving part of a hiking trail. The Park Authority received a $100,000 grant to build the range in December 2001 from First Tee, a Florida-based national organization that teaches children golf, values, goal-setting and overcoming obstacles.
A year ago, the Park Authority board unanimously approved the plan after a public hearing. The driving range was supposed to be up and running by this summer, but in recent months, public outcry over removing the trees has grown. The Park Authority is seriously pursuing several alternatives.
Board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R-At Large) said he has received a tremendous number of e-mails, calls, letters and visits about the proposed driving range.
"This is the most efficient way for us to deal with this," he said of the board's agreement.
Griggs said that if the Park Authority board votes to remove the driving range from its master plan, she will consider reinstating the Park Authority's funding, which makes up half its overall revenue.
"They're going to have to abandon forever . . . the driving range plan," Griggs said.
Supervisors are scheduled to take a final vote on the county's 2004 budget Tuesday.
Peggy Thompson, Park Authority executive director, said she was startled by the budget threats.
"I'm surprised that the entire Park Authority budget would be placed at risk for this one item when it services millions of [park] visits a year," she said. "There would be a tremendous impact."
Thompson said that before Tuesday, her staff was already seriously considering several alternatives to the driving range.
Lake Ridge Park manager Tracy Hannigan and other Park Authority staff planned to meet today with representatives from Old Hickory Golf Club, which is scheduled to open this summer in Woodbridge, to talk about the possibility of allowing children in the county's First Tee program to practice at the club's driving range.
Park Authority spokeswoman Beth Robertson said that under this type of arrangement, the county's First Tee chapter would keep its headquarters at Lake Ridge Park but would treat Old Hickory as an affiliate.
Last summer, 79 children participated in the county's program at Lake Ridge. An additional 110 children were on a waiting list, Hannigan said. Robertson said Lake Ridge was chosen to host the program in part because it's an ideal course for beginners. The course is short and only nine holes.
On Saturday, Brant Wickham, Occoquan representative on the Park Authority board, recommended that agency staff look into expanding the number of hitting stalls at Lake Ridge Park from four to 10. Wickham said that would allow the First Tee program to expand on site and would require minimal clearing of trees.
"This was based on community input, and the majority of citizens desires to retain the treed areas and the trails," he said. "I believe that citizens . . . were satisfied as a whole with this alternative."
Wickham said Park Authority staff will look into whether part of a grant from First Tee to build a driving range at Lake Ridge Park could be used to fund more hitting stalls.
Wickham said that he hopes to bring the recommendation to the Park Authority board in the next few weeks, but that another public hearing will occur before a final vote is taken.