Brook Hill River Park in Albemarle County is now formally open from dawn until dusk.
The 20.4-acre parcel on the southwest corner of U.S. 29 and Rio Mills Road along the Rivanna River was donated to the county by the Oglesby family in September.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she’s been talking with county staff about the area for 18 years, and she has been working with the Oglesbys since 2008.
“We’re so fortunate that the Oglesbys decided to donate this stretch of property to the county so that we could develop this access point,” she said at the park’s soft opening Wednesday.
The area had been used as a staging site for nearby road construction projects, she said.
“Since then, it’s been armored with a fence and padlocks and only had special dispensation to be able to use for various community groups who have come here to launch their floats,” Mallek said.
Board Chair Ned Gallaway said that, while working on the Rio-29 Small Area Plan, there was a desire from the community to have access to green spaces.
“We have a place here ripe for the urban area to have access to water,” he said. “It’s all very primitive right now, but eventually it’s going to have a formal boat launch, places to gather, walking trails, you can fish here. That’s not something that’s real close to us when you go out and try to find those type of amenities right now.”
Dan Mahon, the county’s greenways and blueways supervisor, said it will likely remain more of a passive park, even once it is more developed.
“Because of the wetlands, because of the unique biodiversity and everything going on here, we don’t intend to develop it heavily, but there will be boardwalks, interpretive information,” he said. “There was a great deal of history in this area, from the Monacan people who were just down the river from here, to mills.”
Mahon said the county wants to enhance fishing on the bank, and because of the terrain, it can be made wheelchair accessible. A number of events have and will be able to use the area, including FLOW: The Rivanna River Arts Festival and the Rivanna River Regatta.
“It all ties together with what I like to call the Rivanna River renaissance,” he said. “It’s waking up and telling its story.”
Once Buck Island Creek Park near the Albemarle and Fluvanna County border is open, there will be 17 miles of the Rivanna River open for floating, county staff said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors had discussed future capital improvement projects, and about $295,000 for Brook Hill River Park was viewed as one of the higher priorities.
There is a plan to crowdfund some of the amenities at the park, but the county is waiting for the site plan review process to be complete because the site needs state and local approvals.