Culpeper Star-Exponent: Best news ever: National Park Service pledges $1.6 million for Gordonsville pool and park

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION

The National Park Service is investing in Gordonsville’s Verling Park, home to the only public pool in four neighboring counties.

Gordonsville Mayor Bobby Coiner, a tireless advocate for updating the circa-1956 facility where he grew up lifeguarding, announced the $1.6 million federal grant award on Facebook, writing “I have the best news ever!”

The award matches the amount raised over years by the town and supporters, for a total of $3.2 million in hand.

The project, now under design and open to public input, will modernize the town’s recently expanded park and build a new Dix Memorial Pool, along with a splash pad, a facility for families that’s particularly popular in the town of Culpeper’s Rockwater Park.

It will also connect green space just off Main Street in the town’s Historic District with trails to another nearby open space at the Gordonsville Fire Volunteer Department fairgrounds and Gordonsville Little League ball fields.

Coiner, who has been mayor of the small town in Orange County for nearly 20 years, said he is beyond ecstatic.

Fundraising has been a collective effort, which continues for pickleball and tennis courts and playground equipment, a pavilion and other park amenities, he said.

“Everyone who loves Gordonsville and wants to be remembered should send the largest check they can to the town and put ‘Park Renovation’ on the memo line,” the Gordonsville mayor wrote in his Facebook post.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, helped secure the National Park Service money, writing agency Director Chuck Sams in April. She requested full and fair consideration of the town’s grant request.

“The Town has emphasized that the centerpiece of the project is social equity and that its commitment to serving the underprivileged is exemplified by the community pool, which has been open to the public for (nearly) 70 years, while most other rural pools are owned and operated by private clubs,” the congresswoman wrote Sams.

Spanberger announced the successful grant application on Oct. 6, saying it was awarded through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congress established that fund decades ago to safeguard natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage sites and provide recreational opportunities to all Americans.

Mayor Coiner thanked Spanberger for crucial assistance in getting the grant for the pool and park.

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, based in Culpeper, and the regional Piedmont Environmental Council also helped with the grant application.

“Representative Spanberger’s strong letter of support for our grant proposal, after several trips to Gordonsville to review the park and our proposed plans, demonstrates clearly her strong commitment to her constituents and her tireless work ethic. We will be forever grateful to Abigail for her efforts!” Coiner said in the statement.

Investing in public parks keeps the resources safe and accessible for future generations, and supports the outdoor recreation economy, the congresswoman said.

“Virginians living, playing, and raising a family in Gordonsville and Orange County will benefit directly from the upgrades this award will soon make possible. I have been proud to work alongside this community to secure this federal grant every step of the way, and I am excited to see these funds headed home to the Seventh District,” Spanberger said.

In April, the Gordonsville Town Council approved a $181,531 contract with Charlottesville’s Land Planning and Design Associates to design its park network. The firm had previously developed a concept design for the Verling Park improvements five years ago through PEC, which is headquartered in Warrenton

PEC has been working with Gordonsville to preserve open space around the park and pool, and in 2019 acquired a second parcel on Allen Street. The effort is part of PEC’s Town to Trail program to strengthen the connection between the park and fairgrounds, which are well-used open spaces.

That also ensures the vacant parcel it acquired will remain as open space available for continued use by the town and the Volunteer Fire Department for overflow parking during large events at the fairgrounds, PEC said.

The contiguous in-town park network would encompass the 10-acre area bordered by Allen, Linney, Market, Piedmont and East King streets, the Orange County Review has reported.

The town of Gordonsville on Aug. 4 held an initial community meeting to solicit input on design for the expanded four-acre footprint of Verling Park, including the two parcels acquired by PEC through the generosity of local supporters, according to a recent On the Ground update on PEC’s website, pecva.org.

The town’s landscape design firm presented a draft design and photos of different architectural options for park infrastructure, such as the playground and park shelters. The meeting was well attended. The town expects to finalize the park design this fall, according to PEC.

Final design by the firm will include entrance and parking area locations, configuration, and grading, pool and splashpad area, bathhouse location, game courts, fencing, furniture, benches, drinking fountains, signage etc., drainage and stormwater infrastructure, and landscaping, among other tasks, according to the contract.

It is for the pool and park improvement project that Coiner will most be remembered 100 years from now, he said in his post announcing the National Park Service’s support.

“I’ll only be remembered for one thing … my name will be on the donors’ plaque that will be at the park/pool,” the mayor wrote. “It will also be on our website, forever! Your name can also be on the plaque, and your grandchildren and their children will be so proud to see it there!”

Please make checks out to Town of Gordonsville, Box 276, Gordonsville, VA 22942, Coiner said in his post. Put “Park renovation” or “New pool” on Memo Line. He urged donors to leave a note on the exact way they want their name printed on the plaque.

“Please help us celebrate this news by adding your name to the donors’ list—no matter who you are or where you live, the children who will benefit are precious and need your support!” Coiner said.

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