The York County Board of Supervisors (BoS) intends to open New Quarter Park to general usage. They will not allow any overnight camping as of June 2000. They will honor all current contracts for the park but no future reservations will be accepted.
This decision comes as a devastating blow to the Southern Virginia Pagan Community. New Quarter Park has been home to area Pagan events for almost 20 years. Over the years we have fought to keep the park from being turned into a marina and a golf course. We have seen BoS members with grand plans for New Quarter Park come and go. Unfortunately, this latest proposal to open New Quarter park for general usage is much more difficult to oppose than earlier plans that played to special interests.
As it stands now, York County does not have a day park! They began seriously looking at the need for additional recreational facilities and the option of opening New Quarter Park full time in May of 1999. In a quote from the July 1999 minutes (former Board member) Mr. Meadows notes that "New Quarter Park was at the top of his list for possible recreation opportunities, and he asked what could be done with the park to open it up to the citizens for recreational use. He stated the County needs recreational opportunities for its youth."
Contrary to rumors being spread about, the Board of Supervisors has been debating the opening of New Quarter Park for over a year. The proposal was added to the York County Capital Improvement Program (CIP) in August of 1999. Their discussions are well documented on-line in the BoS minutes.
As you can see from the minutes, the decision to open the park has NOTHING to do with the Pagan Community's frequent use of New Quarter. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the SCA, Newport News Shipbuilding, and dozens of other organizations are impacted equally. This is simply an issue of a County wanting to get the maximum bang for their citizen's buck. York County residents are asking their elected representatives for more and better places to play. The BoS is attempting to respond to these requests and New Quarter Park is one of the ONLY assets they have to work with.
The York County Board of Supervisors meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room of York Hall, 301 Main Street, Yorktown. There is a citizen comment period at each public meeting. Individuals wishing to address the BoS are limited to 3 minutes each and must register to speak by 6:30.
We do intend to speak at the next meeting and urge the Board to reverse their decision, if not permanently, at least until the 2001 season. A delay until the end of the year would give groups who have come to depend on the park a chance to locate different accommodations. It would also allow time for all citizens to offer their opinion regarding future usage of the park.
The points of the debate we will highlight include:
1. While it is true that York County is in serious need of additional recreation sites, New Quarter Park is ill situated to serve as a general usage facility. Its remote location will serve to make it a hotbed of criminal activity in short order. Providing adequate security for a 600 acre park would be prohibitively expensive. We intend to offer into evidence proof that the BoS is grossly underestimating the cost of maintaining New Quarter Park as a general use recreational facility.
2. Excessive traffic to and from the site will create a serious noise nuisance for, and lower the property values of, nearby Queens Lake residents (an extremely exclusive neighborhood). We might not mention this point if Queens Lake residents voice their opinions as strongly as we expect they will.
3. The money spent on opening New Quarter Park to the public would be better spent purchasing additional land for future parks in more accessible locations. There is a very limited amount of land that has not been developed available in York County. It is our position that York County would do well to acquire as much of this land as they can, before it is bulldozed, paved over, and gone for good.
4. The park is booked nearly solid from early Spring to late Fall. This indicates a high level of community usage and the need for camping facilities that can be reserved by small, private organizations. New Quarter Park meets a community need that no other park in the region even attempts to address. New Quarter is the only affordable group camping facility in the area. It is the only place that citizen groups of humble means can camp in private, in a pristine, wooded environment. It does not appear to us that the BoS has fully recognized the importance of the service they are already offering the public.
5. The possibility of a compromise does exist. Both sides of this debate can be accommodated to an extent. We will suggest that if the BoS is intent on opening New Quarter to the public, that they do so beginning in 2001, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Between Labor Day and Memorial Day the park would be closed to the public and available to private groups for overnight camping on a first come, first served, reservation bases ( the current system in place)
Have no doubt we will be fighting an uphill battle. It is hard not to sound like we selfishly wish to preserve our little private paradise and thereby deprive thousands of other residents of its pleasures....especially since this is essentially what we want to do. We hope to be able to convince the BoS that providing private camping for relatively small organizations and events is a worthwhile undertaking and justifies the huge expense of maintaining the 600 acre New Quarter Park. Our opposition is made up of sports leagues, residents with children, and the like who want to use the park unrestricted on a day to day basis. Their request is not unreasonable since there are no parks for this purpose in York County.
We are further hampered by the fact that some events have been foolish enough to bar locals FROM THE ENTIRE PARK when holding their event. This has seriously annoyed some Queens Lake residents and they are pleased that there will be no more private events. We long ago came to an accommodation with the locals during our Gathering. We always allow them admittance to the majority of the park and we only restrict access to the very back portion, and then only during workshops and Rituals. While we have always allowed locals to roam freely throughout the portion of the park we do not use, all other events have not been so obliging. This has created some bad blood that is coming back to haunt us now.
The proposed future of New Quarter Park is a complicated issue and VERY political in nature. If you intend to speak at a BoS meeting PLEASE familiarize yourself thoroughly with the situation first. There is no place for Pagan passions in this case. It's facts and figures time. Our religion plays no part in this debate, and if anything, could invoke prejudice against our cause. Our interest in a public resource is being balanced against the wants and desires of other members of the community. Please keep this in mind when addressing the BoS.
I have pasted below the names, addresses and phone numbers of the BoS members. The most helpful thing people could do at this point would be to politely call and write these individuals (priority mail would be best if possible). Input from actual York County and Williamsburg residents is especially desirable. Tell the BoS how much you have enjoyed camping in New Quarter park in the past and what a loss it would be to the Hampton Roads community at large if they were to disallow overnight stays at their wonderful facility. Point out all the positive benefits derived from the park in its current state and avoid any negative comments if possible.
On a side note, our Spring Gathering of the Tribes is unaffected by the decision to open the park and it will proceed as scheduled. We had already contracted our date and the restrictions begin weeks after our event. We have located a back up site for our Fall Gathering in case we are unable to sway the BoS. It's not nearly as nice as New Quarter, but it will do in a pinch, so there are no worries that the Fall Gathering will be canceled. It is our fervent hope that this situation will resolve itself favorable by the 2001 festival season. Regardless of whether or not is does, the Spring and Fall Gathering of the Tribes will remain a fixture of the Southern Virginia Pagan Community.