These Waters are Wide

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By David Gignilliat

PWL-August16_CoverSmall

A playful splash of a friend at a pool. The refreshing cool of toes dipping in a lake after sunning on the sand. The droning hum of a jet ski motor bouncing over a lake. Or the faint, gentle whir of a four-man scull gliding over the waters of the Occoquan Reservoir.

There are few experiences as quintessentially summertime as spending time on the water. And in Prince William County, the second-most populous county in Virginia, there are no shortage of escapes and outlets for those who like to get wet.

“Prince William County is an incredible place to live, or visit, for people who want to have fun in or around the water,” said Brent Heavner, Communication Services Division Chief with the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The county’s water lineage certainly has few peers in the state in terms of bona fides, credentials and history. The county is bisected by the Potomac River, the fourth-largest river on the Atlantic coast and the 21st-largest river in the United States. Additionally, several bodies of water (Belmont Bay, Broad Run, Bull Run, Cedar Run, Powell’s Creek, Lake Montclair, Lake Manassas, and the Occoquan River) amble their way through the populous 348-square mile county, 12 miles (3.5 percent) of which are water. In fact the name ‘Occoquan’ is derived from an Algonkian word translated as “at the end of the water.”

Within the county, the Department of Parks and Recreation operates two waterparks, four outdoor pools and two indoor pools. Together these aquatics facilities serve over 400,000 visitors each year. Additionally, there are dozens of community pools spread out throughout the county. Elsewhere in the area, the city of Manassas operates an outdoor pool (Stonewall Park) and Manassas Park operates an indoor pool and a waterpark (Splashdown at Ben Lomond).

The County’s Leisure magazine details the scores of water activities available to County residents and visitors. It is published digitally online, and is available at all of the County’s parks and recreations facilities. The magazine, typically published seasonally, details all of the county-sponsored activities, including classes, facility amenities and hours of operation. For those looking to enjoy the Prince William’s bounty of water worlds, here is a sampling of some the more popular venues.

GMU Freedom Center, Prince William Campus, 9100 Freedom Center Boulevard, Manassas, 703-993-8444

Operated by George Mason University and opened in 1999, this sprawling 110,000 square foot facility is open year round and features two pools, a whirlpool, a full gymnasium, cardio, aerobic and strength studios, racquetball courts and a child care center.

Lake Ridge Park & Marina, 12350 Cotton Mill Drive, 703-494-5564

Situated on the Occoquan Reservoir, the 74-acre county park offers access to its universal access boat launch and provides three-season boat rentals.

“I love having the reservoir in Lake Ridge available for paddle boating in the summer. It makes a for a great activity,” said Rasheed Quash, who grew up in Woodbridge.

Residents can bring their own boats (maximum 9.9 horsepower) or rent them at the marina, including including jon and paddle boats, kayaks and canoes.

“We love the variety of aquatic activities in the county,” said Alyssa Keehan, mother of three and Lake Ridge resident since 2001. “There’s a community pool, water park, and marina— where we can rent boats or fish—all within a five-mile radius of our home.”

Locust Shade Park, 4701 Locust Shade Drive, Triangle, 703- 221-5879

Locust Shade Park offers an eight-acre fishing pond administered by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Visitors can fish from the bank, and pedal boats are available to rent.

Signal Bay Water Park, 9300 Signal View Drive, Manassas Park, 703-335-8872

Located within Signal Hill Park in Manassas Park, the Signal Bay Water Park boasts a 27,000 square feet aquatic facility featuring a zero depth entry leisure pool with water cannons, slides and a lazy river.

Silver Lake Park, 15800 Silver Lake Road, Haymarket, 703-792-8320

At this great venue for bank fishing, patrons may also launch their non-motorized watercraft on Silver Lake at no charge.

Splashdown Water Park, 7500 Ben Lomond Park Drive, Manassas, 703-792-8900

The largest outdoor aquatics facility in the county is Splashdown Waterpark, covering 13 acres and featuring three double slide towers, a children’s area, a lazy river, 250 tons of sand and five concession areas. According to Heavner, in a typical summer, Splashdown hosts more than 100,000 visitors.

Waterworks, Andrew Leitch Park, 5301 Dale Boulevard, Dale City, 703-680-7137

Nestled in the heart of Dale City, Waterworks features several slides, water obstacles, wading pools, shaded cabana areas and a full-service snack bar. “Our kids love the beach-like atmosphere at Waterworks where they can play in the sand after going down the water slides,” said Keehan, director of risk research at United Educators. “It’s truly an experience for the whole family.”

Community Pools

The county operates four community pools, all of which are open to the public from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends.

Veterans Park Pool, 14300 Veterans Drive, Woodbridge, 703-491-1774

Veterans Pool combines the amenities of a traditional pool with the fun and variety of a waterpark. It includes a twisting waterslide, and other unique splash features that provide something for the whole family.

Stonewall Park Pool, 8351 Stonewall Road, Manassas, 703-369-6137

Located in the heart of Manassas, this pool is great for a relaxing late-afternoon dip, swim lessons for the whole family or swim team for the kids in the summer.

Birchdale Pool, 14730 Birchdale Avenue, Dale City, 703-670-9118

A large neighborhood pool with a kiddie pool and on-duty lifeguards, located in the Dale City area.

Graham Park Pool, 3511 Graham Park Road, Triangle, 703-221-7550

This charming outdoor pool is closed on Tuesdays.

Hammill Mill Park Pool, 1721 Carter Lane, Woodbridge, 703-491-1074

Great for young families, features include small slides, several swimming lanes and ample shade for those hot summer days.

Chinn Aquatics & Fitness Center, 13025 Chinn Park Drive, 703-730-1051

The Aquatics Center features two whirlpools, saunas, a 40-meter heated indoor pool available for lap swim, family, recreation, open swim and classes, and a leisure pool.

“Since 1973 I have enjoyed several of the pools, parks, marinas and recreational water facilities in the County. My experiences have been as refreshing as a late-afternoon swim,” says Nita Faught, a retired PW County gifted and talented education teacher and grandmother to three.

Off the Beaten Path

Leesylvania State Park, 2001 Daniel K. Ludwig Drive, Woodbridge, 703-730-8205

Once the ancestral home of Virginia’s legendary Lee and Fairfax families, Leesylvania offers many land and water activities, including a universal-access fishing pier, boat launch, boat storage area and a 20-station fitness trail. Canoe and kayak rentals also are available.

Prince William Yacht Club, 12849 Gordon Boulevard, Woodbridge

Operating out of the Prince William Marina, this club promotes “fun and responsible family boating so our members can safely enjoy the natural beauty of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay,” according to its website. The group teaches’ boating skills, arranges monthly cruises, and hosts several social events where members can meet and share experiences. For more information, visit pwyc.org.

Some county waterways are excellent spots for rowing

Some county waterways are excellent spots for rowing

Area Crew/Rowing Teams

The Sandy Run Regional Park in nearby Fairfax Station comprises the northeastern arm of the Occoquan Reservoir and is used by several members of Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (VASRA), including Robinson, W. T. Woodson, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, James Madison, Fairfax, Oakton, West Springfield, Langley, J. E. B. Stuart, and South County.

The Fountainhead Regional Park is further upriver from Sandy Run, past the confluence of the Bull Run and the Occoquan, and hosts rowing teams from Lake Braddock, Westfield and Woodbridge High Schools.

The Oxford Boathouse, located within the Lake Ridge Park & Marina, borders the Occoquan River and is home to the Hylton Potomac, Gar-Field and Forest Park rowing teams.

So whether it’s nature made or the numerous man-made bodies of water in local communities, the opportunities for fun on the water are as limitless as your imagination.

“When I was raising my own children, I felt it was important for them to have outdoor recreation. It’s fun, but it also feeds the mind, body and soul,” said Faught, currently a sales consultant with Rodan & Fields. “My kids enjoyed the water parks in the area, and I hope to have that same experience with my grandchildren as well. It’s about creating an experience that you will remember forever.”

David Gignilliat (dgignilliat@princewilliamliving.com) grew up in Woodbridge. A graduate of the University of Virginia, he currently freelances for several publications. He authors his own blog, Quixotica, waxing semantic about the nuances of modern-day language and slang

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