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City accepts comments about planned park

The city of Suffolk is now accepting comments from the public about its Blackwater River Park project, and will continue to do so for a 30-day period beginning April 15.

The City of Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation applied to receive federal funding from the National Park Service to acquire 338 acres of undeveloped property, according to a city press release. This property is adjacent to the Blackwater River and abuts the 3,753-acre South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, which is owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, or DCR.

Following this acquisition, the city intends to subdivide the property and gift approximately 200 acres in the southern area of the tract to the DCR to expand the Natural Area Preserve. The city will develop the remaining 138 acres of the property into a Blackwater River Park, a public park with river access.

“The access to the Blackwater River, one of Virginia’s Scenic Rivers, is definitely a big positive for this project, as is the location’s proximity to other parks,” Mark Furlo, director of Suffolk Parks and Recreation, wrote in an email Tuesday. This project is part of Parks and Recreation’s Master Plan, he said.

The park will be the only public access to the Blackwater River in Suffolk, according to Furlo. Furthermore, developing a portion of the property into a public park will help the city meet service levels for providing public park amenities to this underserved area. The grant will also allow the city to help the DCR expand its nature preserve to restore the longleaf pine, which “played an important role in the development of the United States,” Furlo wrote.

An environmental assessment is being prepared for the proposed action to evaluate any potential environment consequences. This assessment is in accordance with National Park Service policy, which follows Department of the Interior and Council on Environmental Quality regulations, the press release states.

For additional information or to submit questions, comments or requests for a final environmental report, go online to suffolkva.us/1405/Blackwater-River-Park-Project. Written correspondence may be mailed to 134 S. Sixth St., Suffolk, Va. 23434; faxed to 514-7275; or emailed to mkelly@suffolkva.us. Envelopes, subject lines of faxes and emails should be labeled “Blackwater River Park.”