Bigger and Better: Crozet Park Expansion Proposed

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Facility concept plan, courtesy Claudius Crozet Park Board.

Crozet resident and park board member Drew Holzwarth unveiled big plans for Claudius Crozet Park at the August 21 Board of Supervisors meeting, launching a push for a major expansion to existing facilities in the park. “There is a critical need for additional indoor recreation space in the county, and this is an opportunity for us to build a truly transformative facility for county residents,” said Holzwarth.

The proposed expansion envisions a new 47,000-square-foot facility, to include a multi-purpose gym, fitness and wellness areas, an indoor track, a community room, a stay and play area and more. The Claudius Crozet Park (CCP) board hopes to fund the $6.5 million project via a public/private partnership with Albemarle County, in which the county would contribute $2.4 million over the next two years.

As Crozet’s population has surged, “the current facility is now inadequate due to its membership growth and size to meet the recreational needs/desires of the community,” read a CCP statement on the project. Currently housing a pool, small fitness center, baseball and soccer fields, and Quick Start tennis courts, as well as hosting the popular Peachtree Baseball and Softball League and the Crozet Gators swim team, the park could serve many more of the populace while also boosting after-care opportunities for local elementary-age children in an expanded facility.

Albemarle County School Board chair Jonno Alcaro lauded “the prospect of a substantial increase in the number of families able to meet the after-school enrichment needs of their children,” in a letter to the Board of Supervisors conveying School Board support for the project. Where the current after-school care program operated at the park by the YMCA is limited to 27 students, the expansion “will be able to accommodate more than 10 times as many students,” said Alcaro.

First donated by a Crozet resident to the community in 1958, the 22-acre park has operated under a restrictive covenant agreement since 1985 that stipulates it be used solely for recreational and public purposes.

Concept first floor plan, courtesy Claudius Crozet Park Board

“We’ve worked with a national consultant to design the inside of the space to maximize opportunities for recreation,” said Holzwarth. The plan touts close-to-home programming for seniors, an area dedicated to physical therapy, and a teen flex/STEM room. The building would nestle into the southwest corner of the current pool, and use existing parking lots.

Of the $6.5 million total cost of the project (which Holzwarth referred to as ‘Phase One’), the CCP hopes to ask the county to fund $2.4 million, with the remainder being financed through a community fundraising campaign and structured debt from a local bank. Holzwarth noted Crozet’s track record of fundraising success, pointing to the Crozet Library, Dog Park, and park Field Lighting Project as recent examples.

“We’re fortunate that where we live, we have an enormous amount of wealth in this community, and we feel confident that when we reach out to the stakeholders and community members, we’ll come up with an amount that allows us to be debt-free by the time the facility opens,” he said.

On that note, Holzwarth ended his presentation, which was informational and not (yet) a direct request for funding, and asked for questions from the board members. Supervisor Rick Randolph was quick to turn Holzwarth’s last point into a pointed question.

“You just commented on the enormous amount of wealth in the community, yet you’re asking taxpayers, many of whom live in the northeast or southeast parts of the county that will never use a Crozet YMCA facility—why should they dedicate $2.4 of scarce resources to this recreation facility?” Randolph asked. “Why should the county pony up 36.8 percent of the financing?”

Concept second floor plan, courtesy Claudius Crozet Park Board

Supervisor Diantha McKeel was disturbed by the amount of county funding involved. “I’m struggling a little bit with this,” she said. “This amount of money leveraged in the urban ring area where we have a high level of poverty would really improve the lives of people in that area.” She referred to the board’s prior support for the Brooks YMCA in McIntire Park. “I am still struggling as to why my urban ring students who live blocks away [from the Brooks Y] can’t get to that facility to learn to swim,” she said, her voice emotional. “I’m so taken aback by this; I’ll have to think this through.”

Supervisor Liz Palmer said that though she can see the value in what the CCP is proposing, she is troubled by the immediacy of the need. “I voted for the senior center and the YMCA,” she said. “Quite frankly, I don’t think a lot of people in my district can take advantage of those, and I do think more could take advantage of this. What bothers me is—we have projects in the CIP budget for years, and it bothers me that you need this in the next two years, so this has to jump in front of a lot of other things already in the CIP.”

Supervisor McKeel highlighted the long list of children waiting for after-school care in her district, and said that funding should be looked at through an equity lens. Supervisor Norman Dill wondered about the environmental impact of such a large building, noting the county’s goal of achieving “net zero” energy structures by 2050. Finally, Supervisor Mallek summed up by remarking that there’s never a perfect time to bring up a big capital opportunity like this, and that the board will need some time to consider the expansion plan more fully.

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