When I moved to Crozet in 1998, the Crozet population hovered around 2,000. It was a sleepy little town. There were no Old Trail, Western Ridge, or Grayrock Orchard neighborhoods and our little Crozet Library was housed in the small train depot. All of our many wonderful local breweries and wineries were still years away.
I can’t recall when I first swam at the Crozet Park pool but it was in the summer time, years before the addition of the dome. There was no skilled operator like we contract with today to operate the aquatics and fitness center. A pool manager and the lifeguards were hired directly by the Park Board every summer. The park was still fairly quiet and the park’s front entry was wide open, without a gate in sight.
As we plan for a new Crozet Park Aquatics and Fitness Center (CPAFC), I can’t help thinking of the Park’s 64-year long history. What started as a donation of land by a local family in 1957 for the benefit of Crozet residents has since evolved into a busy Park serving residents across western Albemarle County and beyond. If you’ve ever been to the park on a beautiful summer day when Peachtree, SOCA, and the Crozet Gators Swim Team are all there along with people engaging in every conceivable fitness activity (plus dogs!), you’ll know how busy our little park has become. Even during the pandemic, the park has served as a key destination by so many looking to find a safe space to recreate or just sit and read a book. Our lockdown year has been a thorough lesson in the value of community amenities that are a short walk, bike, or car ride away.
A central focus of the park’s mission is our community. It’s why we refer to the park as community-owned and operated with responsibilities shouldered by a 16-member volunteer board of directors made up of Crozet residents. What was true back in 1957 is true today: the park is shaped by community input. Community input is why the park’s first pool was built in 1959, athletic fields were added in the ’80s, the pool was replaced in 1997, and an all-season dome was added to the pool along with a small fitness studio in 2012. In 2014 when the park conducted one of several surveys, we again collected community input and developed a multi-year capital “roadmap” to prioritize our efforts and associated expenditures. Community input from this survey and others is why we rebuilt the pavilion destroyed by the 2012 derecho, renovated the park’s parking lots, and built a fenced-in dog park. Survey data confirmed support for the SK8Crozet Perimeter Trail. More recently, community input is why pickleball lines were added to the tennis courts, two parcourse exercise systems and benches were added along the perimeter trail, and numerous other park additions have been made (see crozetpark.org/projects). Every step of the way, throughout the park’s long history, community input has been central to the park’s development. Community input is why we have been doing detailed work to design an expanded aquatics and fitness facility to serve our community for the long-term.
As our community has grown, so too has Park usage. Community growth and park usage run in tandem, perhaps faster than many would like. The challenge of the current Park Board, just like past and future Boards, is meeting the growing recreational needs of the community. For better or for worse, Claudius Crozet Park is the recreational facility serving not just Crozet but Western Albemarle County. Crozet Park is not a neighborhood park, but a community park serving multiple neighborhoods and sitting like a bull’s eye right in the middle of Crozet’s designated growth area. We couldn’t be more central to Crozet and its ongoing development.
I fear the conversation to build an expanded Aquatics and Fitness Center at Crozet Park is getting caught up in the anger and resentment over Crozet’s master planning process and the recent development occurring on the north and south sides of the park. But Crozet Park isn’t some new, sprawling development threatening to swamp the roads. Traffic along Park Road increases every year as people travel to the Park and also to the many neighborhoods to its east. Providing additional access points to Crozet Park for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars will help balance the volume of traffic that’s already here.
Crozet is unique. We are not a town or village but a collection of independent thinkers who come together and rally behind great ideas. This independence and willingness to make things happen is why we have a Crozet Volunteer Fire Department, a new Crozet Library, and soon, new space for our Western Albemarle Rescue Squad. These are services benefitting everyone regardless of income bracket, age, or where you live. These are the things that matter. An expanded Crozet Park Aquatics and Fitness Center (CPAFC) is one of those projects; it benefits everyone. Let’s rally like only Crozetians can do and make the new CPAFC a reality. Let’s do it for the parents looking for after-school and summer camps for their kids, let’s do it for all of those who will learn to swim in our pool, let’s do it for our growing community.
Crozet resident, President, Board of Directors Claudius Crozet Park