Virginia State Route 3 runs through the middle of the Town of Montross, making this hamlet of 325 people—with its regional library, public schools, grocery store and shops—the hub for several large residential developments along the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. The one thing the town was missing, says its mayor, Terry Cosgrove, was a park. “It always kind of baffled me. When my granddaughter came to visit in the summertime, we’d drive two towns down to a public park or go to Westmoreland State Park. But those are 15-20 minutes away.”
So Cosgrove and other town leaders went to area residents with the idea of turning an old parking lot into the town’s first park. The response was phenomenal, he states. “We’re a very small town in a rural area, but we obtained about $35,000 in public and private donations.” That money, with federal funds and a grant from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Get Outdoors Fund, was enough to clear the parcel’s asphalt, grade the land, install playground equipment and walking paths, and add picnic and sound stage pavilions.
The location of the parcel ties in with the town’s efforts to create more pedestrian connections downtown. “We’ve been consciously trying to create more of a pedestrian-friendly and walking community here in our town, get people out of their cars, so that the location ended up being just about perfect.” The parcel is adjacent to the regional library and only a short distance from the town’s historic courthouse. Additionally, the site already hosts public restrooms, installed by the county when the old sheriff’s office was still standing nearby.
From funding to implementation, area residents have taken ownership of the site. Students from the Northern Neck Technical Center built picnic tables that the town purchased for the picnic pavilion. The Northern Neck Master Gardeners are planning to install native plantings, and a group called Montross Main Street will move some of its popular events, like the First Friday Art and Music Series, to the new outdoor venue. “We already have people talking about yoga in the park and art in the park, and there is a youth program that is anxious to utilize the space,” Cosgrove adds.
Cosgrove also wants to use the park to promote other attractions in the area by installing outdoor signage that ties the town in with the nearby historical landmarks of Stratford Hall and Wakefield. “This way, anybody that stops to utilize the park or the bathroom and take a break in their travels might want to linger in the area a little bit longer.”