The recent Tough Mudder event permitted by the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department at Silver Lake Park underscores the need to place this park in a conservation easement with strict enforceable guidelines.   

It is distressing that the parks director, despite of immense community outcry, continues to advocate for use of a passive natural park as an event center for active recreation.  Rather than heeding the department’s own surveys and responding appropriately to Silver Lake Park’s restrictive proffers, he appears to be doubling down on active use. 

Protecting the integrity of Silver Lake Park against the intrusive actions of the parks department has brought the community together.  Among those who come to the park for its peaceful natural beauty, as well as those who enjoy active recreational activities such as Tough Mudder, there was universal consensus -- Silver Lake is NOT the appropriate venue for such activities. 

Concerns with respect to the protection of Silver Lake Park were borne out of many previous broken promises regarding other parks in the area. The long stagnant development of James Long Park marked by the absence of the proffered community pool and professional riding ring is but one example of promises made and never delivered. Instead, the county has delivered what is little more than a soccer park. There have been too many unfulfilled commitments by Prince William County’s government to the community when it comes to parks.

It is stunning to see pictures of fouled mud and muddy water being pumped from massive mud pits onto the Silver Lake property and then this same sludge filling the creeks and wending its way back into the lake. The watershed banks of the lake are now an opaque brown with a disgusting sheen of chemicals from the mud and event participants visible on the streams and Lake. The damage is best exemplified by a widely distributed photo of a white duck now swimming in the lake with its breast stained with residue from the muddy mess. 

The “wetland protection area” bank was damaged as evidenced by the muddy path worn from one of the larger mud pits to the lake, where it was used like a bath tub by the participants.

All of these disruptions to Silver Lake Park fly brazenly in the face of passive recreation. According to the EPA, "passive recreation refers to recreational activities that do not require prepared facilities like sports fields or pavilions. Passive recreational activities place minimal stress on a site’s resources. As a result, they can provide ecosystem service benefits and are highly compatible with natural resource protection. What the parks director permitted and promoted (some might say perpetrated) required construction, shoreline alteration, trail alteration, wildlife disruption and enormous stress on Silver Lake's resources.

The pictures taken the day after the two-day event speak a thousand words, but citizens will be interested in only two words: ‘conservation easement.’

That Parks and Recreation Director Seth Hendler-Voss is tone deaf and continues to advocate that this type of active recreational event is an acceptable use of Silver Lake necessitates board action to protect Silver Lake and all other passive recreational facilities in the county. Clearly the proffers and environmental restrictions are not only being ignored, but their intentional violation is being thrown in the face of a community that actively fought to protect Silver Lake. How many times does the community have to fight to protect Silver Lake?

Two weekends ago, it was Tough Mudder, what comes next? Motocross races, monster trucks? The onus now lies on the board to ensure Silver Lake is protected, and that promises made to the community are fulfilled.  We pray you choose wisely.

The writer is a resident of Haymarket and executive director of the nonprofit Coalition to Protect Prince William County.

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(8) comments


I appreciate the passion surrounding this issue. It is critical that people understand the argument is not about Tough Mudder as an organization. The real issue is about this County making a commitment during a very long drawn out rezoning and proffer process that involved years to determine the outcome. Which ultimately resulted in Silver Lake being preserved as a passive use park. If the County is allowed to break this commitment, than there can be no trust that any process citizens participate in holds any merit. The opinion expressed by the County Attorney suggests that the community was required to participate in an elaborate public process to negotiate and establish proffers - proffers which this county apparently has no intent to implement or to comport with. This makes the local government process and their commitments a farce. How incredibly offensive to the community. How can there ever be trust in any promises made by the Prince William County Government to its citizens? Ultimately we are advocating for every citizen who takes the time to become engaged, no matter what the issue, to have confidence that whatever decision is rendered, they can have faith in the outcome being honored.


The “community” liked the’s a minority that had a problem where there was none.


90% of those who liked it came from Fairfax, Arlington and surrounding area. The local community did not like it or approve of it and had no say in whether it should go ahead.


Totally correct. Aside from ignoring a legally-binding proffer, redefining passive use, questionable dealings with state agencies, and bringing TM in as a lobbying organization.


PS. This shows how deep the rot goes. Wow.


Ms. Schlossberg; I have no idea as to whether you actually visit and/or use Silver Lake "Park". This so called park is a dirty run down mess. Nothing in or around it looks remotely like a serene, natural, unspoiled park that you seem to think exists. PWC should sell the 'park' to the highest bidder and stop pretending they know how to own, manage, operate, clean (or clean up) or protect actual parkland. The Tough Mudder issue is just a ruse to make the readers think the people for and against this use actually know what they are doing. PWC clearly is inept at operating a school system, which just might have a little priority over a park, but neither is very good.


Ms. Schlossberg isn't saying that SLP is perfect or perfectly run. She's making the very valid point that PWC made a blatant farce of "passive use" and ignored the will of citizens (and a legally-binding proffer). But Mr. Kessinger, you are right, it is a ruse ... nature-bro Seth Hendler-Voss gets kudos after hiding behind a legal loophole and bending over for a bad contract. The legal battle here is only just beginning, and after some of the revelations from FOIA requests go public and/or get read into court proceedings, there will be casualties. Ms. Schlossberg is also 100% correct that the BOCS will have to answer for this, or for their lack of intestinal fortitude in holding County staff accountable. It started in the primaries, and it will continue.


Dirty run-down mess? Before the tough mudder it was a beautiful spot for fishing, hiking or a picnic. It was donated for use as a passive park; PWC should abide by the terms of that and if they can't manage that, they should let the Bull Run Conservancy manage it as a natural area.

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