A community meeting was held for a proposed boat landing at Millers Cottage Lane and Rio Mills Road. Credit: Credit: Andrew Shurtleff, The Daily Progress

A 20.4-acre wooded parcel along the South Fork Rivanna River off Rio Mills Road has moved closer to becoming a park and boat launch, and funding for the estimated $700,000 facility could come directly from the public.

On Tuesday, the Albemarle County Planning Commission voted unanimously that the Rio Mills Boat Landing and Trailhead Park complies with the Comprehensive Plan.

It’s “a required process that the county must take when there’s any new public use that is not explicitly called for by our adopted Comprehensive Plan,” county planner Cameron Langille said.

The Comprehensive Plan notes a site for greenspace further downstream, and officials have said the Rio Mills park would not replace it.

According to a concept plan, the park at Rio Mills would stretch about 1,500 feet along the river from U.S. 29 to just east of where Rio Mills Road and Miller Cottage Lane intersect. Along with the boat launch, amenities could include walking trails, restrooms, a picnic shelter and benches.

The property currently is owned by Crockett Corp., which will donate the land to the county once the plans for the park are approved. Dan Mahon, of the county’s parks and recreation department, said Tuesday that the county may test crowdfunding to fund the park.

Some kayakers and canoeists are familiar with the area, as Crockett Corp. allows the Rivanna River Co. to launch from the property, and the Rivanna River Regatta hosts its annual canoe and kayak race on the site. The river moves slowly at the proposed launch site.

“When we host the regatta, we have dozens and dozens of boats. … It’s a sweet spot for that,” Mahon said.

The site also is popular with anglers, and the proposal is in part to legitimize all of those uses on the currently private property, according to the staff report.

Before the vote, some planning commissioners had questions about parking, increased traffic and safety. Mahon said the plan for parking would be for the lot to be near the intersection of Rio Mills Road and U.S. 29, and officials expect most of the traffic to come from that intersection. Much of Rio Mills Road, which connects U.S. 29 to Earlysville Road, is unpaved and only sees 500 vehicles per day, officials said.

The scenario presented to commissioners Tuesday included parking for 40 vehicles, but Mahon said there could be fewer.

“I’ve noticed at some launches … when [the parking area] gets full, people start parking in really wacky ways,” Commissioner Jennie More said.

Mahon said county staff would be at the park regularly and that the county is working on a “friends of the park” plan for all its facilities. It would lead to members of the public being engaged in contributing to the upkeep of county parks.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to receive the Planning Commissions endorsement of the project at its Sept. 5 meeting.

Elliott Robinson has spent nearly 15 years in journalism and joined Dexter Auction as its news editor in August 2018 through 2021. He is a graduate of Christopher Newport University.