Manassas Journal Messenger | Park boat launch destroyed

Jim Klakowicz, manager at Leesylvania State Park, said Tropical Storm Isabel brought the highest tidal surge since the hurricane of 1933.

With the surge came damage that has closed the park indefinitely.

All of the park’s floating piers at the public boat launch are damaged or were washed from the pilings that held them into place.

Hurricane Isabel pounded Northern Virginia Thursday with widespread flooding, lashing rain and strong winds that gusted to almost 80 mph.

Klakowicz said Isabel’s effects were far worse than Hurricane Fran in 1996.

“Certainly the level of water far surpassed that Hurricane (Fran) and the damage that did,” he said.

The state has reason to want the park operational as soon as possible, Klakowicz said.

“Nothing is 100 percent, but you can bet the state has every motivation to do that,” Klakowicz said. “The state parks depend on the revenues and this is one of the biggest money-makers in the state park system right here.”

Six of the piers rose above the pilings that extend 10 feet above the normal water level, and two pilings were damaged beyond repair, Klakowicz said.

The pilings were 10 feet above water in case a 100-year storm hit the area.

A 100-year storm was assumed to only have the force to raise water eight feet above normal levels, said Klakowicz.

The piers that floated above their pilings washed ashore and smashed to pieces in the parking lot and the front lawn of the marina store.

The boat launch, probably the most popular attraction at the park, will not reopen until next year, he said.

“The boat launch is so far gone, we’re not going to be able to have anybody launch a boat for the rest of the season,” Klakowicz said.

“Because there’s little or no public access [to the Potomac River], it is really a blow to the boating public for the park to not have that available,” he said.

Klakowicz said there are no other public boat ramps in Prince William County. The closest public ramps are at the Occoquan and Pohick regional parks across the Fairfax County line, he said.

Prince William and Stafford County residents who normally use Leesylvania State Park live in the Northern Virginia Regional System, which doesn’t include the parks in Fairfax County.

“That’s a little expensive when you’re an out-of-county resident,” Klakowicz said of docking in Fairfax County.

“The only good news is whatever goes back in there will be brand-spankin’ new,” said Klakowicz. “The only downside is you have to wait.”

He said the damage to the entire park could total close to $1 million.

The gas pump that used to serve boats at the end of one pier is now resting on the shore in front of the park’s convenience store, said Klakowicz. It’s still in one piece, though.

The fishing pier survived the storm.

Boardwalk bridges on the Bushy Point Trail need replacing and sections of trail in the picnic area were washed away.

“Our first priority is to get those back to use as soon as possible,” he said.

He doesn’t have an expected date to open the picnic area and Bushy Point Trail.

The bridges on Bushy Point Trail were washed over by the tidal surge, Klakowicz said. Only a half mile of the park’s six miles of trails were out of commission.

“We’re working long hours to try to speed it up,” he said. “We can’t really predict when we’ll get the park gates open with the picnic area and the trails.”

He said park staff and volunteers will be working on the cleanup through the winter.

The state carries insurance on the park and staff will be applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief funds.

“It was awesome to behold,” Klakowicz said of the storm. “It looks like a bomb went off.”

People who are interested in getting updates on the expected opening date can call the park office at (703) 670-0372.

Those who wish to volunteer to help with the cleanup efforts between Mondays and Fridays should call the same number, Klakowicz said.

Saturday is the parks Public Lands Day, when a gaggle of Boy Scout troops are headed there to help with cleanup efforts.

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