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When York County acquired 545 acres between Queens Lake and Cheatham Pond in 1976, the county knew it now owned a property rife with natural beauty and historical significance.
The county also knew it would need to dedicate the land to recreation, per the deal it struck when it acquired the property. New Quarter Park soon opened with little fanfare in 1985.
York County did not, however, know how much attention the park would gather from volunteer and recreation groups across the region.
Hiking and mountain bike trails cropped up, while conservancy groups worked to preserve natural habitat. Archaeology, disc golf and even the North American Chapter of the British Longbow Society found a place within the park.
To keep pace with the growing interest, the county added an office, restrooms, full staff and regular hours by 2005.
“It’s really the volunteers who keep this park as active and engaging as it is,” said Sara Lewis, New Quarter Park interpreter. “It would just be a piece of earth without these groups.”
Thirty years after its limited opening and 10 years after becoming fully operational, York County will celebrate dual anniversaries Saturday. The event at the park runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The York County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to host a ceremony dedicated to those responsible for the park’s success at 11:30 a.m.
Organizers plan to include more than a dozen volunteer groups, recreational clubs, research and scientific organizations and musical performers. Each represents one of the four “quarters” that park management stresses: nature, community, recreation and history.
Organizations like the Williamsburg Bird Club, which hosts bird walks twice a month, and the Historic Rivers Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, help maintain park grounds and foster habitat growth.
A number of picnic shelters, installed during the hurricane-delayed 2005 opening, have been used for events like birthday parties and weddings, Lewis said. Moonlight and Music, an informal gathering of musicians who play together at the park, helps build community bonds. The group is scheduled to perform Saturday, along with Joe’s Day Off.
While many call New Quarter Park home, the park may be best known for its recreational activities. Aside from the kayaking and fishing off the floating dock, the park boasts an 18-hole disc golf course.
The Colonial Disc Golf Club lists New Quarter’s nearly 7,000-foot long course as one of its four primary locations. New Quarter Park plays host to events like the 7th Annual No Quarter at New Quarter, to be held May 9.
Members from the Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club and the Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association rank among those most responsible for the park’s reopening as a fully operational site in 2005.
Lewis credited the two groups, along with other organizations, with pushing for more expansive use of the property.
The Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association built a 5.8 mile single-track loop for intermediate riders. The Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club, part of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, helped develop the park’s numerous hiking trails.
“People who bike and hike really wanted to open it up,” Lewis said. “This is really a treasure. Just look out here – it doesn’t look like most places on the Peninsula.”
Historically, New Quarter Park rivals its better-known Historic Triangle counterparts. Lewis said grants to settle areas along Queen Creek can be traced back to the original Jamestown Settlement.
One of Virginia’s wealthiest Colonial landholders and one-time acting governor, Robert “King” Carter, owned the land by the early 1700s. For reasons unknown, Carter named the land “New Quarter,” and the moniker stuck with the property throughout the next three centuries.
“Robert King Carter was waiting down there by the river one day, and he was writing in his diary what he had done that day,” Lewis said. “He said, ‘I’m at the New Quarter,’ so that’s where New Quarter comes from.”
Carter’s grandson, Carter Burwell, inherited the land and included parts of it in his Carter’s Grove plantation. The property stayed in the family until the Civil War, after which tenant farmers worked the land.
Lewis said massive troop movements during both the Revolutionary War and Civil War had “devastated the land.” Two Civil War-era temporary fortifications, Redoubts 12 and 13, are currently within the park’s borders.
The military bought the land by the early 20th century and, until the drawdown after the Vietnam War, managed the property. York County assumed control in the 1970s and sponsored a number of surveys on the land, which found more than 33 registered historical sites.
Today, visitors can take part in excavations of Burwell’s New Quarter. The Fairfield Foundation sponsors public archaeology and routinely discovers new structures.
“There’s no rush. It’s finding history a bit at a time and putting it together,” Lewis said. “It’s really exciting.”
The Fairfield Foundation will be on hand Saturday, as will a number of commercial sponsors and research groups, such as those from the College of William & Mary and the Virginia Tech Research and Extension Center.
Though an anniversary celebration in 2006 drew more than 1,000 people, organizers are managing their expectations for this weekend’s festivities.
“It was amazing, but we had pony rides,” Lewis said of the 2006 event. “No ponies this time, but we have a bounce house. Wouldn’t it be great if 500 people showed up?”
Along with free admission, exhibits and tours, event organizers hope to extend their appreciation to the park’s most common visitors: dog walkers. Lewis said bandannas would be given away to dogs in attendance.
While Saturday’s anniversary brings attention to Bruton District’s largest park and its history, the event also celebrates those who contributed to the park’s success.
“We didn’t really open until 2005, and that’s when the volunteer stuff came in and we really took off,” Lewis said. “They’re going to be showing off what they do and we’re going to be celebrating them.”
New Quarter Park can be reached from the Colonial Parkway. Take the Queens Lake exit, turn right onto Lakeshead Drive and follow for 2 miles.