Northern Virginia will soon get a new nature park in a historically important spot.
At its Thursday evening meeting, the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NOVA Parks) will celebrate its newest acquisition, Cattail Regional Park, and develop its initial operating budget.
The 85-acre tract of mature woodlands, pastures, and spring-fed upland bog lies just east of Leesburg in Loudoun County, at the intersection of Edwards Ferry Road and Battlefield Parkway NE.
The land drains southeast through Cattail Branch to Goose Creek, which enters the Potomac 15 miles upstream of Great Falls. The upland bog provides particularly rich aquatic habitat and filters the water that flows into Cattail Branch.
The property is a gift from retired geologist Henry Harris, a Leesburg native whose family has a long history of land philanthropy in Loudoun County. Heavy suburban and commercial development over the past 40 years has converted much of Loudoun County around the new park site to large single-family homes, townhouses, and shopping centers.
However, Cattail Regional Park, the nearby Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park, and Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park just upriver offer both local people and visitors a reminder that this part of Loudoun County has not always consisted of asphalt roadways, concrete parking lots, and rooftops.
In fact, the Cattail Park property along Edwards Ferry Road has recorded history in the form of a Revolutionary-era ordinary (a bed-and-breakfast for travelers, perhaps related to the nearby ferry) and Civil War fortifications.
“In the late 1960s,” according to the NOVA Parks website, “the public pool in Leesburg closed in an effort to avoid integration. The Harris family stepped in and allowed local Black children to come to their pool at the Cattail farm to learn to swim.”
Jim Bonfils, NOVA Parks Board member and representative of Loudoun County, remarked, “I am excited, delighted and very appreciative of the Harris family donation of the Cattail property.”
Future plans for the park include hiking trails and interpretive signage to help visitors take in its natural habitats and historic landscape.