Written By: Prince William County
The Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism used a matching grant from the Defense Community Infrastructure Program to build a Warrior Challenge Course at Locust Shade Park.
“The Defense Department contributed $250,000 as part of the grant, and Vice-Chair Andrea Bailey and the Prince William Board of County Supervisors were generous enough to match that with another $250,000 to put together the $500,000 necessary to make this project possible,” said Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director, Seth Hendler-Voss during a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The project was made possible from the very special partnership, first and foremost, [between] Prince William County and Marine Corps Base Quantico, which has endured over a century since Quantico base was established in Prince William County.”
The park is bordered on three sides by the Marine Corps base and on one side by the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The park’s proximity to the base and popularity among Marines, their families, and others associated with the base put the park in prime consideration for the grant to build the obstacle course.
Marines and their families make up 50 percent of visitors who use the park with its amphitheater, miniature golf course, hiking trails, tennis courts, pavilion, and batting cages.
“Colonel Bentley and I started this journey together when I came into office.” Prince William Vice-Chair Andrea Bailey said of Col. William Bentley, the former base commander at Quantico, “I knew that it was so important to have a relationship with Quantico because after all, I’m a Marine Corps wife, so I know the importance of community. Being a member of a military family, it’s never lost on me the sacrifices service members and their families make to keep us safe. It’s very fitting that we can take care of them collectively when they return home and give them a place like the Warrior Challenge to keep their health intact, keep their minds intact and keep their spirits intact.”
Col. Michael L. Brooks, the current base commander at Quantico, said he played on the tennis courts at Locust Shade Park when he was a young, enlisted Marine. “This is really special. A lot of active-duty Marine Corps families and service members do come to this park on a daily basis, either participating on the trails or just taking advantage of some of the other opportunities that are provided here. It doesn’t matter your age, your ability level. Everyone can take part. It’s accessible to everyone and I really hope that it is as popular as it appears to be.”
The Warrior Challenge Course, the only one of its kind in the area, complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act to connect the challenge course to the park’s playground, tennis courts, and pavilion. The course, which accommodates all fitness levels, is also accessible to strollers and has play equipment for two- to five-year-old children to use while their parents use the challenge course. “Here … is a unique addition to our wonderful park collection,” Hendler-Voss said. “It’s the Warrior Challenge Course, and it’s part fitness center. It’s part obstacle course and part playground. We wanted to provide something that the Marines could use and something that their families could use, hence the name the Warrior Challenge Course.”
The partnership between the Marine Corps Base and the County took work that was well worth the effort. “People working together, teaming up to create bigger and better than they and their organizations can do on their own … takes talent and vision and plain hard work. When those efforts come together, those possibilities are endless, like this park,” said Virginia Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs. “The merit of your proposal, the enhanced accessibility, and the unique features in this park will be such a benefit for military families and the surrounding citizens.”
“Please, come out. Bring your families. Bring your relatives. Bring everyone to the Warrior Challenge Course,” Bailey said.
Visit Parks, Recreation and Tourism for more information.