The Community Facilities Bond Plan budgets $12.2 million to expand the Ettrick-Matoaca Library.
Shortly after the spread of COVID-19 was declared a national health emergency in March 2020, a Chesterfield resident began coming into the Central Library every morning to use one of its private meeting rooms.
His employer was one of many that had closed its offices and initiated fully remote work to limit transmission of the virus. At the library, he found a socially distanced space that was quieter than home, free from distractions and more conducive to productive teleworking.
“People might think of a library as a warehouse for books, but it’s just not that,” said Dr. Mike Mabe, director of Chesterfield County Public Library. “Librarians, for the most part, value being part of helping someone grow personally so it’s a natural fit for people who want to come and telework here. They don’t have an office and aren’t hanging around the water cooler, they’re working electronically, but they’re doing it in a facility that has a lot of resources and is a cool place.”
That’s just one of many additional roles Chesterfield’s 10 library branches have taken on since the onset of the pandemic. Over the past two-plus years, libraries also have been deployed as satellite polling locations for expanded in-person early voting, virtual learning sites when schools were closed, resources for residents (particularly seniors) who needed help navigating the state’s online registration process for vaccines, and more generally as places where the community can come together.
Likewise, pandemic-related lockdowns led to increased appreciation for Chesterfield’s high-quality parks system, which experienced a spike in usage upwards of 40% during spring and early summer 2020 as a safe, socially distanced alternative to other public gathering spaces.
“We saw the same thing happen across the country,” said Neil Luther, director of Chesterfield Parks and Recreation. “It highlighted the priority of having a good park and natural area system … people were just desperate to get outside and do something.”
In recognition of the value these public assets provide in enhancing “quality of life” for Chesterfield residents, the 2022 Community Facilities Bond Plan allocates $45.7 million to libraries and $38.2 million to parks and recreation.
If approved by voters on Nov. 8, proceeds from the bond referendum package will fund three capital projects for Chesterfield County Public Library and five for Chesterfield Parks and Recreation.
Here’s a breakdown of how that money is budgeted:
The bond plan includes $17 million to replace the Enon Library, which at 4,000 square feet is far too small to meet the community’s needs, with a modern 25,000 square-foot building.
Another $12.2 million is budgeted for the expansion of the Ettrick/Matoaca Library from its current 8,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet.
Both lack space for meeting rooms, small study areas, community programming and hands-on “maker spaces” that are incorporated into Chesterfield’s newer, larger libraries. The facilities’ current footprint also severely limits staffs’ ability to expand the size of their respective collections.
Then there is $16.5 million to construct a new 25,000 square-foot library on county-owned property in the western Route 360 corridor. The facility would bring library services closer to a growing population, while all three of the proposed bond projects would provide relief to other branches that are operating beyond their intended capacities.
“We have a couple hundred thousand cardholders and most of them are active and consistent. About 80,000 people attend our programs on an annual basis. Our collections also are very popular, both hard copy and electronic,” Mabe said.
PARKS AND RECREATION
Nearly half of the funding for Parks and Recreation projects, or $17.2 million, has been allocated to enhancements at River City Sportsplex – including construction of four more lighted synthetic turf athletic fields (for a total of 16), additional parking, a large destination play area with a splash pad and a universal playground that can accommodate both disabled and able-bodied children, a picnic area, fitness circuit and trail system. Also included will be two restrooms, shade structures at the fields and other amenities for participants and spectators.
Such amenities would provide for a diverse mix of community recreation opportunities at the Genito Road facility, which gets extensive use during the week for local teams’ practices and on the weekend as a host for tournaments that drive more than $30 million in economic activity annually in Chesterfield.
Another $10 million is budgeted for improvements at Horner Park, to include a lighted four-field complex that would serve Chesterfield’s growing girls’ fastpitch softball community, as well as a trail system, picnic areas, court games, archery range, restrooms and a large playground.
The bond package designates $5 million for construction of a new three-ramp boat launch on county-owned property along the James River in Enon; along with another launch that’s being funded by Dominion Energy about 8 miles north at Falling Creek, the facilities would significantly increase river access for Chesterfield residents.
“Chesterfield is No. 3 in the state for the number of registered boaters so it’s very important to provide that access,” said Stuart Connock, assistant director of Parks and Recreation for planning and construction. “The boat launches would serve a broad spectrum of users, whether you’re just a general powerboat, pleasure boat user or a fisherman.”
The two remaining parks projects in the 2022 bond referendum include $4 million for creating parking, trails and picnic areas at the southern end of the James River Conservation Area on Route 1, and another $2 million to provide initial public access to four other currently undeveloped conservation/park areas.
“We’re very proud that a lot of folks come here because of the quality of life we have in Chesterfield,” Connock added, “and Parks and Recreation is a big part of that.”
For more information about the Community Facilities Bond Plan, visit chesterfield.gov/bond.
Chesterfield's proposed bond referendum package includes $17.2 million for enhancements to River City Sportsplex.