It will soon be common to see busloads of soldiers from Fort Belvoir's Warriors in Transition Battalion being dropped off to enjoy the amenities of Mason Neck.
Over the last few months, members of the Mason Neck Citizens Association have met with representatives of the U.S. Army and the heads of the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area, Mason Neck State Park, the Liz Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge and Pohick Bay Regional Park.
All parties are for the partnership worked out by the citizens group, and the details of improving facilities to fully meet the needs of the soldiers are being ironed out.
"Therapeutic riding is one of the five most requested events with our warriors," said Capt. John Votovich, the Fort Belvoir Warriors in Transition Battalion Operations officer. "Pirate's Cove, the camping facilities, fishing… We send our warriors all over Fairfax County for recreational events, but here we have it all 10 minutes down the road."
There are approximately 175 WIT soldiers currently at Fort Belvoir. "I'd say it will be a matter of weeks before we bus them out for off-post events," said Votovich.
Jess Lowry, manager of Mason Neck State Park, recently met with Army officials. "We're very excited," Lowry said. "This is a great opportunity for our park and the entire division of Virginia State Parks. We're currently having conversations about meeting the needs for persons with limited mobility… It's going to be something that we definitely look forward to being a part of and making a positive impact in the lives of folks who want to come and use our facilities."
There is no funding earmarked specifically to improve facilities at the parks.
"We're developing a plan of what can be modified, what funding already exists and how it will be used to modify the recreational aspects of the parks," said Peter Weland, a board member with the Mason Neck Citizens Association. "Then we will look at the possibility of applying for a grant or fundraising locally. I envision groups being shuttled down for fishing, picnicking, camping and therapeutic riding."
Recreational opportunities at the parks include:
- Horseback riding
- Bird watching
- Mountain and trail biking
- Environmental education (wildlife exhibits)
- Self-guided tours
- Baseball and softball
- Miniature golf, frisbee golf and golf
There are thousands of wounded warriors recovering around the country every day, with 250,000 service members transitioning out of military service each year, according to the Department of Defense.
For more information about the wounded warrior transition program, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WarriorCare