If you’ve been wondering what the future holds for the former Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, rest assured that the National Park Service is asking the same question.
About 18 months since its last public meeting on the subject, the NPS released a 43-page final concept plan in March outlining the current conditions of the farm, which has been renamed South Turkey Run Park, and proposing recommendations for what to do with the property.
The NPS says that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the concept selection process, but there does not to be any clear timeline yet for when the federal agency will select which of the three proposals described in the report to pursue.
“No management direction other than providing continued access to the trails has been decided,” George Washington Memorial Parkway Chief of Staff Aaron LaRocca told Tysons Reporter last week.
Claude Moore closed in December 2018 when the nonprofit Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm that operated the 18th century-style “living history” farm departed following a long, rather bitter contractual dispute with the NPS, which has owned the land as part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway since 1971.
While the trails at South Turkey Run Park remain open, the livestock, farm equipment, and several buildings that once occupied the 70-acre site have been removed, and no visitor services or facilities are currently available. J.R.’s Custom Catering announced in July that The Pavilions at Turkey Run were shut down, though the webpage for the venue has since been removed.
The National Park Service held two public meetings in 2019 to share its vision and initial concepts for South Turkey Run Park. The recently released concept plan builds off of those proposals with some revisions based on input from stakeholders, neighbors, and park visitors, according to LaRocca.
As outlined in the concept plan, the three possible visions for South Turkey Run Park are:
- Adventure + Exploration: emphasizes recreational activities and wildlife education by repurposing the existing administrative/maintenance yard area into “an outdoor exploration
and adventure facility” with obstacle courses, an active sports area, and a “nature-inspired” play area
- Cultivation + Connection: focuses on farm-based activities and sustainable agriculture with a community garden, an open field for picnicking and events replacing the park’s volleyball courts, and a portion of the park devoted to an interpretive produce farm
- Rejuvenation + Renewal: emphasizes habitat restoration and creating “a serene environment for visitors” with a reforestation nursery, wildflower and pollinator meadows, and the existing field, volleyball courts, and horseshoe pits mostly left intact
According to the concept plan, all three proposals would include space for events and an expanded trail system with some accessibility improvements. The concepts would require the installation of some new recreational facilities and renovation of existing ones, but no new buildings will be constructed.
“New facilities would be carefully situated and designed to avoid large tree removal, sensitive habitats, and steep and unsustainable slopes, as well as protect other resources identifed in the future,” the document says.
Whichever concept the NPS ultimately chooses will need to be evaluated for its potential impact on the environment and historic properties on the site. The agency also has to develop a maintenance plan for the existing open field and identify potential partners for funding, programming, and trail construction or maintenance.
“We remain committed to keeping you and the public up to date on any future actions and next steps,” LaRocca said.
Yesterday (Sept. 26), NPS presented options for future park development near McLean High School, which would divide the land into multi-use space.
The options featured different ideas that GW Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said were synthesized from community feedback at the first meeting. But a few attendees who spoke up during the public comment period last night said they felt like NPS ignored their feedback.
During the half-hour presentation, Cuvelier walked through three plans with the audience. All of the proposed plans included expanding hiking trail networks and expanded event space for gatherings.
The “Adventure + Exploration” plan suggested the creation of a camping area where visitors could hook up utility lines. The “Cultivation + Connection” plan emphasized the implementation of community gardens and farms with agricultural fields. Lastly, the “Rejuvenation + Renewal” idea proposed preserving ecological interest points as well as adding a pollinator meadow and a reforestation nursery.
At the first community feedback meeting in April, people were asked to place blue dots around things they would like to see incorporated into the new park design. From the feedback, it appeared that the most popular idea was the continuation of colonial farm activities.
McLean residents Dan Sperling and Rick Schneider told the superintendent last night that they thought the three proposals ignored previous feedback.
“It seems like you have come in with preconceived notions of what you want to do here,” Sperling said. “Not a lot of people knew about this [meeting] tonight. It was only by accident that I found out about it.”
These statements were met with applause from other community members gathered in the audience.
“I wish that you guys would seriously consider what we already have here and not seem like you’re chomping at the bit to do something else,” he said.
Cuvelier countered this statement, saying, “We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t want to hear from the public.”
Several parents and even a local school teacher in the area said that they want to keep the area as a colonial farm because it is the last place in the region that properly portrayed life from the era “free from apartment buildings and shopping malls.”
“The existing park here is unique to northern Virginia,” Schneider said.
Going forward, NPS is still looking for community input on the project. The examples from last night’s meeting were to put forth a few ideas and nothing is set, an NPS spokesperson said.
Additionally, NPS plans on renaming the park to South Turkey Run Park to better represent the connection to the surrounding area, Cuvelier said.
NPS has a soft timeline for a final proposal and is hoping to release it in spring 2020.
“I can’t give you an exact date, just a general timeframe given what we are trying to accomplish,” Cuvelier said.
Image via National Park Service
The Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm want the McLean park to be maintained as an olden-style farm, but they’re starting to recognize that they might not be the ones to do that.
In a press release, the group said that the National Park Service offered to take ownership of buildings remaining on the property and built by volunteers, but the group is holding out in hopes that another volunteer organization can step up and take ownership of the buildings.
The Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm was forced off the property last year when a long-running dispute over oversight resulted in the NPS reclaiming management of the property and telling the operators of the colonial farm to leave.
Since then, the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm have been in the process of removing the farm equipment and dismantling the buildings.
“It is the Friends’ wish that these structures, valued at nearly $1.8 million and delineated below, be preserved for any future group seeking to revive the Farm at that site,” the group said in a press release. “The Friends would donate these structures to that group. The Friends are asking for input from the community on this issue and also asking them to contact the National Park Service directly about this.”
One of the buildings at the site was built with federal funding and belongs to the park service. Other structures, however, were built by The Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm.
The National Park Service is currently in the process of deciding what to do with the property. There are a wide variety of options proposed, maintaining the farm as a colonial style recreation is one of those being considered. Now, Friends of Claude Moore Farm is hoping to use the existing buildings to help sway the public, and the NPS, toward that option.
According to the press release:
Other structures, such as the Pavilions, the Farm House, the Environmental Learning Center, the Blacksmith Shop, the Facilities Barn, Book Shop, greenhouses, livestock and storage buildings, Market Fair Grounds, Caretaker’s cottage and the Gate House were built entirely with non-federal resources, materials and volunteer labor.
The Park Service has asked us to demolish and remove some of the structures, such as the Market Fair stands, and asked us to donate to the Park Service other structures perceived as potentially more valuable. In previous public statements and correspondence, the Park Service has stated that the Farm could re-open under new management and under their rules; and we believe that these structures, which were an integral part of the life of the Farm for many years, would be useful to any future groups seeking to revive the Farm. The value of these structures funded and built by the Friends is almost $1.8 million as shown on our 2017 IRS Form 990.
It took us a year to get the Park Service to recognize the value of the physical contributions to the Farm made by donors and volunteers, and now we are reluctant to do as the Park Service asks without the input of volunteers and the community, and we urge everyone to make their views known about the future of the Farm, and its buildings and facilities.
The group also announced in the press release that they would be rebranding as Colonial Markets and Colonial Fairs, Inc. While the organization is currently without a permanent home, the press release noted that the group hopes to continue operating colonial farms and markets in Virginia.
Update on 4/2/19 — Fairfax County Park Authority officials noted that the earlier development plans were out of date, and the current development area is much smaller than initially reported and only includes redeveloping one field into two lighted synthetic turf fields with additional parking.
After eight years of planning, Langley Fork Park is in the final stages of changing hands, clearing the way for two new fields.
Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service (NPS), said the NPS is working through the final stages of a land-swap with Fairfax County. The NPS currently owns Langley Fork Park, which is a developed recreational property, while Fairfax County owns Langley Oaks — a more heavily wooded, natural parkland west of the Claude Moore farm area.
If the deal goes through, Anzelmo-Sarles said the property could change hands within the year.
“We are trying to increase facilities there, and we agreed to a land exchange,” David Bowden, director of the Park Planning and Development Division, said. “We have another piece of undeveloped property at Langley Oak. Our goal is to exchange Langley Oaks for ownership of Langley Fork Park.”
The Park Authority has managed Langley Fork Park since 1981, adding athletic fields, a fitness trail and more to the site since then, but the park remained on loan from the NPS.
The Park Authority and NPS began discussing the swap in Fall 2011. The swap was first approved by the Park Authority in 2016.
Since 1980, the population of McLean has more than doubled. In planning documents for Langley Fork Park, the Park Authority cited the increasing population of McLean — particularly for the population under age 19 — as an indicator of the need to reevaluate the plan for the park.
The new development plans involve redeveloping one field on the site into two lighted synthetic turf fields with additional parking.
As a side-note for history buffs: archaeological surveys of the property showed the first known use of the site was as a prehistoric quartz quarry, and a hearth was found that dated back to 300 B.C. An environmental assessment from the National Park Service noted that synthetic turf will not be used to improve the existing fields in the north and western portions of the site for archeological reasons.
The NPS is also currently in the very early stages of developing a plan for the Claude Moore Farm property east of Langley Oaks, which could include new trails connecting the two properties.
Image via National Park Service
It’s a clean slate for the Claude Moore farm area.
At a meeting, last night (Thursday) at the Madison Community Center in Arlington, the National Park Service (NPS) opened up the public discussion for what should happen for the Claude Moore Colonial Farm property, which until late last year was operating as an 18th-century American-style farm.
“This is the first step in the process to develop a plan,” Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said. “We’re getting ideas and comments and hoping to give people a sense of the process. We’re starting with a blank slate and we want a robust and transparent process.”
Display boards around the room highlighted a variety of potential directions the park could take, asking attendees if they are more interested in casual activities, like tending to a community garden or learning basket weaving, or active uses like nature walks with park rangers or a junior ranger program.
“One option is to still run a colonial-style farm, but we could also look at active recreation or a more relaxed nature-based park,” Anzelmo-Sarles said.
The Claude Moore farm area was fairly isolated in its earlier use, and one of the options the NPS is considering is whether or not to make the property more connected to other properties and trails.
“There are existing trails in the area that don’t really connect,” Anzelmo-Sarles said. “And there are some trails around the Langley Fork Park area that are in active use. Are there different ways we can build more access to the park or do we want that access to go away? Everything is on the table.”
Redevelopment as a commercial space, though, is not an option, she said.
From the sticky notes posted around the boards, keeping the area as a farm was a popular choice. The public comment period is open through May 25.
After that, Anzelmo-Sarles said the NPS will take the feedback and develop a few potential options for the park, followed by narrowing the choices down to a final concept plan presented within the year.
An event tomorrow (Thursday) evening will launch the National Park Service’s effort to engage the local community on the future of Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean.
Claude Moore Farm closed in December after a year of battling between the park service and a private group called the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which had maintained the park as a working exhibition since the early 1980s, over control of the farm.
Now, the park service will kick-off its public planning effort tomorrow, by inviting people to share their vision for the park’s future.
A public comment period and an open house from 6-8 p.m. at classroom 7 in the Madison Community Center (3829 N. Stafford Street) are planned for tomorrow. People also can provide feedback online or via mail.
“After gathering information and hearing from the public, the NPS will develop a range of concepts for future use and enjoyment of the Claude Moore farm area of Turkey Run Park,” NPS says on its website. “The concepts will be shared with the public and there will be additional opportunities to provide feedback.”
NPS notes that any options for consideration will likely require environmental and historic preservation compliance prior to implementation.
“The public engagement process will help determine what happens next and when,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust wrote in an email to constituents earlier in April.
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of the most interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Monday (April 22)
- Game of Thrones Trivia Night — 8-10:30 p.m. at Blackfinn Ameripub (2750 Gallows Road) — The Blackfinn Ameripub is hosting a trivia night themed around the popular HBO show Game of Thrones. There is no entry fee, but top teams can win special Game of Thrones-related prizes. Food and drinks themed around the show will also be available.
Wednesday (April 24)
- 2019 Green Expo — 7-9 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE.) — The event hosted by the town’s Community Enhancement Commission helps locals learn about sustainability, home energy efficiency, recycling and more. Activities at the Expo include a raffle to win a rain barrel and lessons on how to make a yard a habitat for local wildlife. Green Expo is free and open to the public.
Thursday (April 25)
- Rosé All Day Event — 5-7 p.m. at Tysons Corner Center — As part of series of events coming to BrandBox, Winky Lux’s Roseé themed event will feature all-day pampering with hair touch-ups and creative consultation. Entrance is $20, which also comes with a $20 WinkyLux gift card, a makeover and rosé tasting. RSVPs can be made by emailing [email protected]
- Claude Moore Farm Public Meeting — 6-8 p.m. at Madison Community Center (3829 N Stafford Street, Arlington) — The National Park Service is launching its planning effort for McLean’s Claude Moore Farm, which closed last fall, with an open house. Concepts for the park are planned to be shared at the meeting with the public given a chance to offer feedback.
Saturday (April 27)
- 8th Annual Taste of Vienna — 11 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (400 Center Street) — The annual fundraiser for the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department is coming back, rain or shine. The event showcases food and beer from around Vienna. For adults, beer tickets are $15. All-day moon bounce admission for children is $2.50.
- Caboose Brewing Company’s Springfest 2019 — 12-7 p.m. at Caboose Commons (2918 Eskridge Road) — Caboose Commons is hosting its first craft brewery festival, with eight other breweries planned to attend the event in Merrifield. Live music, smoked barbecue, and authentic German beer are planned for the celebration. Tickets are $25.
- Pints for Parkinson’s — 1-5 p.m. at Tysons Biergarten (8346 Leesburg Pike) — At a special fundraiser, all donations and a percentage of sales at Tysons Biergarten will be given to local non-profit Parkinson Social Network — a group dedicated to bringing the Parkinson’s community together to inform and encourage those living with Parkinson’s.
Sunday (April 28)
- 2019 Walk on the Hill — 2-5 p.m. at the Windover Avenue — The annual tradition dating back to 1971 takes visitors on a self-guided tour through a historic Vienna neighborhood. Approximately 50 yards and gardens are planned to participate in the tours, and live entertainment is also planned for the celebration.
Photo via Facebook
The National Park Service is once again putting together plans for Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean.
Details are still vague on what the park service plans to do with the location. A public comment period and an open house planned for Thursday, April 25 is the first news about future plans for the location since the site was closed late last year.
“The National Park Service is preparing for the next chapter of the Claude Moore farm area of Turkey Run Park, and you are invited to help shape the park’s future,” NPS said on its website. “On April 25, the NPS will launch a public planning effort and invite the public, community, and former farm volunteers to share their vision for the park’s future.”
Since the early 1980s, a private group — the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm — had maintained the park as a working exhibition on life in an 18th-century farm.
But sparring between NPS and the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm over the last few years on issues related to how much oversight and control NPS should have over the property led to the farm’s closure in December and the ongoing removal of antique farming equipment.
NPS has stated that the land will not be commercially redeveloped.
(Updated 9:30 a.m.) After a protracted battle with the National Park Service, Claude Moore Farm in McLean closed last year. While the lot currently sits fenced off, it’s still unclear what will happen to the farm next.
In December, the park service released a statement saying discussions on the park would begin in early 2019.
Early in the new year, the NPS will invite the community, the farm’s volunteers and any interested parties to share their vision for the park’s future. The public engagement process will help to determine what happens next and when. The NPS will listen to people’s ideas about how they would like to enjoy the park. Should the NPS offer farm activities, return the area to its natural state, provide connections to neighboring trail systems or something else altogether? The NPS will not pursue any kind of commercial development or sell the property.
But a month and a half into 2019, NPS representatives say no concrete plans for those meetings have been made yet.
“We look forward to beginning public engagement in the coming months,” said Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, chief of public affairs for the NPS National Capital Region. “Since [December], our agreement has expired and we are actively working with the Friends organization on a safe and orderly close out, which includes the Friends removing personal property from the park.”
The NPS and the organization that managed the park, Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, had a long history of sparring over administrative and financial oversight. A 2015 report demanding more oversight at the farm started the final round of conflict between the two organizations that ended with the NPS shuttering the park for good at the end of 2018.
But even if the NPS has nothing planned, the McLean Citizens Association said at a board of directors meeting on Wednesday that they are going to begin considering suggestions for new uses for Claude Moore Farm.
“The [farm] has closed, but members will plan to walk that space and look at the layout to consider potential uses,” said Ed Monroe, chair of the group’s Environment, Parks & Recreation Committee. “So if you have things you want to share, we’re open to receiving those.”
Even with the National Park Service coming to change the locks in a few hours, Anna Eberly can’t resist a few last lessons about colonial life.
She holds up one of the hand-woven baskets before it gets stuffed into a plastic bag. Unlike some of the other baskets woven from grass, Eberly says this one is woven from thin wooden shavings, making it incredibly resilient to everything except being dropped while carrying a heavy load.
After 46 years of volunteering at the farm, lessons like that come naturally to Eberly. But today (Friday) is the last day she’ll teach them at the farm. After one year of battling with the NPS over control of the farm, the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which has maintained the farm since 1981, rejected an agreement that would have required greater levels of administrative and financial oversight.
Elliott Curzen, the director of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, said the farm equipment and animals are being moved off-site. Eberly said they are going to her home out in Loudoun County, where there are two acres of pasture.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t come to a compromise,” said Curzen. “The locks change tomorrow, or tonight, and we have until Jan. 20 to keep moving property off-site.”
There was plenty of finger-pointing to go around throughout the debate over what should happen with the farm. The conflict started with a 2015 report questioning the farm’s financial relationships and demanding more oversight into what is bought and sold at the farm in markets, a mainstay of the farm events. Even a joint letter from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to the NPS wasn’t able to stave off the closure.
The NPS says the regulations are the same as would be imposed on any other national park. But Eberly said the new regulations were unfair, given that the park funds itself through the fairs rather than from federal funding.
The NPS says it has no plans to sell or develop the land, but in 2019 there will be community discussions about what should happen to the site next.
On the farm’s last day, there was some bitterness from volunteers helping to pack up. Eberly noted that the cats running around as people worked would be going back to her property.
“Taking care of them is my job,” said one volunteer walking past, before amending, “well, ‘was’ my job.”
“I won’t miss dealing with the National Park Service,” said Eberly. “I’ll miss the volunteers, but this is just a place. It’s a former landfill, with terrible soil. It’s not a very good farm. We have to import everything here from Loudoun.”
But it was also a living history museum to what life was like for the average colonial farmer in the 18th century. Curzen said while it was around, it was a unique look into a piece of local history, and one that will be gone by the end of the day.