Tysons Corner, VA

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.

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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.

Langley Oaks Park, meanwhile, is 102 acres of undeveloped land contiguous to the NPS’ Turkey Run Park along the Potomac. The NPS said it has no plans for any changes to the property.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.”

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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.

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Morning Notes

Senators Try to Intervene for Farm — “As operations wind down at Claude Moore Colonial Farm following a contract dispute between the National Park Service (NPS) and the farm’s friends group, both of Virginia’s U.S. senators are asking for an yearlong extension so the parties can try to hammer out an agreement.” [InsideNova, Patch]

Vienna Council Wants Marco Polo Demolished — “The vacated Marco Polo Restaurant fell into disrepair before it burned down Oct. 14 in a blaze allegedly set by a pair of teenage arsonists. Vienna Town Council members on Dec. 10 urged town officials to step up their efforts to have the building’s charred remains demolished and removed.” [InsideNova]

FCPD Looking for Local Missing Man — Fairfax County Police are looking for a 35-year-old man who went missing after last been seen “near the 2200 block of Mohegan Drive in Falls Church.” He was wearing a black turban and jogging pants and is “considered endangered,” according to police. [Twitter]

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Nearly one year after the shooting, there are no answers in the investigation of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar’s death at the hands of U.S. Park Police.

In addition to a resolution on VDOT’s ramp closure proposal, the McLean Citizens Association’s (MCA) Board of Directors is scheduled to vote tonight on a resolution to pressure Park Police and the FBI to release more information about the shooting of Ghaisar.

Ghaisar, a 25-year old accountant who lived in the Tysons area, was shot on Nov. 17, 2017 by two U.S. Park Police officers who fired into his Jeep Grand Cherokee. Ghaisar died at Inova Fairfax Hospital on Nov. 27.

The incident started when Ghaisar was rear-ended by an Uber driver and the driver contacted police. Park Police located Ghaisar’s Jeep and signaled for him to pull over, and on two occasions he did — before then driving off. Finally, on the GW Parkway south of Alexandria, Park Police officers moved in front of the Jeep and when Ghaisar tried to maneuver around, the two officers opened fire.

In December 2017, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. released a dashboard camera video showing the pursuit and the shooting. After this, federal investigators took over the case.

Since the FBI and Justice Department took over the case, little new information about the case has emerged.

The resolution from the MCA urges the Park Police and FBI to disclose the reasons for the shootings, the identities of the police officers involved, and other results of the investigation. The resolution also commends Roessler for releasing the video of the incident in a timely manner.

The MCA Board of Directors meetings are open to the public. The meeting is scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) in the McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Road).

Image via Fairfax County Police Department

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Morning Notes

Fight to Keep Claude Moore Farm Open — “The National Park Service has said Claude Moore will close Dec. 21, but the Farm is fighting to stay open… The Park Service presented the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm with its standard agreement, but the Friends felt they could not operate under its terms.” [McLean Connection]

County Highlights Opioid Danger — Via a new video, Fairfax County is highlighting the “danger in your medicine cabinet.” Per the county: “An epidemic of addiction to heroin and other opioids has gripped the nation, including here in Fairfax. Protect your community… dispose of your unused prescription drugs safely.” [YouTube]

Church Holding Event on Pornography — Vienna Presbyterian Church is holding an event next month for parents and teens entitled “Pornography, A Public Health Crisis.” The event will include “a workshop to help attendees confidently discuss the real risks or pornography use and an action plan to more effectively block pornography exposure online.” [Patch]

Vienna Town Hall Parking Changes — “The Vienna town government plans to shift some parking spaces in the lot behind Town Hall and install a stormwater-management facility there. The Vienna Town Council on Sept. 17 unanimously approved an up-to-$130,000 contract with LCS Site Services LLC to perform the work.” [InsideNova]

Contribute to Our Flickr Pool — Are you an amateur photographer who wants to share your work with the local community? A professional photog who wants to boost your name recognition via some off-duty snaps? No matter your skill level or background, we would love to show off your photos in our daily Morning Notes post. Want to contribute? Email us or add your shots to our Flickr pool. [Flickr]

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