(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.
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]
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
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]
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