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Residents Work to Save Woodlawn Stables

Petition landed nearly 1,000 signatures in 24 hours.

A petition to save a Mount Vernon equestrian facility from closing garnered nearly 1,000 signatures in one day.

Save Woodlawn Stables was organized by Mount Vernon residents Shelley Castle, Autumn Clayton and Laura Wainwright. The grassroots organization is dedicated to preserving Woodlawn Stables, because of plans to widen Richmond Highway.

“We all have this place in our heart,” said Castle, a former riding student at Woodlawn Stables. “I can probably speak for anyone who lives in [the] area.”

Castle, Clayton and Wainwright started riding horses at a young age and continued to pursue their passion in adulthood. When they learned about the plans to widen Richmond Highway and its impact on the stables, they decided to take action.

Save Woodlawn Stables launched a Facebook page this week and has already gained more than 500 followers from the local equestrian and Mount Vernon communities. The group will distribute updates via social media, Castle said.

Southeast Bypass Option Could Force Stables to Close

The Federal Highway Administration, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other consulting parties have met privately and are favoring a for the widening of Route 1 from four to six lanes in a 3.5-mile stretch of highway running south to Fort Belvoir, according to the Save Woodlawn Stables position paper.

The southeast bypass option plan calls for Richmond Highway to dip southeast of the Woodlawn Stables’ barns toward the Potomac River, then back to the west.  This option would force Woodlawn Stables to close because it would take up a significant portion of land.

The expansion of Richmond Highway is part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) project at Fort Belvoir and is meant to help alleviate traffic near the military installation.

: bifurcation and widening in place. The Save Woodlawn Stables position paper states that either option would have less of an impact on Woodlawn Stables and the horses. The group supports the widening in place option, which would sacrifice some of the land but have the lowest impact on the stables’ daily operations.

“It’ll be least impactful for the horses,” Castle said.

Laura Miller, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Coordinator with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, told Patch dates for the public review and public hearing are pending.

Castle feels the consulting parties don't have a vested interest in the future of Woodlawn Stables and aren't considering the consequences.

"I don’t think anyone’s considering what’s going to happen to 40 heads of horses," said Castle. "Those horses are there for life. Woodlawn’s taking care of them properly. It's another small business being pushed out, especially one run by women."

Not Kept in the Loop

Cindy Mitchell co-owns Woodlawn Stables with her mother, Joan. Woodlawn Stables leases the land from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Their current lease expires in 2016. According to Mitchell, she was never informed by the Trust about any developments or news about the road widening.

“I found out from a parent of a boarder,” Mitchell recalled.

The Uniform Relocation Act would allow the National Trust to provide some funding to Woodlawn Stables if it needs to relocate due to the road widening, said Germonique Ulmer, senior director for public affairs for the National Trust. However, Mitchell doesn’t have enough time or funds to relocate Woodlawn Stables if the southern bypass option is approved.

“I think it’s short-sighted,” said Mitchell of the option. “It doesn’t give enough credence to the community at large.”

Losing Woodlawn Stables Would Be a ‘Travesty’

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland has been inundated with emails from concerned residents who want to preserve Woodlawn Stables.

Hyland believes it would be a “travesty” for the community to lose Woodlawn Stables.

“My position is that the objective should be to find a way to align the road in a fashion that would not take out the stables and would allow them to continue to operate as they’ve done so many years,” Hyland said.

He suggested that all parties find a way to use land on both sides of the road for the Richmond Highway widening project, rather than putting the burden on Woodlawn Stables.

Supervisor Hyland added that his office plans to call a meeting of all interested parties to discuss the issue.

“There’s a history on this property people remember, respect and really love,” Hyland said. “It’s a beautiful site.”

Mitchell is thankful that her sisters in the equestrian community are taking on the task of fighting for the future of Woodlawn Stables.

“I have my hands very full with running the business and taking care of a parent with cancer,” said Mitchell. “It’s truly a community action. We’re very blessed to have the amount of responses the ladies are getting. I’m very grateful for what they’re doing.”

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Earlier this year, Patch ran a multi-part series on the state of the equestrian business in Fairfax County.

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Nina May 02, 2012 at 06:15 PM
'Hay' Neighbor - Who deserves to sit in traffic? Seems unclear to me to whom are you commenting? Help, please. Like that you commented - just unclear as to how to interpret your comment. Thanks :8-))
Shelley May 02, 2012 at 10:36 PM
You are correct, the NTHP is supporting the bypass over the "Widening-in-Place" proposal. As they stated, they must place priority on preserving “a National Historic Landmark and other historic resources such as Woodlawn Baptist Cemetery and Grand View.” What they fail to mention is that Grand View, the cemetery and the Otis Mason house have all been designated with the same level of contributing historical significance. The bypass plan would result in more damage being done to contributing historical, cultural and architecturally significant resources than the widening-in-place proposal. While we agree that Woodlawn Mansion should be given more significance as a National Historic Landmark, we question how the widening of one lane and a bike path, so far from the mansion, outweighs running a bypass through the Otis Mason House site, shutting down a local business, and destroying an iconic institution that has contributed to an entire new era of equestrian heritage associated with Woodlawn and our community for over a century.
Shelley May 02, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Hi cmvoorhees, please look again at that same map you refer to (4 pages from last) of the PDF . (http://www.efl.fhwa.dot.gov/files/projects/environment/US-Rt-1/Plans-and-Profiles-03.22.12.pdf) As you can see, the bypass clearly goes through the schooling barn that is near the historically significant Sharpe barn complex that was built in 1912, but more importantly it runs through the site of the Otis Mason house. Former Woodlawn owner, John Mason, deeded to his son, Otis Tufton Mason, 65 acres of land from the Woodlawn property during the civil war in 1865. The Otis Mason house was built in two stages, with the earlier back portion of the house being built in 1854. Mason was well-known within the Woodlawn and Washington D.C. communities. He donated some of Woodlawn Plantation’s land to Woodlawn Baptist Church next to the stables, often delivering sermons there. Mason was well known as an intellectual in society circles. He became the head of the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institute. According to the Washington Post, by the end of his life, Mason had become an anthropological icon. In 1902, he was “the most familiar figure in the field of American anthropological science”.
Shelley May 02, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I assure you, Woodlawn Stables has been cooperative and willing to work on a solution to these problems; unfortunately, they were shut out of the process and the NTHP was not willing to include them as a stakeholder. This is why we as citizens formed Save Woodlawn Stables. We feel that the environmental assessment process has failed to properly inform the public of all relevant considerations so that we may appropriately respond, share our concerns and take a more active role in the decision-making process as well as help find solutions that allows affected parties to coexist.
Linda May 16, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Dave--after reading your comments, I am sure that everyone knows where your intelligence level eminates from--and you happen to sit on it! Cutting a swath through the Woodlawn Stables will NOT lessen traffic in any way, shape, or form, but it WILL destroy historic ground (the Stables sit on Washington's Dogue Run Creek Farm) that he gave as a wedding gift to his nephew and granddaughter It will destroy an historic house that belonged to Civil War Quakers, and also to a former kingpin of the Smithsonian Institution while it was being formed, Otis Mason! It destroys one of the last tranquil vestiges of green space, replacing it with asphalt! This plan was untaken in secret meetings between the Fed. Highway Dept., Brac, and --of course--the owners of the property,The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Why don't you ask the Trust why they stood by 18 years ago, and allowed an historic church (originally part of the Woodlawn property) to be BURNED to the ground to make way for a larger building? Why has the Trust allowed a group to take over a large part of Woodlawn's historic grounds for agricultural purposes? Why were the meetings held in secret? MONEY drives it all!! The Trust could care less about this historic site, or the Stables. Hopefully, concerned citizens can pull together to divert the path of yet another monsterous "highway"-- away from the Stables, and run it behind and through Ft. Belvoir! Linda

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