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.”


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

Do you live near Mount Vernon? Keep up with the latest news and subscribe to our newsletter, or like our Facebook page.

DAVE April 27, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Great puff piece. Has all the qualities of a made for TV movie. Horses, the downtrodden small business owner fighting against the man, etc. Wow, almost brought a tear to my eye until I remembered it takes about 30-45 minutes from Memorial Highway to FFX County Parkway during rush hour. Unfortunately folks, times they are a changin' and sometimes progress is just plain nasty.
Shelley April 27, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Dave, please explain to me how the byapss proposal will lessen the burden any more than the widen-in-place proposal. We are not against progress and improvements to Rt. 1 ; we are only asking that they proceed with the proposal that was presented to the public that woud save the stables and the historic land. Why would you not strive for both progress and fairness if it can be acheived?
Sabrina Campbell April 27, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Dave - I am not sure what has made you so cynical. Communities need to rally around their local small businesses and treasure in our community that have been here longer than most of us have been alive. Progress does not have to destroy a person's livelihood when there is another way that the problem could be solved. We are here to remind the local government that you don't always have to take the easy way to solve problems. There are other ways to fix the Route 1 problem. We could also have better public transportation which would be helpful. There are places all over the world with these problems who aren't bulldozing a treasure simply for progress. I have seen you leave many negative comments all over Patch and I am sorry that so much of what is written, you don't like. Please, try to not put a damper on what other people consider important.
Natalie White April 27, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Dave, you really are cold hearted. Maybe you should consider trying to find a different way to work, or maybe even car pool so you don't have to drive all the time. Widening the road from four to six lanes is pointless. They did that for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and traffic STILL backs up and down the beltway multiple times a day. This won't solve anything and the gov't and military know it. They did a study on road widening and the effects on traffic etc.. from the BRAC events and they stated it would work. What they failed to mention, about the study, is no one factored in the number of people who are moving into the areas, and the number of people who now are moving from one place to the other because of the re-alignments. After you factor that in, you find out that that the road widening is pointless. It will not ease the problem but, continue to make it worse since all it does is add two extra lanes then, funnel the two extra lanes back down again... they will have the same problem there, that they have here in Alexandria when the built the new gov't buildings.
Erika April 27, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Dave, must be nice to live in a world that is so black and white -- I'm sure it really simplifies things for you. I would think that moving would be an even simpler answer, so maybe you should try that. I'm really sorry to break it to you, but not everything thing is about you and your struggles. That thought almost brought a tear to my eye, but I got over it.
Nina April 27, 2012 at 09:31 PM
OUCH!! Dave, are you OK? Reads as if you are hurt &/or in pain. So sorry you hurt - or " just plain nasty" ? "times they are a changin' " Yes, change happens. The wise among us seem to find creative, forward-looking ways to solve situations without losing all of the best previously created. These stables and their location are true gems to be protected and encouraged for many more reasons than listed here. A newer update mentioned discussions underway for Woodlawn Stables and the Belvoir Wounded Warriors Project working together. These options increase the valued contributions by WS and its volunteers benefitting us all. Widening Rte.1 only broadens the problem - NOT its solution. Agree with other commentors thus far, WS has enriched so many of us in multiple large and small ways. Please, try to find a more positive " Either part of the problem or part of its solution " Suspect you have more positive contributions that may well persuade all of toward quality solution. May I request your assistance, please? Feel Better & Be Well, :8-))
Madalena M April 27, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Since when has our society's morality become corrupted to the point that we value a marginally faster commute over the happiness and the very existence of the people and animals around us? Please put yourselves in the shoes of those closest to Woodlawn Stables and help us act to save it.
T Ailshire April 28, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I don't know who urinated in whose breakfast cereal, but I'm disgusted that some of my neighbors prefer the urbanization of our area. East of US1 is bucolic and historic, and efforts such as maintaining businesses such as this maintain our chosen way of life. Not everyone wants to live just off the interstate.
Germonique Ulmer April 28, 2012 at 02:46 AM
To be clear, nonprofit, privately funded, The National Trust for Historic Preservation is an impacted party of the County’s Route 1 road widening and similarly expects the Federal Highway Administration to notify all of the affected parties and the public of the agency's development plans. As this story incorrectly states, any funding under the Uniform Relocation Act would come from the government’s widening project directly to Woodlawn stables, should the project require its relocation. The National Trust adamantly opposes widening Route 1 through Woodlawn; however, we realize the road expansion will happen and we are doing what we can to be a good neighbor, to support the community, and to work with the county, state, and federal agencies involved to minimize harm to the nationally significant historic site that is under our stewardship and care. You can find our organization’s full public statement on this matter at: http://www.preservationnation.org/about-us/press-center/press-releases/2012/route-1-woodlawn-statement.html
PutCreator1st April 28, 2012 at 05:19 AM
What Mr Hyland said..look at all that land on front of Woodlawn Plantation
Jessie Biele (Editor) April 28, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Hi Germonique, Thanks so much for clarifying that info about the Uniform Relocation Act. Jessie Biele, Local Editor
cmvoorhees April 29, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Two comments: US Route 1 needs to be widened to 6 lanes. The person who stated that it takes 30 minutes to go from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway to Fairfax County Parkway during the peak of the rush hours was not exaggerating. In our trips to Woodbridge, we begin at 2:30pm, to make it to gymnastics practice in 45 minutes. We used to leave at 3:30pm to make the trip in 45 minutes. There are 26,400 employees at Fort Belvoir and the Potomac River and this does not include hospital visitors or the 15,000 plus employees on the other side of US Route 1. 2. The Woodlawn Plantation Trust owns the property in question and the trust is and has been for over a decade adamant against widening US Route 1. It is my understanding that the Trust prefers the alignment further away from the Woodlawn Plantation mansion. There is still pasture land left and the current US Route 1 should become a two lane country lane as it will only service Woodlawn Stables. Thus, the land across the current road will be accessible by horseback. In order to assist the movement of traffic, Woodlawn Stables, in my opinion, should work with the property owner and become creative on how the stables will continue in the future with the redesign. Tunnels under the relocated US Route 1 would open up more pastureland.
cmvoorhees April 29, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Natalie: Woodrow Wilson Bridge is opened, but the construction of the Telegraph Road interchanges have not been finished. This is the reason for the current backups. According to Federal Highway folks, the end of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction is near. While construction on bridges on Telegraph Road is underway, they have begun repaving of the road and the Telegraph Road interchange should be finished by the end of the year.
T Ailshire April 29, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Has anyone explored the option of a split US1? There are plenty of other areas where the northbound and southbound lanes are blocks apart.
cmvoorhees April 30, 2012 at 12:04 AM
The small group of stakeholders and government staff that studied designs for US Route 1 widening considered a "bifurcated" option in the PowerPoint that is published on the Federal Highways Eastern Lands website. Earl Flanagan, Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner, reported to the MVCCA Transportation Committee that the small consulting group was studying that alignment during our February meeting. This is the pertinent part of the April MVCCA Transportation Committee meeting minutes. I encourage everyone to look at the papers they are posted on the Internet. "Questions - regarding the path US1 will take throughWoodlawn Historic Area. Fairfax County BRAC Coordinator Laura Miller explained that the recommended path for US Route 1would go through pastureland, behind the stables, and then will curve back to US Route 1 north of the Woodlawn Baptist Church. The transportation chair encourages residents to view the profile of the proposed road at http://www.efl.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/environment.aspx on the Eastern Federal Lands HighwayEnvironment webpage, scroll down the project listing and description until you see US Route 1 improvements at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and then scroll down that list until you see 3.22.12, Plans and Profiles, click on that and you will see proposed road alignments and profiles. You need to scroll down to near the end to see the recommended proposed southern alignment around Woodlawn Baptist Church."
Jessie Biele (Editor) April 30, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Thank you all so much for your comments on this important issue. Please continue to weigh in on this article in the comments section below, or feel free to email me with a Letter to the Editor to be considered for publication at jessie.biele@patch.com. Jessie Biele, Local Editor
Neighbor May 01, 2012 at 01:29 AM
With an attitude like that you deserve to sit in traffic.
Steve Chaconas May 02, 2012 at 01:20 AM
While I don't have a horse in this race, I really want to know why Dave Grover has an issue with the quality of life of those who enjoy equestrian activities. Until other options are examined, the barn doors should remain open. As for cowardly comments by an anonymous Internet troll, they are best shoveled out of any credible conversation.
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


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something