To the editor:
River Farm is at a crossroads. As the American Horticultural Society considers what to do with their beautiful property on the banks of the Potomac in Mount Vernon, there are various possible paths. Put most simply, one option would be for AHS to keep the property and continue to run it as they have for the last 50 years, and the other option would be for them to sell it.
The offer to buy the property comes from Nova Parks and the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and has involved many partners in state and local government that are interested in seeing this property become public parkland. The end result of this would be a property that is forever preserved and forever open to the public.
The board of the Nova Parks just pledged $800,000 toward the maintenance and improvement of River Farm in the first three years of Nova Parks management if this sale were to happen. With a 100-year-old house and outbuilding, a property like River Farm can be something of a money pit.
The $800,000 shows that Nova Parks is ready to act with our many partners and community members to make River Farm all that it can be in the future. And the $800,000 is just the first shot of investment. A site like this needs ongoing investments. Nova Parks has many historic sites and the top botanical garden in the region at Meadowlark.
If AHS, in the end, chooses to keep River Farm, preserve and invest in this remarkable property, that will be a good outcome. And if AHS chooses to work with the coalition of public and conservation organizations that are behind the offer to buy River Farm, that will be a win for the region, with conservation and investment guaranteed.
The effort to save River Farm is a remarkable coalition of likeminded individuals, governments and organizations. The governor and attorney general have both engaged directly in this effort. The General Assembly has secured $2 million for the acquisition. The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust has led the effort through “Save River Farm” to raise considerable private donations.
Nova Parks has secured millions in federal and state grants for this effort. Fairfax County has worked closely on every element of this effort, provided great leadership, and recently put a Historic Overlay District over the River Farm property. The National Park Service and numerous other groups have lent their expertise, advice and support.
I am optimistic that a good outcome for River Farm will come, and I am happy to work with AHS on whatever option will conserve the property, allow continued public access, and see continued upkeep and investment in this property that George Washington once owned.
-Paul Gilbert, executive director, Nova Parks