The future of Claude Moore Colonial Farm is up in the air, as multiple sources have confirmed that the relationship between the National Park Service and the park is set to end as of Dec. 21.
Since 1973, the Farm has depicted the daily work and life of a typical tenant farm family in 1771 America, claiming to have educated more than two million visitors in that time.
Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a nonprofit volunteer entity, described the park as privately funded and operated in a press release from May 1, relying on memberships, donations, program income, sales, grants and other means to sustain operations. However, National Park Service Spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles states that there are no privately operated parks and since 2001, the NPS has provided $1.3 million in funding to the park, hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sewage system and assisted with additional services like safety and food inspections as well as road maintenance.
The two sides have been in good faith negotiations over the last few years to extend the agreement for the park. In March, NPS provided terms for an agreement that it says would have added current laws and policy used for all National Park sites while also allowing for adjustments to accommodate the Friends of Claude Moore’s interests. The Friends described the terms as “burdensome, oppressive and impossible under which to operate the farm” in its press release and declined to sign the agreement. As a result the relationship between the NPS and the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm will discontinue on Dec. 21.
“It is not clear why the NPS would want to close an award-winning National Park site that so well serves the public and, in addition, costs them nothing to operate,” says Friends’ Director Elliott Curzon in the press release. “It is worth noting that the Farm sits on 77 acres of land that has increased in value over the last four decades. We believe the NPS is under pressure from developers, including Fairfax County, to repurpose this land for development.”
“Rest assured that we have absolutely no intention to sell or commercially develop the park land that is known as Claude Moore Colonial Farm,” writes George Washington Memorial Parkway Superintendent Alexcy Romero in an email. “We value the memories that people have made at the farm, and we will work with you, the community, and the farm’s many dedicated volunteers to determine its future.”
“The National Park Service never had the intention of closing Claude Moore Colonial Farm,” adds Romero. “All this means right now is that the farm will close as winter approaches, as it always has.”
“The Claude Moore Colonial Farm provides a unique and valuable educational experience for the Washington, D.C. community and our visitors, particularly school-age children,” says Dr. Virginia Norton, Friends’ president. “We intend to use every resource available—public and private, legislative and administrative—to keep the Farm operating and open to the public.”
As news spreads, NoVA residents are eager to learn more about what is happening to this local attraction. According to Anna Eberly of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, the park’s website crashed on Tuesday as a result of heavy traffic. The Friends are channeling that into a public campaign in support of the Farm.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) has introduced legislation, H.R. 5201, co-sponsored by Congressman Donald Young (R-AK) that would keep Claude Moore Colonial Farm open and begin a new agreement with the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm. There are worries, however, that H.R. 5201 will not be enacted before the Farm’s Dec. 21 closing.
The Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm are now calling on the public to contact their local representatives to try and expedite the passage of H.R. 5201. In their press release, the Friends also urge and provide ways to contact the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, make a contribution to the park or share the information on social media.
“We’ve turned it over to the public,” says Eberly, “and we think [the NPS] will listen to the public if not to us.”