About 50 people attended a Saturday morning rally at Stuart’s Hill to protest any current or future proposal for any new road anywhere near the Manassas Battlefield Park ever.
Andrew Fellows, of Clean Water Action, spoke to crowd, made up of local politicians, area residents and representatives from the conservation groups.
“Road solutions that have been proposed will not ease congestion. They will increase congestion,” Fellows said of current proposals which include a road dubbed the Battlefield Bypass and another called Tri-County Parkway alternative.
“The decisions that are made in the coming months and years about protecting this land and protecting the Rural Crescent, protecting the battlefield itself and any surrounding area are going to make the difference in quality of life in whether we go downhill or if we’re going to improve our transportation options,” Fellows said.
The rally was co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the National Parks Conservation Alliance, the Piedmont Environmental Council, Gatepost Estates Concerned Citizens, Save the Battlefield Coalition, Sudley Springs Catharpin Civic Association and Sudley Mountain/Stoney Ridge Civic Association.
Kim Novick of the Sierra Club said the groups sponsoring the rally believe that widening existing roads would meet current and future traffic needs.
“Most of the groups here today have agreed on a unified platform on how to address congestion problems in the area,” Novick said after the rally Saturday.
“We support closing U.S. 29 and Va. 234 and to accommodate traffic, we support widening Interstate 66, from Gainesville to Centreville,” Novick said.
“We support upgrading or expanding Route 28, as necessary,” she said.
“We don’t see a need for brand new highways around here,” Novick said.
The coalition is convinced that development will inevitably follow road construction and any road construction near the Battlefield represents “Building an Outer Beltway … one segment at a time.”
“If this road goes through, we’re just one step closer to having the park inside a beltway,” Novick said.
“I think the message is we don’t want these roads going anywhere. Not here,” Novick said.
Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton attended the meeting and listened to the speakers from several of the organizations.
There are three studies under way to try and find a solution, Connaughton said.
“The Tri-County Parkway, The Manassas Battlefield Bypass and the 234 Extension Bypass Study, once we get all that data, we’re going to have to sit down and figure out what’s the best way to relieve traffic up here, because traffic is bad and it’s getting worse,” Connaughton said.
“It’s not just a congestion problem,” Connaughton said, “it’s becoming a safety problem.”
Connaughton acknowledged that the preservationists concerns were valid, but said that state and local government should be able to find a way to bring roads without necessarily bringing development that “eats into and destroys the battlefield.”
“We’ve got to commit to people that if any changes that are made, the land use does not change. It’s a tall order. It’s never been done before, but I think it’s the only way we’re ever going to get to solution o the traffic problem north of 66,” Connaughton said.
Rick Coplen, Connaughton’s opponent in the current election, sided with the preservationists.
“I’ve expressed support for the Tri-County parkway, easterly route,” Coplen said when all of the speeches were done, “but I’m opposed to this road out here because it degrades the integrity of the Battlefield and because it’ll prompt development.”
Coplen said the Battlefield preservation is inextricably bound with the preservation of the Rural Crescent and quality of life issues.
“If we do a better job with some of these parks and public lands … the natural resource is a value in itself. Your air quality is better because all of these trees are here,” Coplen said.
“The quality of your drinking is better because of the Occoquan Watershed, because of the Rural Crescent. All of those things benefit you and I,” Coplen said.