Mount Vernon

Save River Farm Committee Honored

Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck, left, seen here with Roger Bowers at the gala, was in the forefront of the fight to Save River Farm.

Alexandria, VA – When Mount Vernon residents see a threat to a beloved community asset, they fight back. And they work together: ordinary citizens, community groups, and elected politicians.

Years ago, such a coalition saved Inova Mount Vernon Hospital as a full-service hospital. Recently, such a group saved River Farm, the longtime home of the American Horticultural Society, from being sold to developers.

In September, we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the American Horticultural Society and its 50th Anniversary at River Farm, now its permanent home. An elegant gala marked the celebration, with Zebra as a media sponsor.

On September 28, the Garden Club of Virginia honored the Save River Farm Committee, the Mount Vernon group that ensured River Farm’s ongoing role as the home of AHS. In presenting the Committee with its 2022 Elizabeth Cabell Dugdale Award for Meritorious Achievement in Conservation, the club cited “its grassroots and successful efforts to save an important property and landscape from development.” Marie Thomas, chair of GCV’s Conservation Awards Committee, deemed the save a “wonderful conservation achievement.”

The Dugdale Award for Conservation is given annually to an organization, industry, or individual who has rendered outstanding service in the conservation and wise development of natural resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia and is not a Garden Club of Virginia member. The award was first presented in 1974.

At press time, the entire Save River Farm committee was expected to accept the award at a ceremony at River Farm. Members are Anne Mafra, Alan Rowsome, Keister Evans, Paul Seifert, Dan Straub, and Katherine Ward.

Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck, who played a significant role in the fight, said of the resulting victory, “I was very happy to lead our county team and bring together community partners, including the Save River Farm Committee, the American Horticultural Society (AHS), Senator Scott Surovell, Delegate Paul Krizek, and all the community members who were committed to River Farm and raised their voices to save it. These beautiful gardens and grounds will now be preserved and open to residents for many years to come. I thank AHS for having the foresight to continue to make this their home.”

With River Farm preserved forever, on September 17 guests gathered for a gala at the beautiful site to mark AHS’s 100th Anniversary.

Applauded as “unprecedented,” the Save River Farm campaign brought together historical, architectural, and conservation organizations, parks groups, civic associations, committed neighbors, and political leaders, the GCV noted.

Committee members worked with local government officials, including Storck, Surovell, and Krizek, to establish a Historic Overlay District on the property to control development in case the property ended up being sold.

The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust stepped up to house the Save River Farm effort under its auspices, and the Northern Virginia Park Authority mobilized efforts to buy the property.

Local volunteers were key in keeping the public informed, involved, and updated about ongoing developments in the struggle to protect the property. After a year-long battle, the property was taken off the market, and AHS announced that River Farm will continue as the AHS headquarters and remain open to the public.

“That this committee coalesced in the height of the pandemic and organized a monumental effort to generate support to save River Farm is quite a feat,” said Debbie Lewis, GCV president. “They combined strategy with passion to strike up a great band of like-minded partners.”

The Garden Club of Virginia, a nonprofit organization, encompasses 48 garden clubs in Virginia representing 3,500 members.

ICYMI: Get Tickets by Monday for AHS’s Elegant Gala

Marlene Miller

Marlene Miller has lived in, and written about, Mount Vernon for decades. She raised her family here, her two children graduating from area public schools. After retiring from over 16 years of publishing her own newspaper, The Zebra has tempted her back to community journalism

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