Within two weeks, the Bureau of Land Management will release its long-awaited Environmental Assessment of the horse stables at the Meadowood Recreation Area, a BLM official confirmed Wednesday. The report, which was due to be released last December, highlights the environmental impact of the area surrounding the barn and makes recommendations on its future use.
The report has not yet been made public, but the current station manager implied Wednesday that the barn is here to stay. "I'll tell you what I told the Mount Vernon Supervisor's office, which is that I think you will be pleased with the report," said BLM Station Manager E. Lynn Burkett, who recently put in her notice after getting a promotion. "[The stables are] a form of recreation that a lot of people enjoy and we just need to make it safe and a good place for everyone."
Burkett highlighted the work needed on the barn in an editorial to Patch last July. "The Meadowood barn currently needs several new interconnecting larger 'systems' such as a new roof, a new electrical system, a new plumbing system, a fire suppression system, and support structures/pillars, in addition to ventilation, accessibility and other needs," she wrote. "The level of the systems in need of rehabilitation is to the point of full reconstruction."
Cutting It Close
Allison Mills, the Meadowood stables manager, said Wednesday she was on the brink of going out of business in February and March. "It was dismal," she said. "I'm not allowed to add any more horses, and I have a boarder that just gave notice. Everyone pays $700 a month to stay in the stalls and I used every bit of that. And I had $1,000 in my checking account and if we closed down I'd have to sell everything I owned to get their money back."
Mills signed a contract last spring that says BLM can limit the number of privately boarded horses to 15 at the barn. Her contract was recently extended another year and she expects BLM to convert it into a concession contract.
"It would likely mean another bid process would hit the streets and there's a fear that anyone could bid for this job," Mills said. "But if they do a concession, then I would have a 20-year lease on the property and then I'm completely responsible for the barn and all of its programs. I would have total autonomy."
The stables are home to 29 horses; 20 are used for boarding, four horses (owned by Mills) makes up the lesson-riding program and five horses are used for the Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Program.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) is working to keep the structure from being torn down. “The Barn at Meadowood is a valuable part of the Northern Virginia community," he said in an email to Patch. "For years, it has served as a resource for families; as a therapeutic center for special needs children learning to ride and as a safe and loving home to dozens of horses. Working with Rep. Connolly (D-11th), [Mount Vernon District] Supervisor Hyland and an involved community, we are strongly encouraging the Bureau of Land Management to recommend the Barn’s restoration.”
Burkett, who became the Meadowood Station manager last summer, recently submitted her notice and will leave in June to manage 3.5 million acres and two BLM field offices in Lake View, Ore.
"My mother taught me a long time ago that when you leave a campsite it has to be better than when you found it," she said. "I'm hoping I've done the same thing here. There's a lot to transfer over [to a new station manager], and we have a lot of things going on."
The Environmental Assessment will outline various options for maintaining the environment surrounding the barn. Once it is released, the public will have two weeks to view the document before it is sent to the state director.
"They can take as much time as they need to make a decision, and that decision does not lie in my lap," Burkett said.
Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland wants the barn to remain. "The impression I get, and Congressman Moran's office feels the same way, is that the barn is going to survive," he said. "I'm finally glad that we're through horsing around with these problems and that we're all going to ride away in the marvelous sunset," he said.