Those who live in Northern Virginia know too well the gridlock of I-95. Yet less than five miles away from the Lorton exit is an oasis called Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area.
A 2001 land swap between developer Pulte Homes, the federal government and Fairfax County, Virginia, led to the creation of Meadowood Recreation Area on Mason Neck in Lorton. Operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Meadowood is comprised of over 800 acres of meadows, hardwood forests, streams and ponds open to the public for hiking, horseback riding, dog walking, bird and dragonfly watching, fishing, geocaching, and environmental education.
Up until late 2004, the property, known as Meadowood Farm, was privately owned by the Lynch Family. Edwin Lynch was offered the land in 1976 in exchange for his 230 acre farm in what is now Burke Center. Edwin's son Bill, the only family member still living on Mason Neck, says that the land at that time was uninhabitable. "It took one year to get it in shape for our horse operation," he says.
Bill remembers that the property had become the local dumping ground, overgrown and littered with all kinds of trash. "It seemed that every time we moved an old car to haul it away, 30 snakes would jump out," Bill laughs.
That year the Lynch family built a 45 stall barn with indoor ring, cleared slash pine to enlarge a hay field on the east end of the property, and prepared to open a horse boarding facility. When asked why the farm was named Meadowood, Bill had no romantic story to tell. "My dad saw the woods and the meadows and named the farm Meadowood," he says.
Meadowood is located on Mason Neck, a peninsula bordered on the southwest by Belmont and Occoquan Bays, on the south by the Potomac River, and on the east by Gunston Cove and Pohick Bay. The other parks on the peninsula are the Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge, Mason Neck State Park, Pohick Bay Regional Park, and Gunston Hall Plantation.
In his book The Colonial Plantations of George Mason, Robert Morgan Moxham records that land patents were first granted on Mason Neck beginning in 1651. Although Meadowood abuts property once owned by George Mason, it does not seem that any of it was part of his holdings. It is possible, based on geographic descriptors recorded in Moxham's book, that the land of the current day Meadowood was first owned by Gervais Dodson (1653) and/or John Gosnell (1657). Bill Lynch believes that previous to his father's acquisition in 1976, it was owned by Milligan College in Tennessee (someone had gifted land to the school) and Crestwood Corp Home Builders.
When asked why his family decided to sell Meadowood, Bill Lynch says the idea came from a neighbor. "In the late 1990s Congressman Jim Moran was looking at what was happening with Lorton Prison," he says. Opened in 1916, the District of Columbia's Lorton Corrections Facility was slated for closure, and Moran was concerned about the land's future use. Lynch says that a Mason Neck neighbor came to him "with a crazy, hair-brained idea that I thought nothing would ever come to anything." That idea was for a land swap to prevent the Meadowood Farm from ever being developed.
According to the Fairfax County Government, "The last prisoners were transferred from Lorton in November 2001 and the last facility was released from the District of Columbia to the General Services Administration April 2002." Pulte Homes, the Federal Government, and Fairfax County swapped the Lorton Correction's Facility land for Meadowood Farm.
Horses play an important role at Meadowood, but the property is not limited to private boarding as it once was. Six miles of trails are open to riders, who may access them from entrances off Harley Road and Belmont Road. The BLM has installed a parking area for horse trailers near the intersection of Gunston Road and Harley Road.
Riding lessons for beginners and trail rides are offered to the public by concessioner W. G. Van As. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts Wild Horse and Burro Adoptions at Meadowood, the next one scheduled for October 22 and 23, 2010.
Fishing is allowed in the two ponds at Meadowood. Both Hidden Pond and Enchanted Pond are stocked with bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie. A Virginia fishing license is required.
Meadowood is a geocaching site. Geocachers use Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology to search for a hidden cache -- usually an airtight container holding a log book and a small object of dollar store value. Once found, the geocacher records the date, time and object of trade in the log, and later on the geocaching Web site. Meadowood's first geocache contained a toy squirrel which has been recorded on the geocaching Web site as having traveled the world.
Meadowood Recreation Area is open year round from sunrise until sunset. Trail work funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is near completion. BLM plans a grand reopening of the trails at 9 a.m. on September 25, 2010, National Public Lands Day.