McLean’s stewardship of open-land space was severely tested when the community lost Evans Farm Inn to development, but it now has an opportunity at redemption through purchasing the historic Salona property, which its owners have offered for sale. Salona is one of McLean’s most recognizable landmarks and one of the most historic sites in the region.
The current owners are offering the property to the county at a price significantly under market value to create a park facility that can be used by the community. Their offer expires in September, and members of the Board of Supervisors and the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust are working to come up with the financing to purchase Salona before the offer expires.
The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust has developed options for the county to come up with the $15.9 million that is being asked for the 44.5 acres surrounding the historic home. In January the parcel was assessed at over $22 million, according to Trust documents.
The sale will not include the historic Salona home on the property. The owners intend to live in the home, buffered by several acres withheld from the sale.
Owner Dan DuVal said that offering the land to the county was a natural decision for him and for his brother, Clive DuVal III. “It’s a value that’s shared by my brother and myself. It’s something that would be consistent with [the values my father held].” His father, Clive DuVal II, labored as a state senator to preserve Virginia’s natural resources.
Northern Virginia Conservation Trust official Paul Gilbert is very excited about the prospect of acquiring Salona. “Without a doubt this is the No. 1 conservation priority in McLean, and inside the Beltway really. Layer the history on top of that, and it’s exceptional,” said Gilbert.
According to a Northern Virginia Conservation Trust document, “Sen. John Warner’s office is willing to support a request for up to $6 million from federal transportation enhancement funds to offset the purchase of Salona. However, before this project can proceed, Sen. Warner’s office needs some assurance that the rest of the funding is available.”
UP TO $2 MILLION from the Land and Water Conservation funding that is received by the state each year from the federal government could also be used, according to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. As with Sen. Warner’s funding, assurances of public ownership would need to be made before funding is available.
The DuVals have made an offer to the county on financing the purchase that may be one they can’t refuse, even during a time when fiscal constraints are affecting parks throughout the region.
“The DuVals are willing to self-finance the county’s acquisition with payments over a 10- to 15-year period and are willing to accept a relatively small first-year payment for the property. This allows the Board of Supervisors to dedicate several hundred thousand dollars from the Open Space Trust Fund (current balance of $700K+), and then spread the rest of the payments over time. The county’s remaining debt on the property can then be reduced with the federal and state funds listed above and perhaps rolled into some future park bond,” reads the financing document.
DuVal has not ruled out the possibility that the huge tract of land could be sold to developers if the county is unable to come up with the funds to purchase the property. “I’d like to take this one step at a time. We’ve worked very hard to put this together, so I’d like to see this through before jumping to the ‘what if’s,’” said DuVal.
Fairfax4Horses, an equestrian group, hopes the land can be turned into a state-of-the-art equestrian facility for use by everyone in the county. The plot of land is large enough to accommodate a riding center of that size and still provide plenty of room for other public functions. “Unfortunately, there’s a prevailing wind for ‘we want ball fields, we want soccer fields,’” says Judith Lamont with the equestrian organization. The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust specifically addresses, that stating, “All short- and medium-term park uses of the 44.5 acres should be such that they can be changed to focus on historical interpretations in the future. For this reason, athletic fields are the least desirable use for this property.”
Fairfax4Horses would like to model an equestrian park after the Chastain Horse Park in Georgia, which has parallels to Salona. It was constructed at a landmark location in close proximity to a high-profile residential area.
Lamont said they would like to offer therapeutic riding programs for children with physical or mental challenges, programs for children at risk, and riding lessons and boarding for the public, like that demonstrated to be successful at Chastain Horse Park.
The idea of a horse park, says Lamont, would be “compatible with McLean’s revitalization.”
DuVal supports the idea of an equestrian park, even though he is not a horse enthusiast himself. “It’s an intriguing use of the land,” said DuVal. “We’d love to see something that preserved the cultural and historic nature of the property.”
SALONA HAS a rich history, which would be a dramatic loss to the nation if it were to fall into the hands of developers instead of the county. The property was acquired through marriage by Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry Lee. Henry Lee served as governor of Virginia in 1791 and went on to serve two terms in Congress.
The stately brick manor house, which is currently undergoing renovations, was constructed between 1790 and 1810. In August 1814 British troops attacked Washington, causing President James Madison to flee to Salona. He was separated from his wife, Dolley, who found him at Salona the next day. Route 123 is known to locals as “Dolley Madison Boulevard” because of that event.
Salona also served as the headquarters for the Union Army during the Civil War, and many small battles erupted in the area during that time.
Salona was purchased by Clive DuVal II and his wife, Susan, in 1952. In 1971 he was elected to the state Senate, where he served until 1991. He was noted during that time for his efforts to conserve natural resources in Virginia. He died in 2001 and left the property to his two sons, who are now offering Salona to the county for community use.
The generous offer to sell the property by the DuVals is “partly a function of finding a value that works for everybody,” said DuVal. Although the brothers will take a significant loss on the sale, DuVal said, “We are comfortable with the arrangement,” because it enables them to do something “good for the environment and for the community.”