With the Independent Hill Small Area Plan, we have the ability to protect and honor the history of Prince William while providing significant amenity to residents.
For years we have heard of plans for a north entrance to Prince William Forest Park. Instead of planning 40 acres of office buildings of questionable value in the rural part of the plan, we should work with Prince William Forest Park management to build a north entrance to the park and an education center there. low.
While researching articles on the history of Independent Hill and Prince William Forest Park, I discovered the ex-slaves who had triumphed over prejudice and Jim Crow to buy land and prosper in this area of Prince William. There are families descended from these pioneers who still live in the region. There is still a lot of work to be done to research the history of the region and properly honor that history. We have the opportunity to do this right now during the small area planning process.
The Barnes family is a prime example of this story. Eppa Barnes started out as a slave and after the Civil War bought land, cultivated and prospered in Independent Hill. His family home was on the road to present-day Va. 234 at Independent Hill, adjacent to where zoning for public facilities / offices is now proposed in the Independent Hill plan. The house was eventually moved to the grounds of the Montclair Public Library. As far as I know, research has not been done to verify the extent of the Barnes family’s farmland; it could have included the land in question here.
Now is the time to do this research on the Barnes family and other black pioneers. This area abuts Prince William Forest Park, home to a thriving post-Civil War-era black community that included former slaves. Many of these people were then forcibly evicted from their homes after the park was established.
This area of Independent Hill could be a northern gateway to the park that also honors these black pioneers and tells their story. This is a great opportunity to achieve this goal while retaining the rural atmosphere of the region. I have reason to believe that the management of Prince William Forest Park would be a willing partner here.
We cannot let this moment pass – it is our best chance to provide a learning opportunity for our residents and to confirm the county’s commitment to preserving history. The County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the small area of Independent Hill plan on Tuesday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. You can contact the officers at: [email protected], or sign up to speak on the county website: www.pwcgov.granicusideas.com.