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Plans For Richmond Highway Leaves Horse Stable's Future Uncertain

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Woodlawn Stables faces an uncertain future.
Michael Pope
Woodlawn Stables faces an uncertain future.

At the graveyard of Woodlawn Baptist Church in southeast Fairfax County, Pastor Travis Hilton stands at the top of the hill and looks out over the graves as cars rush by on the highway below. He says the families of those who are buried there are relieved that a decision has been made to move the road to the south instead of widening it in its place.

"That's something that we can celebrate this Christmas is that we will not have to have concern about the graves at Woodlawn Baptist Cemetery," says Hilton. "So that is a relief."

Under one plan considered by the Federal Highway Administration, about 100 graves would have been exhumed to widen the road. But the National Trust for Historic Preservation opposed that plan because it would encroach into the historic Woodlawn Plantation and a Frank Lloyd Wright house that was relocated during the construction of Interstate 66.

"We are not in favor of the road," says Ross Bradford, an attorney who represents the trust. "However, we know that it's going to go in. And in order to be good neighbors, we supported an alignment that would minimize impact to the national historic landmark, which is our primary focus at Woodlawn."

According to terms of an agreement struck last week, the widened version of the road will be rerouted to the south, disrupting the Woodlawn Stables. Owner Cynthia Mitchell says closing the stables would be a tragedy.

"We have spent the better part of the last 30 years building relationships within this community, and had multiple generations of students work here, ride here, show their horse here," she says. "It's a huge loss to the community, not just the horse world."

But all may not be lost for supporters of Woodlawn Stables. The agreement includes money from the Federal Highway Administration for the National Trust to construct a new horse stable, if the trust can find an operator.

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