With the Independent Hill small area plan, we have an opportunity to protect and honor Prince William history while providing an important amenity for residents.
For years we’ve heard of plans for a north entrance to Prince William Forest Park. Instead of planning for 40-some acres of office buildings of questionable value in the rural area portion of the plan, we should work with the Prince William Forest Park management to construct a north entrance to the park and a teaching center there.
While researching articles on the history of Independent Hill and of Prince William Forest Park, I learned about the ex-slaves who had triumphed over prejudice and Jim Crow to purchase land and thrive in this area of Prince William. There are families descended from those pioneers that still live in the area. There’s still a lot of work left to be done to research the history of the area and properly honor that history. We have the opportunity to do that right now during the small area plan process.
The Barnes family is a great example of this history. Eppa Barnes started out as a slave and after the Civil War bought land, farmed and prospered in Independent Hill. His family home was in the path of current-day Va. 234 in Independent Hill next to where public facility/office zoning is now proposed in the Independent Hill plan. The home was eventually moved to the Montclair Public Library grounds. As far as I know, the research has not been done to verify the extent of the Barnes family farmland; it could have included the land under discussion here.
Now would be the time to do this research on the Barnes family and other Black pioneers. This area is contiguous to the Prince William Forest Park where there was a thriving Black community dating to the post-Civil War era that included ex-slaves. Many of these folks were later forcefully removed from their homes after the park was formed.
This area of Independent Hill could be a northern gateway into the park that also honors these Black pioneers and tells their story. This is a prime opportunity to accomplish that goal while keeping the rural feel of the area. I have reason to believe that Prince William Forest Park management would be a willing partner here.
We can’t let this moment slip away- this is our best chance to provide a learning opportunity for our residents and to confirm the county’s commitment to preserving history. The board of county supervisors will have a public hearing on the Independent Hill small area plan on Tuesday, March 16, at 7:30 pm. You can contact the board members at: email@example.com, or sign up to speak at the county website: www.pwcgov.granicusideas.com.