Save River Farm Committee to pick up conservation award


Autumn view of the Potomac River at River Farm

The Save River Farm Committee — a group of six individuals who managed a successful grassroots campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic to save historic River Farm from development — will receive a conservation award later this month from the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV).

GCV representatives will present the Elizabeth Cabell Dugdale Award for Meritorious Achievement in Conservation to committee members for their outstanding work in conservation stewardship. The Save River Farm Committee’s campaign to prevent the sale of the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) 27-acre property along the Potomac River garnered widespread support from 2020 to 2021. The campaign’s list of partners
was a veritable who’s who of state and local office holders, environmental organizations, parks, garden clubs and citizens associations. Thanks to their concerted publicity, policy-making and fundraising efforts, the committee was able to announce in October 2021 that River Farm was officially off the market.

Yesterday marked the reopening @AHS_Gardening's River Farm. A celebration of which community members, volunteers, political leaders and ourselves, gathered to commemorate its public access. We will support AHS in any way we can to ensure River Farm's protection in perpetuity.

— Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (@nvct) November 2, 2021

Committee members were passionate about their cause. Katherine Ward, who lives near River Farm and co-chairs the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations, said the property has always been an integral part of the community.

"The potential loss of such a valued neighbor motivated me and all the other Save River Farm Committee members to fight to save it,” she said. “We were thrilled that so many folks around Fairfax County joined in that fight.”

Her fellow committee member Anne Fafara, a longtime River Farm visitor and volunteer, echoed that sentiment, noting that she fell in love with the property while volunteering during her retirement.

“When AHS listed the property for sale on the open market, I couldn’t bear to lose this green space,” she said. “I began by rallying the volunteers and then moved on to help coordinate a community and statewide effort to save River Farm.”

While the committee’s original mission was accomplished, its work may not be over yet, according to Fafara.

“We are hoping that the Save River Farm Committee will continue to be involved at River Farm,” she said. “Our best guess is that we will evolve into a Friends of River Farm group whose mission will be to protect the property from development, ensure River Farm is protected for future generations and support AHS in improving the property.”

Other members of the Save River Farm committee include chairman Alan Rowsome, executive director for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust; Keister Evans, former executive director of AHS; Paul Seifert, policy expert; and Daniel Straub, urban planner and landscape architect.

The entire committee will be present at River Farm on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 10 a.m. to receive the GCV’s conservation award. The ceremony is open to the public and will take place under a tent in the River Farm gardens.

The American Horticultural Society’s River Farm is located at 7931 East Boulevard Drive in Alexandria.

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