Gum Springs leaders secure last-minute name swap for BRT stations

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A sign at the corner of Richmond Highway and Fordson Road/Boswell Avenue explains the historical significance of the Gum Springs community.

Several community organizations joined forces this week in a short-notice, but ultimately successful, effort to get the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) to change the names of two future Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations. As a result, the former “Hybla Valley” station will now be known as “Gum Springs,” and the former “Gum Springs” station will become “Hybla Valley.”

Upon learning this past weekend about the Jan. 17 BRT Executive Committee meeting and FCDOT’s plans to recommend no name change for the BRT station located at Richmond Highway and Fordson Road/Boswell Avenue, the New Gum Springs Civic Association (NGSCA) took quick action to secure letters of support from the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations (MVCCA), the South County Task Force and the Fairfax NAACP.

“The South County Task Force supports the Gum Springs Community in its desire to name the future BRT Station at Richmond Highway and Fordson Road the Gum Springs station,” wrote Mary Paden, chair of the task force. “Although the station at Richmond Highway and Sherwood Hall Road is also in Gum Springs, the county should give the name 'Gum Springs' to the Fordson station as requested by the community.”

MVCCA Co-Chairs Katherine Ward and Lynn Pascoe echoed this sentiment, noting that “Fordson Road is the lead-in to Gum Springs and the obvious starting point for visitors to walk through and understand the historical significance of the community.”

This FCDOT map of Richmond Highway BRT stations will be updated to reflect name changes at several stations. The only unchanged station names are Huntington Metro, Woodlawn and Fort Belvoir.

NGSCA President Queenie Cox directly approached Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk earlier this week to reiterate the Gum Springs community’s position that the name of the BRT station should reflect the preference of the historically Black community — not the opinion of others who responded to the BRT station renaming survey last fall.

“Why would you conduct a survey about a historically Black community and ask for outsiders’ opinions, then come back with a name unrelated to the community?” asked Cox in a Jan. 18 phone interview. “What does Hybla Valley mean? What’s the history or significance of Hybla Valley?”

According to Cox, Fordson Road was named for West Ford — a freed slave who founded Gum Springs —thus, the BRT station at that intersection should be called Gum Springs and not Hybla Valley.

Cox and other leaders from the Gum Springs community showed up at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center Tuesday morning to make their voices heard. The Rev. Charles Hall, pastor of St. John Baptist Church, and Ron Chase, director of the Gum Springs Historical Society, joined Cox in emphasizing the importance of community input.

According to Cox, following discussion among FCDOT and other Executive Committee members about the station renaming issue, Lusk made a motion to accept FCDOT staff’s recommendations, contingent upon an amendment to switch up the Hybla Valley and Gum Springs station names. Storck expressed his agreement with Lusk’s proposal, and the entire committee voted in favor of the amended resolution.

In Cox’s opinion, renaming the BRT station located at Richmond Highway and Sherwood Hall Lane from “Gum Springs” to “Hybla Valley” makes sense for wayfinding purposes due to the proximity of the stop to the Hybla Valley Community Center.

Following the vote, Cox posed questions to the BRT project team about the county’s plans for Gum Springs Community Center students to provide artwork for the Gum Springs BRT station. Specifically, she expressed concern about the fact that FCDOT had only asked the Gum Springs Historical Society to provide design input to the students when there are other community stakeholders that should have an equal say — specifically Bethlehem Baptist Church, NGSCA, Pride of Fairfax, St. John Baptist Church and Woodlawn Methodist Church.

“Why are we excluding those organizations that were instrumental in obtaining and approving historical markers for our hidden figures in Gum Springs?” asked Cox.

BRT project officials agreed to hold a meeting with Gum Springs community stakeholders to get their input on the Gum Springs BRT station design, according to Cox.

Graphic from the New Gum Springs Civic Association

In a Jan. 18 email to NGSCA members and supporters, Cox expressed appreciation for everyone’s prompt help in securing a win for the community.

“Thank you to all who supported Gum Springs at the last minute for this initiative that will have a permanent and lasting effect on the Gum Springs community,” she wrote.

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