Conservation Milestone at Gilberts Corner

Gilberts Corner has long been recognized as a special place. Containing portions of the June 1863 Battle of Aldie and sitting close to historic sites like Oak Hill, the home of President James Monroe, and the antebellum Mount Zion Old School Baptist Church, it is a historic landscape of unusual significance.

But, for many people, the significance of the historic landscape around Gilberts Corner means more. It is a symbolic entry point to the countryside. A place where suburban Washington recedes, the pace slows and the beauty of the rural Piedmont’s landscape emerges.

The preservation of the landscape around this intersection took a major step forward this year after the completion of two significant land transactions in November 2013, which involved PEC taking ownership of a 141- acre farm property and PEC selling a nearby 68-acre property to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA). These mark significant milestones in the effort to preserve the landscape around this key intersection along The Journey Through Hallowed Ground.

“What makes this area so unique, as I often hear from regular travelers along Route 50, is that they breathe a sigh of relief when they see that scenic and historic landscape around Gilberts Corner open up before them,” said Mike Kane, PEC’s Land Conservation Officer for Loudoun County. “Our goal is to conserve that landscape and preserve that experience.”

Understanding the importance of Gilberts Corner, PEC and our partners have worked for 15 years to protect the area. Successes during this time have included the completion of the ‘traffic calming’ roundabouts as well as protecting over 150 acres on the north side of Route 50.

Gilberts Corner intersection
Map of protected land and historical sites around Gilberts Corner

Despite these successes, land on the southeast side of Gilberts Corner, a 141-acre farm that connects to Mount Zion Church, remained unprotected. The property had approval for 14 residences and a proposal for up to 66,000 square feet of commercial space, which would have forever altered the character of the area’s historic landscape.

Recognizing this perilous situation, concerned residents led by Scott Kasprowicz, a former Vice Chair on the PEC Board of Directors, jumped into action. The group created Roundabout Partners, which raised the funds and purchased the property last summer. Then, to ensure protection of the property, Roundabout Partners donated the land this past November to PEC for conservation purposes.

Roundabout Partners’ donation of the property to PEC is a huge win for conservation at Gilberts Corner. “PEC deeply appreciates receiving this gift and all the work on the part of Roundabout Partners that went into making it possible,” said Chris Miller, President of PEC.

Future plans for the 141 acres are expected to focus on restoring the land’s agricultural vitality, enhancing wildlife habitat and protecting the property’s streams and water resources. PEC also looks forward to creating opportunities for the public to experience the site’s unique colonial history.

The other significant project that occurred at Gilberts Corner in 2013 was several years in the making. Back in 2009, PEC purchased a 68-acre property located on the north side of Route 50 to save its forest and farmland from a planned 14-unit residential subdivision. This past November, NVRPA acquired the 68 acres from PEC so it could be joined with their adjacent property to create the Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park.

“The primary goal of this new parkland is to preserve the historic and scenic values of the area,” says Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of the NVRPA. The new parkland will provide public access to 150 acres for activities like hiking, environmental education and historical interpretation.

With the completion of the transactions in 2013, a block of nearly 300 acres is now permanently protected around Gilberts Corner. “Our work is not yet complete,” said Miller. “But it’s great to see our long-standing vision for the area coming into view.”

This article was featured in our Spring 2014 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.  You can read more of the articles online or view a PDF of the summer issue if you prefer.