Heritage Preservation, “It’s all about teamwork.”

Remarkable Level of Cooperation Helps Preserve Civil War Relics

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 the Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch (CRMPB) received a call from Mohamed Kadasi, an engineer with the Fairfax County Utilities Design and Construction Division (UDCD). Kadasi thought that excavations for a shoulder and sidewalk improvement project near the City of Fairfax might have unearthed a historic resource. Backhoe trench excavations had struck an old, buried macadam surface. When that was lifted it exposed a cedar log road. Ken Atkins, senior inspector with UDCD, had the construction team very carefully remove the macadam so as not to disturb the logs. Inspector Atkins is very interested in history and wanted to make sure that the past was not lost. His fast action and the care taken to not impact the logs were absolutely invaluable in understanding an important part of Fairfax County history.

ExcavationThe CRMPB sent archaeologists to assess the discovery. When they arrived, it was clear to the archaeologists that a historic roadway had been found. In the past, it was common to use logs as a road surface, in particular during the Civil War when high traffic in the area mucked up what had been dirt roads. The archaeologists took numerous pictures and devised a plan to properly record the site. Both CRMPB and UDCD staff coordinated so that no important archaeological information was lost and so that the improvement project could continue with as minimal an impact to the construction schedule as possible. At the end of the day Atkins secured the site and placed a steel plate over the trench, both for public safety and to protect the logs.

However, the need for cooperation did not end there. The project was being conducted within an easement held by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). In order to conduct archaeological investigations on state-controlled property it is necessary to first receive a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR). The acronym soup was getting thicker, now requiring coordination between CRMPB, UDCD, VDOT, and VDHR! CRMPB archaeologists provided VDHR with the work plan and submitted the permit application; as the easement holders, VDOT would have to agree to plan and co-sign the permit. All the agencies involved moved with remarkable speed and efficiency. Within 48 hours of submitting the application, CRMPB received the permit.

MapUpon receiving the permit, CRMPB merit and limited term staff drew a detailed map of the logs by hand to permanently record this resource. Then, they attached two numbered plastic tags to each log. Storm water management for the improvement project called for installation of a pipe below the grade of the historic, Civil War period road surface. Instead of removing the logs mechanically, they were saw cut. After the pipe was installed, the trench was backfilled to the level of the log road. Tagging had allowed for the placement of each cut end back along its corresponding log. Then the trench was backfilled to present-day grade.

image007However, this was only part of the preservation process. CRMPB archaeologists also used a surveyor’s total station to record the historic road surface in three dimensions within millimeter accuracy. Assistance from yet another agency was again necessary. The Fairfax County GIS department is processing high definition LiDAR data to create very fine topographic maps of the entire county. At CRMPB request, the GIS department processed the data in the vicinity of the project area. This imagery clearly shows the remains of a Civil War circular fort that had served to protect against enemy movement along the historic roadway. Combined with the information recovered about the log road and other, now long-gone, Civil War encampments and fortifications in the area, the hope is to virtually reconstruct the historic landscape of this area, providing a better understanding of Fairfax County’s Civil War history. None of this would have been possible without the remarkable and expedient coordination between county and state agencies from the moment of discovery though reburial.

When the CRMPB archaeologists left the site, we thanked Ken for saving this piece of the past. “It’s all about teamwork,” he said. How true that is.

Author Christopher Sperling is the Senior Archaeologist with the Fairfax County Park Authority.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

5 thoughts on “Heritage Preservation, “It’s all about teamwork.”

  1. David Engel

    Was there a Carbon-14 test taken of the logs or a dendrochronology test done to know for sure that this is a Civil War road? Was the entire areal extent of the road found or was a portion of the old road left under the current highway? While the cooperation between state agencies are appreciated, it’s unfortunate to lose this great example of the road system during such an important part of American history.


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