Fairfax County’s Spy Park Featured at New Spy Museum

Foxstone sign_edited-1Foxes have a reputation for stealth and cunning, but for many years, a far more dangerous predator was at work in Foxstone Park in Vienna. His actions are so notorious, the park is now in the crosshairs at a new spy museum in New York City.

If you tour the SPYSCAPE museum in Midtown Manhattan, look for the exhibit showcasing one of the Fairfax County Park’s Authority’s iconic brown and yellow wooden signs. It is there to help tell the story of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was convicted of spying for Russia after using the entrance sign at Foxstone Park as a signaling device for dead drops.

Foxstone is a 14.4-acre park in the Hunter Mill District. It includes trails, playgrounds and a foot bridge that Hanssen used to conceal packages of government documents and disks. He would let his handlers know it was time for a pickup at the bridge by attaching a piece of adhesive tape to the park sign.

SPYSCAPE’s Deception Gallery is devoted to Hanssen’s story. The museum originally asked to purchase the actual park sign for display. However, the county has a responsibility to appropriately curate its collection pieces to preserve Fairfax County’s history. In the end, park staff and the museum agreed that a replica of the sign would be made to help tell the espionage tale the museum weaves.

Alan Crofford, Facilities Support Manager for the Park Authority’s Park Operations Division, says the request was a first for the agency. “It’s ironic that the request came to me, because I was the area manager for Foxstone Park when the arrest happened.” Crofford says he “never thought” back then that one day he would be handling such request.

SPYSCAPE emailed its original request to the Park Authority in June 2017, and by October, the replica sign was on its way to New York. It was crafted by Lee Sites, the carpenter behind all of the agency’s familiar wooden park signs. SPYSCAPE paid $982 for labor and materials, plus shipping, and had the sign in place for the museum’s February 2018 opening.

Foxstone Park has been included in local spy tours and class outings over the years as fascination with Hanssen’s story continues. In his counterintelligence role at the FBI, Hanssen had access to information about KGB agents who had defected or were secretly working for the Americans. He passed information to the Soviets and Russians that led to the compromise of three of those agents, revealed that the FBI had built a tunnel under the Soviet embassy in Washington, DC, and provided details about America’s nuclear operations.

In the book “Undercover Washington: Where Famous Spies Lived, Worked, and Loved,” author Pamela Kessler described Hanssen this way: “His colleagues at the FBI called him Doctor Death and The Mortician. He had a sallow complexion, a humorless stare, and stood as somber as a funeral director in his dark suit and white shirt. Robert Hanssen stuck with the old G-man dress code long after casual Fridays had begun.” While over time he had come under suspicion to some at the FBI, he was known to most as a caring father of six and a devout Catholic. Many colleagues were shocked at his arrest, but at the time, the Justice Department considered him “the most damaging spy in FBI history.”

Hanssen’s downfall came at Foxstone Park. He was arrested there on February 18, 2001, when he was caught hiding a bag of documents under the bridge. To potentially avoid the death penalty, he pleaded guilty to espionage and conspiracy charges for selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia for more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds over a 22-year period.

Hanssen is currently serving 15 consecutive life terms at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility near Florence, Colorado. Known as the ADX, it is the highest-security prison in the country. The man who once walked the trails of Foxstone Park, within a mile of his Vienna home, is now in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.

Author Carol Ochs works in the Park Authority’s Public Information Office.

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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.

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