On-line Book
Cover book to Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park. [Image of cannon in the battlefield]
Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park


Table of Contents




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

current topic Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11


Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Appendix V (omitted from on-line edition)

Appendix VI

Appendix VII

Appendix VIII

Chapter 7
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Great America in Manassas

Setting the Stage: Marriott's Proposal

Early in 1973 the Marriott Corporation announced its intention to build a theme park on 80 acres of a 513-acre tract adjacent to the Manassas National Battlefield Park. To coincide with the nation's bicentennial in 1976, Marriott planned to re-create six historic areas that would reflect the idea of "Great America." According to the original proposal, guests could visit different sites important in American history, including a New England seaport, a New Orleans French market, the Southwest, the frontier Yukon, a rural town, and the turn-of-the-century Midwest. In addition to these areas, created through architectural styling and landscaping, there would be amusement park rides, musical productions, and craft displays to entertain guests. Marriott anticipated two million visitors each year during the theme park's May-through-September season. [2]

On the same parcel of land, Marriott later planned to build a specialty shopping center where people could purchase goods made by on-site artisans. A hotel would house visitors. Marriott also wanted to develop an additional area of approximately 185 acres as an industrial park. Light industry and research and development firms would be housed in one- to two-story buildings placed in a landscaped setting. [3]

Before Marriott took shovel to dirt, state and local governments had to assess and consider a variety of things. The catering services and hotel chain needed commitment on zoning permits and support facilities from Prince William County and the Commonwealth of Virginia. The existing agricultural zoning had to be switched to commercial usage, and a special use permit was required for a 350-foot landmark structure planned in the theme park. Additional special variances were needed for an undetermined number of 100-foot structures. Marriott requested that the state build an interchange on Interstate 66, which would allow direct access to the property. Marriott considered the interchange essential to the project and threatened to abandon the site if it were not approved. Other services were also crucial to the Marriott proposal. Prince William County had to ascertain if its existing water and sewer capacities could accommodate the projected increased usage and then construct lines to serve the site. And there were environmental factors to consider, including the effects on water and air quality in the county. Safety features relating to fire protection and crime needed to be addressed. Taking into account all of these requirements, the board of supervisors had to assess the impact of the project on the county's overall financial health. [4]

Effects of the theme park and light industrial area on neighboring Manassas National Battlefield Park also required consideration Marriott originally chose the site because it met certain selection criteria, none of which were proximity to the battlefield park. After selecting the site but before making a public announcement, Marriott considered the relation between its development and the national park. The corporation concluded, without seeking input from the National Park Service, that the most significant impact would be increased visitation at the battlefield, which Marriott considered a benefit for the national park. Satisfied with its site choice, Marriott began negotiating with the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for zoning and support services. The National Park Service remained unaware of the project until Superintendent Berry and others saw a story describing Marriott's plans "splashed across" the front page of the Washington Post in mid-February. [5]

With the publication of that article, battlefield park neighbors and other county residents drew up on opposing sides. A voting majority of the board of county supervisors, known as the "Four Horsemen" and led by Supervisor Ralph Mauller, welcomed the tax income that the projected $35-million development would bring. The sobriquet "Horsemen" alluded to what opponents saw as the potentially Apocalyptic consequences of the Marriott development or perhaps to the supervisors' perceived effort to ride roughshod over opposition. The Four Horsemen saw the Marriott project and the projected tax revenue it would generate as a way to address recent changes. The county had experienced explosive growth, with its population increasing from 50,000 persons in 1960 to more than 111,000 in 1973. Tax revenues were needed to provide these new residents with schools, sanitary processing facilities, and health and safety services. Homeowners could carry only a portion of the burden, so county officials sought other sources. Industry and businesses, drawn to the county by the recent opening of Dulles International Airport and the completion of two major interstate highways, provided an attractive funding resource. The Marriott development represented just the type of income generator that county supervisors, especially the Four Horsemen, were looking for. [6]

Many local residents were also enthusiastic about the Marriott proposal. C. Mason Gardner, who lived within five miles of the battlefield park and represented thirty members of a pro-Marriott ad hoc committee, argued that Prince William County needed an expanded tax base to ease rising property taxes. In Gardner's mind, Marriott provided a perfect remedy to this situation. After the development was completed, the corporation would pay its share of taxes but not require the additional services—such as schools—that residential construction needed. Gardner pointed to other potential benefits: sales tax revenue would increase, businesses would gain a boost from tourists, and summer employment possibilities for local young people would expand. [7]

Others considered the Marriott proposal a threat. Gilbert LeKander, who had worked with Annie Snyder against the 1969 national cemetery proposal, joined forces with Memory Porter and the Prince William League for the Protection of Natural Resources. The league included some one hundred Prince William County residents who questioned the value of the Marriott development. Snyder, who was recovering from a skiing accident, stayed behind the scenes during the opening salvos of the debate. [8]

Porter, as president of the league, argued that approving development on the Marriott tract would open the door for further commercial rezoning in the surrounding area. Availability of increased capacity public water and sewer lines and the presence of both an entertainment facility and an industrial office complex would encourage other businesses to consider the remaining space. Porter feared that the existing agricultural-residential area would be replaced by gas stations, food outlets, repair shops, shopping centers, and other convenience facilities. She argued that with these added buildings, the county would experience rising traffic, noise and air pollution, and the general degradation of the aesthetic and historic aspects of this section of the county. Porter pointed out that the water quality of nearby streams would inevitably decrease from storm runoff over parking lots and road surfaces. Crime and the incidence of vermin would increase. [9]

Of particular concern to Porter and LeKander was the effect the Marriott development would have on the battlefield park. Porter expressed concern about the visual impact of the projected 350-foot-tall structure and the undetermined number of 100-foot-tall structures. These tall modern edifices would intrude on the historical scene and become constant reminders of the twentieth century as park visitors attempted to step into the past. Porter and her fellow supporters remembered the Gettysburg Tower controversy, in which a corporation won local zoning approval, over adamant preservationist opposition, to build a 307-foot observation tower on private property adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Battlefield park supporters in both Pennsylvania and Virginia were particularly sensitive to high-rise structures as a result of the Gettysburg controversy. Projected visitation at the Marriott theme park brought further questions regarding adequate lodging and camping facilities. Porter argued that existing services would not be able to accommodate the surge of Marriott visitors. Instead, the battlefield park's proximity and inviting open fields might encourage large-scale unauthorized camping. [10]

CONTINUED continued


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