Sign dedication commemorates 60 years of stewardship, historic preservation
Bringing together key federal, state and local officials to celebrate 60 years of stewardship, the Accokeek Foundation and the National Park Service hosted a sign dedication commemorating its ongoing partnership during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 24 at Piscataway Park in Accokeek.
It all started in 1955 when Congresswoman Frances Bolton of Ohio purchased a 500-acre farm in Accokeek — directly across the Potomac from Mount Vernon and next to the Moyaone Reserve — to prevent its sale to a commercial developer. Bolton understood the importance of protecting that iconic view and was soon sought out by leaders from the Accokeek community who had been preserving the rural character of the area.
Bolton donated her farm to create the Accokeek Foundation (AF) which led to its founding in 1957. With a coalition of organizations including the Alice Ferguson Foundation, Moyaone Association and Mount Vernon Ladies Association, Bolton launched an ambitious program to protect 6 miles of shoreline. This large-scale landscape conservation effort resulted in the creation of Piscataway Park, the first public-private effort of its kind to preserve historic vistas. Congress authorized Piscataway Park and President John F. Kennedy signed the bill in October 1961, according to the AF website.
Today, nearly 60 years later, AF remains committed to its mission in cultivating passion for the natural and cultural heritage of Piscataway Park as well as supporting stewardship and sustainability through collaboration and innovation.
“The fact that this place has been preserved from development owes much to the vision and commitment of Congresswoman Frances Bolton,” Accokeek Foundation Board Chairwoman Virginia Busby said. “I admire this organization for its leadership in innovative and integrated land conservation and historic preservation. And I admire the foundation’s sincere commitment to stewardship of and their varying engaging education about this land, its natural resources, its colonial and sustainable agriculture and about the broad spectrum of history and culture of this place.”
Busby said she was also impressed with AF being a place of connections and its relationship with the land’s historic contemporary and descendant communities.
“I’m very proud to be more connected to this place and be a part of this organization than enables people to connect with the land and a place that inspires visitors to be a part of creating a sustainable world,” she said.
AF President and CEO Lisa Hayes said it is an honor to be following in the footsteps of Bolton in leading an amazing organization like AF, especially during a pivotal time in history as the foundation celebrates several milestones including its 60 years of stewardship in addition to the National Park Service’s centennial and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.
“Today, we also honor those who have given their time, energy and advocacy in making sure this Piscat- away Park will forever be a site of conservation, recreation and education,” said U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (DMd, 5th). “I want to thank the Accokeek Foundation for its extraordinary leadership and the hard work it undertakes on a constant basis to protect the land. It’s home to so much of Maryland’s history not only here, but across the river.”
Hoyer said the work being done at Piscataway Park in terms of connecting young people with nature and teaching them about the environment is an investment and “a generation better equipped” to meet the challenges of the country and those that the world will face in decades ahead.
“While we are here to celebrate the past, it’s critical that we look to the future. Investing in public lands is at risk in America. And each of us ought to be energized by that fear and continue to raise consciousness,” he said.
Bob Vogel, director for the National Park Service National Capital Region, said it’s important to look back in the past as “we often look to our history for examples of thinking that was ahead of its time.”
For Vogel, Bolton was a key figure in the preser- vation effort resulting in the creation of Piscataway Park, a simple effort that turned out to be so much more than that in the end. It’s the first national park of its kind set aside to preserve a viewshed and conceived as a public-private partnership. This was an early model that was emulated in a number of places across America, he said.
“In 1955, she initiated a series of events that would eventually create the wonderful Accokeek Foundation,” said Vogel. “She’s a great woman in history whom we should celebrate this month and all year round.”
Piscataway Conoy Tribal Chairman Francis Gray said he is amazed by the unparalleled actions of Bolton which were well ahead of her time.
“With Mrs. Bolton’s aspirations and desires to protect the view and the landscape from across the mother river, her actions produced a product,” Gray said. “This place of Piscataway is very sacred to our people. I am honored, glorified and very [humbled] by the process that has gone through and all the hard work that has been done to ensure the legacy of our ancestors are still intact.”
Accokeek Foundation President and CEO Lisa Hayes, front left, is all smiles after cutting the ribbon for a sign commemorating the AF’s ongoing partnership with the National Park Service and its 60-year milestone of historic preservation and stewardship on March 24 at Piscataway Park in Accokeek. From left is Piscataway Indian Nation Chief Billy Red Wing Tayac, Piscataway Conoy Tribal Chairman Francis Gray, AF Board Chairwoman Virginia Busby, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and National Park Service National Capital Region Director Bob Vogel.