Stafford, Virginia is blessed with a number of distinguishing attractions such as George Washington’s Ferry Farm, Chatham, Gari Melcher’s Belmont Estate, the 18th Century Aquia Episcopal Church and Government Island. The County, among the fastest-growing in America, is also home to Crow’s Nest, one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land in the region. Named after a black sailing ship that once docked in the Potomac Creek during the 1700s, the 4,000 plus acre Peninsula is home to a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species of plant, fish, and animals, as well as significant migratory bird populations. A seventy-acre heron rookery, one of the largest in the Chesapeake Bay Area, serves as a nesting ground for hundreds of these majestic birds. Wetlands and over ten miles of undisturbed shoreline constantly regenerate this wildlife habitat. In fact, sixty percent of Stafford’s remaining marshes are located at the waterways surrounding Crow’s Nest.
The area is also rich in historical value. Long before Stafford became home to English colonists, a number of Indian tribes settled along the banks of the Accokeek and Potomac Creeks. While most children have heard the story of Pocahantas’ kidnapping, few know its roots are based at Crow’s Nest. It was here that the daughter of Powhatan, chief of the Potomacs, was lured onto Captain Argall’s ship by chief Japazaws and held at Jamestown. Additionally, prominent Virginia families such as the Daniels, Travers, and Moncures resided at Crow’s Nest. During the Civil War, the Peninsula was used by both Union and Confederate troops, and a number of archeological sites can still be found. While Crow’s Nest Plantation, once home to a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was destroyed by fire, bricks from the old home site still remain.
At one point, the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service considered designating this pristine landscape as a National Wildlife Refuge. However, a backlog of operations and maintenance at existing refuges, as well as limited acquisition funding, imperiled this designation. Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis and Senator John Warner also spearheaded congressional legislation to establish the Accokeek National Wildlife Refuge at Crow’s Nest, but the measures did not reach final passage.
Over the years, a number of individuals and groups have rallied to preserve Crow’s Nest, fearing that the area, which is heavily forested, would be harvested and its greenways would eventually become the site of cookie-cutter homes, apartments, and condos. At one point, the track was slated to become Crow’s Nest Harbour, a mega-development that would have brought a golf course, convention center, and thousands of new residents to two-lane Brooke Road in rural Stafford. This real estate has changed hands a number of times and been subject to rezoning. Most recently, a mega-developer had an option to purchase Crow’s Nest from its principal owner K&M Properties of McClean, Virginia.
Crow’s Nest is a valuable commodity that will either one day become overrun by a thousand or more new families, or as many hope, conserved for future generations in its current state as a nature preserve. It is clear that if this ecological and historical peninsula is developed, Stafford will forever lose a significant natural treasure and that all County residents will incur the increased taxes associated with the new schools, costly infrastructure, and additional public services needed for this new residential community. Working together, we can and must save Stafford County’s Crown Jewel from sprawl.