Get your hands dirty as we work to mitigate invasive species and improve the natural environment within the park’s campground. Join park rangers as they work to identify and capture these species that have made a home in our woods. All ages are welcome and no experience is required. Round trip hike or bike ride to the work site is approximately 2 miles. Tools will be provided. Dress for the weather and bring work gloves, water, a snack (optional), bug spray and sunscreen. Take pride in knowing you have contributed to the ecosystems of Sky Meadows, improving them for future enjoyment.
You may also observe National Public Lands Day by participating in “Bike Your Park Day.” Bring (or ride) your bicycle to Sky Meadows State Park to explore our 9 miles of bike trails. This year Adventure Cycling Association encourages participants to recreate responsibly, leave no trace, and gather your community to bike, learn about, and care for your parks!
Parking fee waived for this event.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for September 25 – 29, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile markers 6 to 9, eastbound and westbound – Overnight single right lane closures for inspection of bridge over Norfolk Southern Railway and Shenandoah River, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday night.
*NEW* Mile marker 9 to 7, westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures as needed for road and bridge work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of November 27. Shoulder closures 24/7. Work zone speed limit: 55 miles an hour. Work is related to southbound acceleration ramp extension and bridge widening, with estimated completion in fall 2024.
Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Shoulder closures between Route 619 (Rivermont Drive) and Route 607 (Rocky Lane) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 522 (Remount Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 665 (Chester Gap Road) and Route 604 (Harmony Hollow Road) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 702 (Baugh Drive) – Flag traffic control between Baker Plaza and Route 661 (Fairground Road) for paving operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through October 6.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The Cracked Acorn: In a Hurry
Being retired! Time to lay back. Mow the lawn. Chop a few weeds out of the garden. It’s not always “The Life of Riley!”
Consider Monday, June 20th; it is 6 a.m. I had finished my morning coffee and chat session with my friends and was on the way from Warrenton to Manassas. The reason was the result of a Sunday flyer that discounted a large stereo TV. I can remember when 18″ was enough, but now we were marching towards a 32″. Traffic was at a snail’s pace. A snail would have made better time. *I finally diverted from 1-66 to take the road past the Stonewall Memory Garden and through the Manassas Battlefield. I received an extended view of the cemetery where many souls reposed, blissfully unaware of the chaos civilization hast wrought. I was given time to reflect and even envy them in their “sleep.”(I Thessalonians 4:14). Another mile brought me to the crossroads of the old stone house where the greater part of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) was fought during a thunderstorm on Saturday, July 20, 1861. The stone house is where the surgeon amputated mangled arms and legs in an attempt to save lives. I forgot what discomfort I had at the moment.
Finally, I reached the promised land 45 minutes later, less than 20 miles, computed to be a speed of 3 miles per hour. I decided it was time to breakfast at a popular chain. I was seated, handed a menu, and left to grow old. I left. It was time for a gallon of deck paint at the world’s largest retailer. I was greeted, assisted, and left with a smile and a song in my heart to be abandoned next door by a home supplier. All I wanted was a bit of insulation for the attic. I began to tell myself that it was time to practice the Christian virtues that our minister, Phil Adams, had preached about on a few past Sunday mornings. (Hebrews 12:1-2) I began to feel better, breathing and respiration close to normal, and my blood pressure came down to an acceptable level. It was time to visit the TV store where I made a purchase and then waited nearly an hour at the wrong door for my pickup. I began to hum the lyrics to “the famous talking horse-MR. ED). I headed home only to be delayed by the train, crossing Route 29 at Gainesville. The cell phone rang. My loved one was worried. “I am not on a world tour and should be home before lunch.” A neighbor had promised to help me avoid my third hernia and help me lift the 100 lb. set into the rec room. He bailed out; he’s a policeman and was late for work. Caught in “what to do?” the neighbor’s son was available and mission completed. The rest of the afternoon was spent in painting the deck and waiting for the air conditioning serviceman. Late in the afternoon, I made an effort to take away a week’s trash but was 30 minutes too late. There was a full moon that night, and while I walked the dog, I fought off the urge to run howling about the neighborhood.
*”The Rhode Island Regiments retreated in good order, Many were without shoes and terrificed to death, some had yielded to exhaustion and were borne upon the shoulders of others who could scarcely walk themselves. All day long bodies of troops walked into the city in the pelting rain. Many of their officers killed, left ccmpanys who did not know where to go. My neighbor hurt three ribs when thrcwn from his horse. We have heard of the death of several of our friends but happy to learn that Col Flonter & his aid are safe.” (from the Mary Henry Diary of July 1861)
HOW BEAUTIFUL HEAVEN MUST BE, SWEET HOME OF THE HAPPY AND FREE; FAIR HAVEN OF REST FOR THE WEARY, HOW BEAUTIFUL HEAVEN MUST BE. (from SACRED SELECTIONS)
A Step Back in Time: George Mercer and Winchester’s Historic Weekend
Reliving the 1750s: Mercer’s Legacy and Winchester’s Pivotal Role.
Winchester, Virginia – It’s not every day that one gets a chance to walk through history and meet some of its iconic figures. On Oct 7 and 8, 2023, at Abram’s Delight, history enthusiasts and curious locals alike will get just that chance as members of George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment prepare to recreate life from the mid-1700s.
Tony Elar Jr., a captain of the Mercer’s Company re-enactment group, points out that George Mercer wasn’t just any historical figure. “Mercer was Washington’s aide-de-camp at Fort Loudoun, effectively becoming his right-hand man,” said Elar. The fort, which stands as a testament to Winchester’s defense strategies during the French and Indian War, was also a hub for repairing weaponry and offering soldiers some much-needed rest.
One might imagine the fort as a quiet place, but Elar paints a different picture. “The Virginia Regiment sometimes had about 500 men in town, stationed at the fort. And these soldiers? Well, they had their share of fun, often sneaking off to local taverns,” he chuckles, recalling the many letters Washington had to pen to local innkeepers, asking them to keep his men away from alcohol.
Fast forward nearly 270 years, and George Mercer’s legacy is alive and kicking. Thanks to Elar’s group, which was formed in 2015, the history of the Virginia Regiment and their authentic 1756 uniforms (shipped from none other than England!) are showcased at regional events.
Beyond the reenactments, the weekend promises more than just a visual treat. As visitors explore the camp at 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, they’ll get a sense of the clothing, culinary arts, and weaponry of the period. “We camp out overnight, with tents set up exactly as they would have been back in the day,” added Elar, admitting that the busy South Pleasant Valley Road corridor makes for some noisy nights.
And for those wondering about the heavy woolen attire in potentially scorching weather? Elar laughingly remarked, “Once you start sweating in wool, it’s almost like having an air conditioner!”
But the weekend’s highlight? Engaging tales of Winchester during the French and Indian War. With no battles on record here, the spotlight is on Fort Loudoun and how French officers, upon surveying the fort, deemed it “too powerful, too strong” to attack.
Furthermore, visitors are in for a special treat. Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV will bring a young Col. George Washington to life, with whispers of a surprise visit from General Edward Braddock, the colonies’ commander-in-chief at the war’s beginning.
Winchester isn’t just a location. It’s a time machine to the 1750s, bringing forth the tales, sounds, and sights of a bygone era. An era of resilience, strategy, and iconic figures. All are invited to this journey, with no admission fee, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at Abram’s Delight.
A Salute to General Daniel Morgan: Virginia’s Revolutionary War Hero
Honoring a Legend: SAR Dedicates Plaque at the Historic Burwell-Morgan Mill.
Millwood, Clarke County, Virginia – General Daniel Morgan, a stalwart of the American Revolution, was honored with a dedication ceremony hosted by the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) on 15th September 2023. The picturesque Burwell-Morgan Mill served as the backdrop for the event, with a bronze plaque celebrating the General’s extraordinary life taking center stage in the meadow.
Daniel Morgan’s journey from a young New Jersey lad to a Virginia legend is one for the books. As a youngster who could hardly read or write, he ventured to Virginia, making the Shenandoah Valley his home. From his humble beginnings as a teamster to playing a crucial role in the War for Independence, his life was nothing short of extraordinary. Morgan’s resilience was evident when, after receiving a near-fatal injury from an ambush outside Fort Edward, he carried the scars and stories proudly. His tactical brilliance shone brightest at the Battle of Saratoga and later, Cowpens, setting the stage for Cornwallis’ eventual defeat.
The event was a grand spectacle, with the Virginia SAR State Color Guard presenting colors and dignitaries from various societies paying their respects. Marc Robinson emceed, while Paul McComb undertook chaplain duties. The guest list was illustrious: Mid-Atlantic District Vice President General James Engler, Sr; Virginia Society SAR President Ernie Coggins; representatives from DAR and C.A.R., among others. Dale Corey painted a vivid picture of Morgan’s life after which numerous SAR Societies and DAR Chapters presented wreaths in the General’s honor.
As James Graham, Morgan’s biographer, once wrote, his “strength and spirit, his frank and manly bearing, his intelligence and good humor” made him beloved by many. This sentiment echoed throughout the ceremony as attendees remembered the General’s influence on the colonial victory.
The event reached its crescendo with Anita Bonner and Jocelynn Wilson leading the attendees in a rendition of “God Bless America,” culminating in a musket salute by the Virginia State Color Guard.
In an era where heroes often emerge from the pages of fiction, General Daniel Morgan’s story stands as a testament to the mettle and spirit of real-life warriors. This dedication serves not only to commemorate his incredible life but also to inspire future generations to value sacrifice, strategy, and resilience.
Maryland Lawmakers Push to Designate the Chesapeake Bay as a National Recreation Area
WASHINGTON – The Chesapeake Bay could see a boost in status under legislation introduced this summer to designate the region as a National Recreation Area.
Sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, the Chesapeake National Recreation Area Act would allow the National Park Service to bring into its network sites in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers over 60,000 square miles across six states and Washington, D.C. Sites would be included either through donations or purchases, but the new designation would not affect the rights of other property owners along the watershed.
“We know that the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and it’s a global treasure,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Capital News Service. “We believe that by including this national treasure within the National Park Service system, we will ensure that it is protected in the future.”
Efforts to establish a Chesapeake National Recreation Area date back to the 2000s, when a study called for the bay to become a unit of the National Park Service. This year’s legislation also comes amid attempts to mitigate the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and efforts to highlight lesser-known parts of bay history, including the contributions of Native Americans and Black watermen to the ecosystem and economy.
The bill was created through a “unique process,” Van Hollen said. In 2021, in a practice uncommon among most lawmakers, he and Sarbanes created a working group to solicit feedback on what the legislation should look like.
The bill is currently in committee, but Van Hollen said a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is “determined to get it over the finish line” by the end of this congressional session.
Currently, the park service administers certain sites in the watershed, including those designated as national monument units. The Chesapeake Gateways program, established through federal legislation in 1998, allows the park service to partner with and provide assistance to local and regional organizations involved in the bay.
But lawmakers are calling for the park service to play a larger and more administrative role, especially as they strive to tell previously untold stories about the watershed’s inhabitants.
“Right now, there’s no entity whose mission is to help tell the stories of the Chesapeake Bay,” Van Hollen said. “If you look at the Chesapeake Bay, in many ways, its history is a microcosm of our American history… so there are all sorts of stories.”
For Maryland residents like Vincent Leggett, whose families have been involved in those stories for generations as avid fishermen, shipbuilders, and dockworkers, the bill offers the promise of highlighting history that’s previously been passed over.
Leggett is a member of Blacks of the Chesapeake — an organization that aims to highlight Black history in the watershed — which was part of the working group for the bill.
“African Americans, I feel, were the backbone to the maritime and seafood industries here in the Chesapeake Bay region, but our stories were not elevated, nor were they exposed through our own voices,” Leggett said.
Leggett hopes that expanding the reach of the park service in the region will also draw these populations into bay conservation. Only 7% of the state’s bay shoreline is publicly accessible, he said, causing a “sense of alienation” for people of color in the region who can’t get involved in cleanup efforts.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the main entity responsible for the conservation and restoration of the bay, there are 1,296 public access points to the body of water across its six watershed states and Washington, D.C.
The bill, if passed, would authorize the park service to administer additional landmarks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — a step Van Hollen said would further improve public access to the bay.
Blacks of the Chesapeake has worked with state and federal lawmakers in Maryland on several projects along the bay, Leggett said, including planning a heritage park at the historically-Black Elktonia Beach in Annapolis and ensuring that Black history is highlighted at Whitehall Manor, which was built by enslaved individuals. Some of these sites, if acquired by the park service, could become highlights of a Chesapeake National Recreation Area.
The bill’s sponsors also touted the legislation as an opportunity to create jobs and enhance Maryland’s economy.
“By designating a unified National Recreation Area for the Chesapeake Bay, this legislation seeks to elevate the regional stories that shaped our nation’s history, promote the spirit of stewardship, improve public access, and spur economic growth across the bay region,” Sarbanes said in an e-mail to CNS.
The lawmakers have projected that turning the watershed into a park service unit will boost tourism in the region, augmenting its already major role in the Bay states’ economies. In Maryland, recreational boating generates an average of $2.03 billion and 32,025 jobs each year, and wildlife-watching excursions generate over $600 million a year, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Leggett said that the bill is an opportunity to foster these industries while increasing awareness of the bay’s integral role in the region.
“I think that by bringing more attention to the Chesapeake Bay… it just generates so many millions of dollars and employment opportunities and tourism,” he said. “I think that as we endeavor to improve the water quality of the bay, that is going to enhance the fisheries, it is going to enhance heritage tourism and all of the related businesses that surround it.”
By SHIFRA DAYAK
Capital News Service
In From New York State Larry Tuttle Sr. Steps to the Plate, I Mean McDonald Federal Trial Witness Box
With the federal criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald again on hold, this time from Tuesday, September 19 through Friday, September 22, if not longer, due to what was described by the prosecution as an “unexpected health issue,” we decided to fill the gap with a recounting of earlier testimony this writer witnessed in the wake of his own testimony of Wednesday, September 13. As previously reported, McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.
As reported in my lead story on my two days, September 12 and 13, in the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse, among the other witnesses scheduled that day after my testimony was Larry Tuttle Sr. Tuttle identified himself as defendant Jennifer McDonald’s stepfather George Hassenplug’s cousin. He is a resident of Monroe, New York, he told the prosecution during direct examination. He also noted that he was last employed in 1993, before being in “a terrible car accident,” after which he has survived on Social Security disability benefits of about $1700 a month, he said in response to a direct examination question. Spending some time near Tuttle and what I believe was his wife in the courthouse third-floor hallway prior to either of our testimonies, I could see that he had some difficulty moving around, rising, and sitting back down.
As I watched his testimony following my own, the prosecution’s interest in Tuttle soon became apparent. He testified that as a favor to his cousin, George Hassenplug, he had signed some apparently partial real estate documents sent to him at his New York home during the time frame coinciding with some of the Jennifer McDonald real estate transactions that later came under legal scrutiny as allegedly involving misdirected EDA assets. Tuttle testified that while he knew who Jennifer McDonald was due to his cousin’s relationship with her by marriage to McDonald’s mother, that he did not know her personally and had never met her.
Asked if he was close to his cousin George Hassenplug, Tuttle replied that he “had been” from the 1990s to 2017 and that they had talked on the phone three to four times a week regularly during that period. Tuttle also testified that he didn’t own, nor was he invested in any property. As for real estate experience, he noted that he had a mortgage on a home prior to his accident.
Prosecution counsel asked Tuttle if he knew William “Billy” Biggs or had ever discussed business opportunities with him. Biggs was a long-time Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors member and treasurer during and prior to McDonald’s EDA executive directorship, circa 2008 to 2018. Tuttle replied “no” to both questions, the second one on the “business opportunities” query after a defense objection was overruled by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon.
Tuttle was then asked a series of questions, many about loans apparently attributed to him involving real estate transactions involving the defendant. Had he ever loaned $3 million to facilitate a real estate transaction brought to him by his cousin? Tuttle laughed as he said, “No.”
Had he ever loaned $1.9 million to McDonald’s Da Boys LLC real estate company? This one drew a somewhat nasally laugh accompanying his “No” response, leading to an apology to the court for snort-laughing his answer, which drew some sympathetic laughter from the jury.
Tuttle was also shown a “Death Settlement Agreement” with his name on it — “I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he testified. Another “No” followed a question about a $1.75-million loan on mortgages.
If I heard correctly, Tuttle estimated he currently had $29 in his savings account, leading to his level of amusement at the financial questions being asked of him, particularly his loaning large amounts of money to facilitate real estate transactions.
Tuttle did say, however, that a portion of paperwork regarding a Buck Mountain Road transaction sent to him attracted his attention enough that he asked his cousin George Hassenplug if he should sign it. He said he was told that he shouldn’t worry, that “the deal will fall through in a couple of months.” Asked if he was involved in a $1.95-million loan related to that sale, he again replied, “No.” It might be recalled that the Buck Mountain Road transaction involved another witness that day in court, William Vaught Jr. That transaction saw the sale and repurchase of that property at an approximate $600,000 loss to the buyer in under a month, as the deal apparently did “fall through,” as predicted by George Hassenplug to his cousin.
William Vaught Jr.’s testimony indicated he was told that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was initially involved in that projected purchase but had later backed out. It is believed that the Aggravated Identity Theft federal charge against McDonald involves Tran’s assertion his name was forged in documents related to this real estate transaction. This reporter did not see Tran’s testimony due to his status as a pending witness at the time of that testimony.
Back to Tuttle’s direct examination, he was asked if he had ever received money from Jennifer McDonald. “No,” came his now familiar reply. Had he received $560,000 related to a Rileyville Road transaction? Once again, the answer was “No”.
Asked about his signature on a $1.075-million loan, Tuttle replied that he did not believe it was his. He observed that he “wrote a lot neater” than the signature on the document. He added that it was possible it was his signature, but he doubted it and did not recall signing that document.
Near the end of his direct examination, Tuttle was asked if he’d ever received money for his willingness to put his signature on the documents sent to him by his cousin. “No,” he replied. How about “gifts?” came the follow-up question, to which he responded in the positive, citing what he estimated as a $10 T-shirt sent to him. That led to the prosecution’s introduction of Exhibit 534, a photo of that T-shirt which had “That’s Mr. Tuttle” and letters appearing to be “COTB.” Asked the meaning of the T-shirt lettering, Tuttle said he was told it meant “Taking Care Of Business or something to that effect.”
On a brief cross-examination, the defense raised the specter of a Little League baseball game he had attended at which he had been asked to leave by an umpire after questioning ball and strike calls involving a nephew. The “That’s Mr. Tuttle” on the T-shirt was a reference to his responding, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire, defense counsel asserted. Tuttle said he had been asked to leave the game but denied that he had responded, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire.
And with that and a brief re-direct examination to clarify a date on one of the documents shown him, Larry Tuttle Sr.’s turn at the plate, I mean on the witness stand, ended.