Prince William Forest Park
Administrative History
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In 1939, the Chopawamsic RDA received its first National Park Service manager. He succeeded Charles Gerner and William R. Hall. Upon his arrival, work on the five cabin camps was substantially complete. Ahead lay the challenge of developing a system of roads and bridges for the park, especially a main entrance. Day-use facilities yet to be constructed also remained in the plans.

The man called upon to meet these challenges, Ira B. Lykes, was destined to leave a lasting impression on the park's development. In 1939, funding for the CCC program was winding down. At the same time the pending U. S. involvement in World War II was causing massive changes in the priorities of the federal budget. As a result, principal sources of labor for park construction, the CCC, PWA, and WPA forces, were being diverted to military projects. Secretary of the Interior Ickes prided himself in foreseeing war long before others in the cabinet did. Not surprisingly, PWA funds under Ickes' jurisdiction were used to build two aircraft carriers, four cruisers, four heavy destroyers, four submarines, two gunboats, and more than 130 aircraft. [68] In this atmosphere obtaining appropriations for a small park serving primarily the underprivileged of Washington might have seemed hopeless.

However, Ira B. Lykes was a resourceful man. Former employees characterized him as a hard-headed, demanding boss possessed of great determination and creative ability. [69] Local government leaders remember most his remarkable abilities in public relations. [70] Area residents remember his kindness and concern for community affairs. [71] Former employees and community people alike note his unquestioned commitment to the success of the park as the spark which sets him apart from other park rangers.

Lykes managed the Chopawamsic RDA from 1939 to 1951. During his tenure as manager he witnessed major social and economic changes affecting Prince William County and his park alike. The World War II military build-up brought with it a major expansion in the Quantico Marine Corps Base bordering the park. As the Washington bureaucracy grew, Prince William County was transformed from an agricultural community into a suburb of Washington causing an increase in both the number and diversity of its people. Accepted patterns of segregation in the surrounding community were in conflict with NPS standards. Facing these many challenges and changes, Lykes was poised to leave a lasting impact on the park. His tenure yielded the park its greatest boon: a network of roads at a fraction of their real cost; and its greatest headache: an ongoing land dispute with neighboring Quantico Marine Corps Base.

From the outset, public relations became Lykes' top priority. [72] Lykes maintained a good working relationship with the "major domos" of local politics, county officials, state politicians, officials of the National Capital Parks, Army and Marine commanders, wildlife organizations, Washington charitable organizations; in short, anyone who could further the interests of the park. His guiding principal for building good public relations was the belief in meeting people "on their level." [73] Yet, everyone he came in contact with knew who was the boss. An administrator who set perfection as the goal, he could be most exacting with those who worked for him. [74]

Persuasion was Lykes' principal management tool. For instance, rather than confront poachers, he preferred to "convince people they shouldn't do it." [75] Well placed acts of kindness helped him win over a few disgruntled area residents. Mary Byrd, an elderly black woman, could count on near weekly visits from Lykes at which he would present her with a much loved can of snuff. If a new baby was born, Lykes came by with a gift. [76] Christine Curtis, as a young clerical worker, learned to drive from Lykes. [77] Through such carefully directed acts of kindness, the park became synonymous with Ira B. Lykes in Prince William County. This firm grounding in peoples' affection allowed Lykes to be hard-headed and demanding and still inspire loyalty. [78] The only group unfazed by his easy going ways were area moonshiners. Lykes and Sheriff Lay would hide out in the woods hoping to catch them, to no avail. The elusive bootleggers would escape downstream before he had an opportunity to exercise his powers of persuasion upon them. [79]

Shortly after arriving in the park, Lykes determined that numerous improvements were necessary to augment public access to the park. Chief among these was the need for a good system of roads within the park. Shrinking budgets and an uncertain labor supply would make this an onerous task at best. Nevertheless, Lykes believed he was "built to be bothered." Whatever the obstacles he would build roads. [80]

Funding was the most stubborn obstacle to new construction. Lykes' first attempt at securing federal allocations for the park taught him just how contrary the process could be. The two CCC camps in the park in June of 1941 were to be used exclusively for defense-related construction projects on nearby military installations. (See Illustrations One for detail on the CCC camps.) Hoping Chopawamsic's status as an RDA would qualify the park for funds from the Federal Security Agency for a nationwide WPA defense recreation program, Lykes gamely applied for funds. [81] The most significant improvements sought were an entrance road, dam and sanitary facilities. Alas, his gamble failed. "Certified defense projects" already in operation at Fort Belvoir and other military federal agencies called for more workers than were available. [82] Chopawamsic's roads were simply not a war time priority. (For details see the 1939 Master Plan in Appendix III.)

Military Occupation of the Park

After 1942 the defense needs of the nation totally superseded the recreational needs of the underprivileged. In this atmosphere, Lykes placed his future plans for the park on hold as he feverishly safeguarded the park's very existence. As early as 1938, military maneuvers had been conducted in the park by forces from Quantico and Fort Belvoir. [83] By 1942, the practice had become so commonplace that Lykes complained the Marine Corps "have assumed the right to enter upon the area without advising or consulting this office." [84] Finally, in May of 1942, the War department was granted a special use permit allowing it exclusive use of all five cabin camps. [85] From 1942 to 1945, the park was occupied by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

During this time, it became Lykes' special duty to preserve the original concept of the park in the minds of the community, the military, and the federal budget planners. Lykes tackled this chore with his most valued administrative tool: persuasion. Throughout this period Lykes gave lectures to area community groups on forestry, land reclamation, and recreation. He used his knowledge to train Marines from Quantico in the latest fire-fighting techniques. [86] Area civil defense groups were reminded of the value of the park as "hospital space. . . [in case of] an air attack on Washington, D. C." [87] Lest the Marines over-value the park for maneuvers, Lykes continually cited the park's willingness to "give special precedence to requests for fish to be used in stocking recreation areas" to enhance the park's recreational value to nearby military personnel. [88] However good the cause, Lykes was determined to get his park back at the end of the war.

It was inevitable that Lykes would be called to the military. As a first lieutenant in the USMC stationed at Quantico, however, Lykes could "serve two masters." [89] At Quantico Lykes directed the forestry program on base. Years later, Lykes remained grateful to Maj. Gen. Philip H. Torrey, commanding officer at Quantico, for his appointment as his service as a Marine got him "away from the stomach-turning roughhouse of OSS!" [90]

On weekends, Lykes caught up with his duties as park superintendent. During the week, the park's sole wartime employee, Miss Thelma Williams, served as "acting park superintendent." [91] From the one-room temporary office headquarters off Joplin Road, Miss Williams managed all of the park business, holding unfamiliar matters or matters requiring Lykes' direction for his weekly visits. The building's amenities included a wood stove and an outdoor toilet. These she shared with the OSS' single clerical employee, a secretive man given to drink. [92] From his home in the park Lykes could keep an eye on changes being made by the OSS in route to work at Quantico. Their combined presence served to remind the military personnel that they were guests in a national park.

Cooperation with the OSS

The OSS occupation was a critical period in the park's history. During this time the potential existed for the park's land and facilities to become a permanent military installation. Lykes thwarted this eventuality through close cooperation with the military and a firm control over alterations made to the park. This was no simple task.

The "greatest secrecy" covered everything the OSS did. Even Lykes had to pass a military checkpoint to enter and leave his home. [93] Rumors were rampant. The community watched as barbed wire fences were erected and armed men patrolled with guard dogs. The old haunt of bootleggers and poachers was completely shut off. The secrecy led area residents to conclude "they were up to no good. Must be housing German prisoners of war there." [94]

In actuality, they were training spies there. [95] The cabin camps housed officers being trained to penetrate enemy lines and gather intelligence. Old buildings were booby-trapped and destroyed. A "little Tokyo" was built in the woods and regularly assaulted in training practice. A new plane, the C-24, flew over the park night and day as men learned to parachute jump. [96] Despite the adventurous nature of this training, it was carried out with deadly seriousness. Students were not permitted to gather in groups larger than four. An unexplained absence could result in imprisonment for the remainder of the war. [97] A Colonel Hickson once called upon Lykes to serve as a guide during a manhunt for a misplaced student. Given a 45-caliber pistol and told to "shoot first and ask questions later," Lykes was relieved that the student was not found while he was an aide to the group. [98]

Promoted by the Marine Corps to captain by the end of the war, Lykes related well to his military tenants and, not surprisingly, persuaded them to help him over his major obstacle: funding.

By November 1, 1941, the park had acquired 14,446 acres of land. [99] The five cabin camps were not connected by a system of internal roads, requiring a nine-mile trek over state roads to get from camps one and four to camp three. Lykes hoped the "army occupation" would be a "splendid opportunity" to build "at least temporary connecting roads between the organized camps, particularly camps one and four and the central road." [100] However, Lykes abandoned his scheme in light of past difficulties in getting "the army to stop unnecessary auto traffic," at odds with sound conservation practices. [101] Nevertheless, by 1945, the Army did maintain "certain roads in good condition," built barrier gates on the roads into the park, winterized the cabin camps, and leveled the houses on lands bought by the Army during the war. [102] (See map NCP 6.5-122, 1950 for details on Army purchases.) Despite the displacement of the organized campers and the obvious reconditioning of the park facilities necessitated by the OSS occupation, the park reaped a substantial benefit from its wartime experience. Lykes had located a new source of funds: the Defense Department. (See Illustration Three for details on OSS changes to the park. See Illustration Four for details on the status of roads in the park.)



Building ConstructedDanger Areas Created
pistol house (40' x 80')
boat house (16' x 30')
4 latrines (2.5 man)
10 target ranges
 3 demolition areas:
   4 acres on old 643
   1 acre on 620 north of 626 intersection
   20 acres on 626 and 619
* (6.5-58 source) * (6.5-56, 56A, 1946, source)

Types of Weapons Used

rifle ranges
mortar gun, mortar and rocket range
demolition range firing live chargers - timber
demolition ranges firing live chargers (2) - steel cratering fragmentation grenade range
pistol, carbine and sub-machine gun night-firing course
demolition range firing live chargers - general
mortar range (abandoned)

* (6.5-64, 1946 source)
** dead launching grenade found in the roof of one of the cabins in Camp 3, summer of 1985 by Jim Fugate, Chief of Maintenance.



Roads and Facilities to be Obliterated


  • temporary headquarters off Rt. 626
  • remaining structures on Old Joplin Road on 626
  • remaining structures on 623 and Dumfries and Batestown


  • all county roads
  • state roads: 620, 646, 628, 643 (where it joins Rt. 620)

Roads Extant in the Park

North end of park: 623, 629, 643, 644, 619

South & central section of park: 626, 619, 620, 628, 648

Roads to be Retained

619 and 623 up to the camping area in the Negro section

* All roads not otherwise identified are state routes
** Source: NCP 6.5-107, Base Map of 1937

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Last Updated: 31-Jul-2003