Prince William Forest Park
Administrative History
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An ongoing administrative problem for Prince William Forest Park has been the issue of the 4,862 acres of land on loan to the Quantico Marine Corps Base. Known as the permit land, the 4,862 acres south of Route 619 were first utilized by the Quantico Marine Corps Base in 1943. This land was obtained under permit by the Marine Corps during World War II as it adjoined a larger tract of about 50,420 acres south of Route 619 acquired in a major expansion of the base facilities. (See Illustration Eight for a map of the area.) The park land was utilized for training purposes and never returned. Both the Marine Corps and the NPS believe they have a valid claim to the 4,862 acres which has so far thwarted efforts to make a final disposition of the property.

Quantico Permit Lands per NCP 6.5-219A
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The disagreement between the Marine Corps Base and NPS officials over the utilization of title to the permit land stems from the administration of Ira B. Lykes. During his administration the decision was made to allow the Marines permanent access to the permit land. The root of this decision may extend as far back as 1941. The only official source on the early negotiations concerning the permit land is the memos of Lykes documenting conversations he had with Marine Corps generals and NPS officials. Nevertheless, the Marines were granted a renewable permit to the 4,862-acre tract of land in 1948. The conversion of this permit to actual legal title to the land has been at the core of the ongoing dispute.

Close cooperation with the Marine Corps Base did not evolve haphazardly. From the inception of Prince William Forest Park in 1935 park planners have consulted with Marine Corps officials at Quantico on development plans for the park. As the park land and the Marine Corps Base share a common border, Marine Corps officials hoped to find "mutually advantageous" ways to utilize their "contiguous areas under Federal control." [152] As can be seen from the map in Illustration Eight, original land purchases for Prince William Forest Park were made on both sides of Route 619. Initial plans contemplated the purchase of all the land "included in the drainage areas of the Quantico and Chopawamsic Creeks, west of U. S. 1 and not already a part of the Marine Reservation." [153] This would accomplish two goals. First, the park would control the watershed of both creeks, considered essential for sound conservation of the park's resources, and second, the park would own land in two counties, Prince William and Stafford, doubling the job benefits of the WPA program in the park.

However, the area on the Chopawamsic Creek watershed was never utilized for recreational development. It was preserved as a wilderness area, containing only a one-room temporary office and a makeshift maintenance area. By 1939 all five cabin camps were constructed north of Route 619 on the north and south branches of the Quantico Creek. The land south of Route 619 on the Chopawamsic Creek became subject to a number of agreements between the Marine Corps Base and the park deemed "mutually advantageous." Specifically, on August 12, 1938, Acting Secretary of the Interior Elbert K. Burlew gave permission for the Department of the Navy to build a dam on the Chopawamsic Creek to store water for the Marine Corps Reservation. [154] Throughout 1938-1940, Arthur E. Demaray, associate director of the NPS, gave permits to individual field commanders to conduct training exercises on park land. [155] Because of a curtailment of funds the complete acquisition of the watershed of the Quantico Creek had not been possible and remained a top priority of NPS officials in Washington.

Arriving in 1939, Lykes observed the dam on the Chopawamsic Creek being built. On more than one occasion he complained of presumptuous colonels arriving for maneuvers without a permit. The message to him was clear. Successful management of the park included accommodating Marine Corps demands wherever possible. Through his road-building program Lykes had established himself as a resourceful man adept at squeezing the maximum out of every federal dollar. Hence, he began to look for ways to meet the Marine Corps needs while obtaining the maximum benefit for the park.

Acquisition of the land on the Quantico watershed remained a management objective. After 1942 Lykes wore two hats as a Marine Corps lieutenant and superintendent of the Chopawamsic RDA. Not surprisingly, he looked for a way to serve both masters and net the necessary 1900 acres to secure the Quantico watershed, rounding out the borders of the park. Inspiration struck. In a conversation with Maj. Gen. J. McCarthy Little in 1941, it was suggested to Lykes that the Navy Department might be able to use funds then available to purchase "land needed for recreational development on the Quantico watershed for transfer to the NPS, provided an equivalent amount of land on the Chopawamsic watershed could be exchanged and added to the Marine Corps reservation." [156] Lykes was not inclined to pass up the opportunity to use military funds to accomplish a major management objective of the Park Service. He relayed the content of his conversation with General Little to his superiors in the Park Service. Repeating Lykes' account of the conversation in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Acting Secretary of the Interior Burlew endorsed the proposal as mutually beneficial and suggested that representatives from both departments be designated "to work up a more detailed proposal." [157

Again, in 1942, Lykes was approached by Brigadier General Harrington, U. S. Marine Corps Schools, about the pending expansion of the Quantico Base and the possibility of incorporating slightly less than 5,000 acres of park land into planned training facilities. [158] Given the history of close cooperation between the Marine Corps Base and the park, the proposition of a land exchange was enticing.

Lykes responded quickly. In a memo to Superintendent Irving C. Root of the National Capital Parks on March 8, 1943, Lykes enclosed a list of all the property holders, acres, and cost of land needed to round out the park's boundary and secure the Quantico watershed. Lykes estimated the cost of the land to be acquired at $84,494. [159] Lykes' memo received the immediate consideration of Superintendent Root, Associate Director Arthur E. Demaray, and Acting Secretary of the Interior Abe Fortas. Lykes' recommendations for the terms of a land exchange were given unanimous approval. Demaray added only one additional suggestion. He considered it important that the "Navy guarantee to maintain their portion as a wildlife refuge. . .no hunting allowed." [160]

Using Lykes' memo as the basis for a transfer agreement, a letter was drafted for Acting Secretary Fortas' signature. Upon the termination of the war it was proposed that the necessary legislation for a land transfer be drafted to "serve the objectives of both departments." [161]

In anticipation of a permanent agreement the Park Service cooperated with the Marine Corps' wartime requirement for immediate access to the 4,862 acres on the Chopawamsic Creek. In 1943 the Quantico Marine Corps Base was issued a temporary permit for the land for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. [162] Recall that in 1942 the OSS had occupied the entire park north of Route 619 on the Quantico watershed. Clearly, NPS officials placed top priority on cooperation with the military forces in the short term to bring about a successful conclusion to the "national emergency," World War II. [163]

Somewhere between 1943 and 1946, when committees were formed to draft transfer legislation, a breakdown in communication occurred. At the park level it was clear that Lykes felt he had a verbal commitment from base personnel to buy the 1900 acres required by the park on the Quantico watershed in exchange for the 4,862 acres on loan to the Marine Corps Base. On the basis of this understanding the Marines used the land for lumbering, troop training, and other operations during the war which left the land, in Lykes' opinion, "no longer. . . in any way suitable for recreational development." [164][

Given the status of the land, NPS officials did not want available funds to dwindle away before a "sudden termination of the war" might "complicate the situation." [165] NPS attempts to enact a transfer prior to 1948 were stone-walled by the Navy Department, anxious to keep its options open pending an investigation into the "post-war needs and requirements of the Quantico Marine Corps Base." [166]

Frequent changes in command at the Marine Corps Base during the war led to a shift in attitudes toward the park lands. As the end of the war neared some on base felt the most desirable solution to the transfer question was to "take over, in toto, after the war the entire interests of the Department of Interior in the Quantico-Independent Hill Area." [167]

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Last Updated: 31-Jul-2003