• dogwood across creek

    Prince William Forest

    Park Virginia

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  • NO FIREWORKS

    Reminder to park visitors. Fireworks are prohibited at Prince William Forest Park.

  • Oak Ridge Campground Site A29 closure

    Oak Ridge Campground site A29 will be closed until safety concerns have been mitigated. Please do not use that site until it has been reopened.

  • Warm Wet Spring = More Ticks

    Please check yourself and your pets for ticks continually during and after your visit. Ticks are less prevelent if you stay on trail or in mowed areas. Wearing light colored clothing helps you spot them before the attach.

  • Firewood

    Outside firewood is prohibited in Prince William Forest Park, unless it is certified USDA 'bug free' firewood. Dead and downed wood may be collected from designated areas for use while in the park. Help us protect the forest from invasive species!

  • Visitor Center Remodel 2014

    Over the next several months there will be new changes coming to the Visitor Center. Presently we are remodeling the bookstore area to give it more of a country theme. Next the exibit area will get all new exhibits. Thank you for your patience and support

Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area

Chopawamsic RDA
An early map of Chopawamsic RDA.
National Park Service
 
Read the 1936 Report: Recreational Demonstration Areas as Illustrated by Chopawamsic Virginia. This report elevated Chopawamsic as a model for the RDA program.
 

The Recreation Demonstration Area program began in 1933 as a comprehensive effort to alleviate the suffering brought by the Great Depression. It addressed three groups of people: struggling farmers, unemployed men, and poor children. This program also established a legacy for recreational land use in the U.S.

The goal of the RDA program was to have recreation available to large portions of the population. By the 1930s, most national parks were in the West. State parks were also inaccessible by the lower classes. Forty-six RDAs would appear before the end of the decade, all within reach of the country’s major cities. The maximum distance from these cities was thirty-five miles.

 
black and white stream shot

2 planners walkabout on Quantico Creek

National Archives & Records Admin.

Choosing Chopawamsic
In selecting which land should become RDAs, Conrad Wirth had a certain criteria: The land had to have "an abundance of good water, available building materials, and an interesting environment. We felt water recreation was important and wanted to be sure to have a location where we could build small lakes if a lake was not already there."

This program would first address the plight of farmers working on unsuitable land. The government offered poor farmers the opportunity to relocate. The Resettlement Administration (RA), established in 1935, arranged for the purchase of this submarginal land.

 
the ferguson farm

The ferguson farm, shown above, was used as an example of submarginal land.

National Park Service

Resettlement
Residents of Joplin, Hickory Ridge, and Batestown all received offers from the federal government. At first, the RA only focused on the forty poorest families. The amount each family received varied by quality of the land, and sometimes, whether they held out or not. The families that held out were often threatened with a smaller payment. Thus, by 1942, a majority of local families voluntarily sold their property to the RA. The remainder had their properties condemned and seized. Not only did they receive smaller payments, but they had less time to relocate.

 
3 ccc boys stand by river

3 CCC boys next to Quantico Creek

National Park Service

Constructing Chopawamsic
Though the resettlement phase of the RDA program, the groundwork was laid for Chopawamsic RDA. This involved the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and other relief agencies constructing the cabin camps, roads, lakes, streams, and sewage systems. Between 1935 and 1942, over two thousand CCC boys would work on Chopawamsic RDA’s land.

 
children in circle holding hands

Children play 'old-fashioned' games to build character at Chopwamsic RDA.

National Archives and Records Admin.

Fulfilling Its Purpose
The final phase of the RDA program began when Cabin Camps 1 and 2 opened in the summer of 1936. Chopawamsic RDA served as a summer camp for Washington, D.C. social agencies through much of the rest of the twentieth century. Most RDAs returned to the states, but Chopawamsic remained under the control of the National Park Service. This was because the park was very valuable to Washington, D.C.’s youth. Chopawamsic became the model RDA because of its importance.

The park kept at its center the recreational needs of the poor of the nation’s capital: “Here is a city of 500,000—as important as any on earth, marked by magnificence from Virginia’s river flats to Maryland’s hills—yet with no provisions for the simple pleasures of improved health of those who need it the most and can afford them the least."

 

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Did You Know?

Office of Strategic Service (OSS) recruits learning Morse code during the Second World War

Prince William Forest Park was used by the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to the CIA) as a training camp for spies during World War II. Today, you can rent a cabin where spies once learned their trade.