Mitchell, 45, began riding at Woodlawn Stables when she was 8. She bought the business 17 years later with her mother, Joan Mitchell, also a lifelong rider. Under the new owners, the stables stopped selling horses, but it offers boarding and lessons for all ages and abilities. The business now has 30 employees.
Cindy Mitchell said she didn’t think the bypass was a real possibility until she saw it on a map at a public meeting this past winter.
“I nearly fell out of my chair,” she said. “The first words out of my mouth were, ‘That’s going to put us out of business.’ ”
By then, Joan, who died last month, had learned that she had cancer, so Cindy Mitchell left most of the fight over the highway to a group of instructors and students who mounted a Save Woodlawn Stables campaign. Through Facebook, fliers and e-mails to elected officials, they gained important endorsements of a widen-in-place option. Their supporters included Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) and Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), whose district includes that stretch of Route 1.
But it was not enough. Even the stables’ defenders concede as much.
“They tell everyone they’re still deciding,” said David Fiske, Mitchell’s attorney. “But there’s no doubt in my mind it will be the bypass.”
Although they fought for the alternative, Mitchell and her supporters say they don’t like that option either, and they understand some of the arguments against it: No one wants the giant retaining walls that it would require; Woodlawn Plantation is a National Historic Landmark; exhuming human remains — some interred as recently as 1999 — just seems wrong.
And Woodlawn Stables isn’t even a landowner. Mitchell leases the property from the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation, which also owns Woodlawn Plantation. The trust supports the bypass because that choice does more to protect historic resources.
An ‘equestrian underpass’?
Neither side disputes that Route 1 traffic is bad. During rush hours, backups sometimes stretch more than three miles. But both question whether the expanded roadway has to be so wide — 150 feet — and why it has to include right of way for public transportation that may never be built.
A big part of the answer, according to county officials, is BRAC.
The Federal Highway Administration says it continues to seek a solution that works for everyone. Officials are reworking the bypass plan to include relocating some of the stables to put them on the same side of the new highway as the pasture and riding areas. Initial plans called for an “equestrian underpass” for riders and horses, an idea that stables supporters called ridiculous.
Mitchell has looked into relocating, but she hasn’t found space in Fairfax. She guesses that she would have to move so far that she would probably lose most of her clients.
“I’d have to start over,” she said. “But what else can I do? I don’t know anything else.”