Loudoun County Transfers Church Involved in Civil War Battle to Park Authority

Mount Zion Old School Baptist Church, a Union post in the Civil War, reopened to the public in May after restoration.
Mount Zion Old School Baptist Church, a Union post in the Civil War, reopened to the public in May after restoration. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Battle of Aldie during the Civil War erupted at the site of Mount Zion Old School Baptist Church and then progressed west toward Aldie Mill.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which owns the grist mill, has planned to bring the battle to life with historical interpretations, said its executive director, Paul Gilbert. But until last week, the park authority was missing one element in its historical narrative: the Mount Zion church.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted July 21 to give ownership of the seven-acre church property to the park authority.

"The Mount Zion church and Aldie Mill kind of make bookends to the Battle of Aldie," Gilbert said. "We are in a good position to kind of interpret that whole battle since it goes . . . right by or through two of these historic sites."

During the Civil War, Union troops lived at Mount Zion, along Route 50, and used it as a hospital and a burial place for soldiers.

The park authority also will take over Mosby Run, an 88-acre parcel across the street from the church now owned by the Mount Zion Church Preservation Association.

Gilbert said the property was at risk of foreclosure because the preservation association fell behind on its payments for a state loan it used to buy the property a few years ago.

Together, Mosby Run and the Mount Zion church will form a regional historical park.

Mount Zion reopened to the public in May after the county closed it for two years and spent $788,000 for its restoration.

The county, which usually appropriates $716,000 annually to the park authority, will be credited for the investment it made in the church, Gilbert said.

In the agreement, the county also transferred 147 acres of the Beaverdam Reservoir property to the park authority. The authority hopes to turn the property into a second regional park with "passive recreation," including a trail network and water access, Gilbert said.

The transfer of the properties will go before a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.

At the board's meeting, supervisors said they were pleased the Mosby Run and Beaverdam Reservoir properties have found new uses.

"What we get out of this is two large recreational facilities that would be operated and maintained by someone else," said Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge). "It will be accessible to . . . a great deal of Loudoun residents."

Board Chairman Scott K. York (I) noted that the reservoir property was from a proffer a developer offered the county in a rezoning case.

The creation of a regional park "gives an opportunity to put the property to use," he said.

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