Descendants of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Virginia legislators and park officials gathered in Prince William County Saturday to dedicate a park they hope will resurrect history on a 500-acre tract of trees, hills and beaches.
Amid sounds of the Potomac River sloshing against the shoreline, representatives from the Virginia Division of Parks and Recreation and the Society of the Lees of Virginia officially dedicated Leesylvania State Park, about 25 miles south of Washington in southeastern Prince William County.
The site of the Lee family's ancestral home will hold, by 1987, motorboat and sailboat launching facilities, picnic areas, natural trails and beaches. Plans for later developments call for addition of a pool, concessions and a visitor center.
When complete, Leesylvania is expected to draw 200,000 visitors a year, according to Richard Groover, director of support services for the state parks and recreation division.
"Twenty-five percent of the state's population lives in Northern Virginia," said Secretary of Commerce and Resources Betty J. Diener. "There is a tremendous need for recreation."
"Twenty years ago this wasn't even a thought of a state park," said Groover as he drove over a winding gravel road and pointed through the trees to where motorboats eventually will be launched.
Daniel K. Ludwig, a billionaire once reputed to be America's richest man, donated the site in 1978 and "got the ball rolling" toward park development, Groover said.
Leesylvania is the birthplace of "Light Horse Harry" Lee, the father of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. None of the family buildings remain on the site, but architects plan to erect Colonial facades on park buildings, officials said.
"This piece of ground and the dedication of it is an historic occasion," said state Del. Floyd C. Bagley of Dumfries.
With a chuckle, Bagley then noted the date of the dedication -- the annniversary of the birthday of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, April 27, 1822 -- and touched off surprised giggles in the audience, many of whom wore paper name tags bearing the name Lee.