A state foundation that seeks to preserve cultural and historical landmarks has awarded the Kenmore Association a $225,000 matching grant to preserve and expand Ferry Farm.
The grant is the first given by the Land Conservation Foundation Fund, which was established by the General Assembly in 1992, and is earmarked for the eventual purchase of Embrey farm, which sits next to Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home.
"The historical and educational significances [of Ferry Farm] were recognized by staff and the foundation agreed," said Jim Meisner, public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees the foundation.
Meisner added that "the protection of the farm, protection of open space, historic significance for prospects of tourism and historical recreation and education" that Ferry Farm offers fit the foundation's criteria.
The Kenmore Association has sought to buy the 30-acre Embrey property for some time to add space for additional facilities and to ensure that no one else develops the land. Vernon Edenfield, executive director of Kenmore, said that negotiations are ongoing with the Embrey family and members of Judge Martin Bass's family, who also own a portion of the land.
"We're happy about the grant," Edenfield said. "But it's far from anything like buying the property; it's a good first step."
Since it bought the property three years ago, the Kenmore Association has sought government aid to simultaneously grow and protect the farm, which is in the southern end of Stafford County. No house exists on the property, but there is an administrative building on site and an archaeological dig. About 25,000 people have visited the farm so far this year, officials said.
Last year, the National Park Service donated $2 million to buy a conservation easement on the property. Later this month, the Park Service will vote on whether to recommend that Ferry Farm become a National Historic Landmark. That designation would assure the site's protection and increase its visibility and help its fund-raising efforts.
Assistance from the federal and state governments comes at a time when Kenmore continues to work out its difficulties with Stafford County officials.
When Kenmore bought Ferry Farm, it agreed to return about $800,000 that the county loaned the organization for the purchase. The first installment on the loan--$200,000--is overdue, and county officials are pressing Kenmore for payment. Kenmore, meanwhile, is hoping to further delay the payment in order to continue improving the tourist attraction.
Edenfield said yesterday that he thinks the state grant will help his position with the county.
"The county, when it took on Ferry Farm, made it very clear to us that the acquisition of the Embrey farm had been a goal of theirs from the beginning," he said. "If anything, this is a positive step in our negotiations with the county."
Edenfield said the debt to the county is hindering Kenmore's efforts to raise money and improve Ferry Farm. Some county officials have indicated a willingness to negotiate part of the debt, but only after the first payment is made.
The Kenmore Association must settle its situation with the county and negotiate for the property before it can determine when it will be able to match, and therefore receive, the grant. If necessary, the group would raise the money through other donations, officials said.