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New report highlights progress at Fort Ward and a look at what’s ahead

Once a Civil War fort, then a bastion for Black Alexandrians before they were pushed out by city officials, Fort Ward (4301 W Braddock Road) has been at the center of an ongoing mission to reexamine the fort’s past and build a better future for the site.

A new interagency report for FY 2022 highlights the progress made by the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA), Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA), Department of General Services (DGS) and Transportation and Environmental Services (TES).

The report said RPCA was involved in three improvement projects at Fort Ward this year:

  • Picnic Shelter Accessibility Improvements: This spring, progress started on new permeable pavement and overall resurfacing. The goal is to make the picnic area more accessible from the parking lot, improving ADA accessibility. The picnic area is expected to re-open to the public this fall, the report said.
  • Playground Accessibility Project: After a delay to consider concerns that the new playground could impact sites associated with the post-war community, the city has identified alternate locations for the playground. Follow up meetings for more public input are scheduled this fall.
  • Natural Resources Management projects: Over the summer, the Natural Lands Management staff implemented several clean-up projects on the eastern side of the park, including removing invasive and dead vegetation. The landscape restoration is scheduled to continue this fall.

The report said the OHA has also been involved with some of the projects around Fort Ward, playing a guiding role in the picnic shelter and playground relocation project.

“Archaeologists provided guidance to RPCA and contractors on the picnic shelter site project, and monitored the work that is in progress,” the report said. “Archaeology prepared a background report on the Peters/Lewis family site (southwest corner of the Park, where the original playground relocation was proposed). Although the relocation of the playground to this area is unlikely to be located within the properties owned by the Peters or Lewis families, a background study is being compiled for those properties, and will be available online in the future.”

The Fort Ward Museum reopened last October, with activities like Civil War reenactments returning throughout the last year. The museum also received a few upgrades over the last year, like new exhibit lighting and tree trimming.

Meanwhile, the report said the OHA is working on new signage for the park.

“Work continued on interpretive projects, such as compiling content for the revision and production of new historic fort markers, and two Park orientation stations,” the report said. “Content for the replacement of historic fort signage is planned to be submitted for fabrication in September 2022, with a production and installation goal for some in November.”

Additionally, the museum staff began work this year on a new permanent exhibit that will focus on the fort’s history and the post-war community.

“Content for the Museum exhibit will be developed for production in 2023,” the report said.

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