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Stafford’s Government Island opens

By Potomac Local November 7, 2010 3:00 pm

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Visitors got a look at Government Island Saturday when it was opened to the public. Sandstone from the Islands quarry was used in the construction of the White House and the U.S Capital. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford County, Va. –– The place where the first stone that was extracted to build the White House and U.S. Capitol is now an historic scenic park.

Stafford County officials on Saturday held the grand opening of the Government Island Scenic Heritage Park and Trail.

The preservation of the island in recent years has been the work of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors and local historians.

Government Island gained its notoriety when the land was ordered purchased in 1791 by President George Washington.

Stone from the island was used in the early stages of construction for the buildings that house two of this nation’s three branches of government.

“This harkens us back to a time in our country’s history when the foundations of our fledgling democracy were quite literally being laid in Washington D.C.,” said Stafford Board Chairman Paul Milde, R-Aquia. “There is no other location in the United States that can say it helped to create two of the world’s most famous public buildings.”

In addition to its historic value Government Island will also attract visitors because of its educational value too, Milde said.

The island sits on the Potomac River at the mouth of Aquia Creek, surrounded on one side by a marsh.

Visitors to the island on Saturday – because of limited visitor parking – were bused in from the nearby Aquia Church.

Upon arrival, visitors walked down a paved portion of the trail until they came to a foot bridge that carried them across the marshland to the actual island.

Once on the island, a natural hiking path takes visitors to see the American quarry where the stone was cut from the earth, and many of the marks made by the original stone cutters can still be seen today.

The total length of the trail is 1.5 miles.

“We are extremely proud of this historic jewel in our community,” said Stafford County Board Chairman Mark Dudenhefer, R-Garrisonville. “Government Island is an important link to our national heritage, and we must share its story with our community as well as visitors so they will understand Stafford’s role in shaping our great nation.”

The island can be seen by residents who live in Aquia Harbour and boaters who use the Potomac River.

Now listed on the Virginia Historic Landmark Register and in the National Register of Historic Places, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors takes credit in helping to preserve the land, and with working with historians to identify the historical significance of the land.

Government Island is open Nov. through mid-March from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and from mid-March through October from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

The site, at 191 Coal Landing Road in Stafford, has limited parking.

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