Board Approves Memorial 'In Concept'

Board Approves Memorial 'In Concept'

A memorial to honor “all those who have served the cause of liberty and freedom throughout our history” got a vote of confidence from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 29.

They quickly and unanimously approved Dranesville District supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn’s request for approval “in concept” for a monument to be developed with private money but located on public land at the Great Falls branch of the Fairfax County Public Library.

Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin would be charged with presenting the final design plan for the monument “at the appropriate time.”

“The Board’s approval will be conditioned on the collection of sufficient private funds to construct and maintain the monument,” said Mendelsohn’s proposal.

Initially, the Fairfax County Library Board was considering the proposal, but Mendelsohn said the Board of Supervisors will make the final decision.

“The Library board doesn’t own the land. We do.

“It is not going to impinge on any plans the library has,” he said.

Originally proposed as a formal, black marble monolith with gold lettering, the design has evolved into a softer, more natural place for reflection.

Three stones are proposed: one in the center, to be about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, flanked by two smaller stones, one about 3 feet tall and the other about 2 feet tall.

They would portray waterfalls in the Great Falls of the Potomac River, with the center rock representing the solid resistance of a rock that withstands the relentless river current.

Six trees would be planted to honor the Great Falls residents who were passengers on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Great Falls memorial garden would be surrounded by an 18-inch-high wall where visitors could pause and reflect. It would have two benches and a flagstone terrace, with some of the pieces of rock engraved with words naming deeply held national values such as honesty, loyalty and truthfulness.

Gold-embossed letters on the center rock would read: “The community of Great Falls, Virginia, honors those who have given of themselves in service to the cause of liberty.”

Three unlighted flagpoles would be used for ceremonies and holidays. In deference to a request from the Great Falls Citizens Association, impervious ground surfaces around the memorial would be minimal, said Sjoblom.

Sjoblom said the Freedom and Defense Memorial Committee, organized last spring by Great Falls resident Pete Hilgartner, heeded suggestions that indigenous rock be used for the memorial.

Sjoblom said he is searching the community for a hunk of “jutting, irregular-shaped rock with at least one flat face for the inscription,” he said. “A dramatic color would be great.”

“You could go to Riverbend [Park] and get the rock,” said University of Maryland geologist Barbara Frank, a Great Falls resident. “You can get it anywhere in Great Falls — anywhere there is a rock exposure.

“It’s not a problem. It’s there. It’s just a matter of opening one’s eyes,” she said.

Mendelsohn said anyone who doesn’t like the revised design “ought to let us know. I think [the committee] has done a pretty good job of incorporating everyone’s interests,” he said. “It is a good blend of what everybody wanted.”

“I think we are going to have to go to the final design now,” Mendelsohn said. “At some point, we have to say, ‘enough.’”

He has four remaining meetings as Dranesville District supervisor: two in October before the election of a new supervisor, and one each in November and December, he said.

Public comment still is welcome Sjoblom said, and the design is fluid and subject to change according to the public will.