Teacher Launches Petition Drive to Stop Land Swap for Stadium

A teacher has launched a petition drive to save Oxon Cover Park and Oxon Hill Farm. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Calvert County teacher Erin Frere says she used to play at Oxon Cove Park as a child. Now that she’s a parent, she and her husband take their children there.

She calls it a “special place… a nice quiet spot in the middle of a very busy area.”

With recent news reports outlining a potential land swap between the state of Maryland and the federal government — a deal that could lead to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder building a new stadium on the 300-acre site — Frere is trying to mobilize public opinion to stop the project from happening.

She has started a petition at change.org to “save Oxon Cove Park.”

“I have a special connection to that park,” she said. “I would hate for other people not to be able to take their children there.”

Her petition says:

“Governor Hogan is trying to make a land switch with the Department of the Interior to convert Oxon Cove Park to be yet another stadium for the Redskins. Oxon Cove Park is a beautiful National Park that borders the Potomac River. It is also on the National Registry of Historic Sites. Generations of Washingtonians have gone there to escape city life. To bulldoze it for a stadium is an awful thing to do to the people of Prince George’s County and Maryland.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) called the site, near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Prince George’s County, an “ideal” place for a new stadium, noting that it is well served by highways and offers scenic vistas of Washington, D.C., which he said would showcase the region during nationally-televised football games.

Hogan described negotiations he has had with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke regarding a land swap in which the state would obtain the Oxon Cove site from the federal government, while the feds would get a state-owned parcel in Western Maryland. Hogan said the National Park Service wants the land to expand a Civil War battlefield, which he did not identify.

He insisted that no deal has been finalized and he said that if the Redskins end up moving from their current home in Landover to Oxon Hill, Snyder will end up footing the bill for construction.

Bonnie Bick, an environmental activist and Oxon Hill native, called the proposed stadium “an absurdity. It’s just the wrong place, period.”

“I just hope it doesn’t happen,” she said. “It’s sucking the quality of life away from the Washington region if they choose this site. [Oxon Cove is] a beautiful forested site that they had the foresight to protect… from sprawl development in the 1950s. This is worse.”

Frere said it’s no surprise that news of the state’s negotiation is only coming out now, after the 2018 campaign.

“It should clearly have been raised before the election,” she said. “For those discussions to be taking place between a governor and a billionaire is really inappropriate to say the least.”

Added Bick: “I wish I were surprised that Hogan would do something like this.” She said the proposal represents “the rich getting richer on the backs of the quality of life of the people.”

Hogan defended the state’s handling of negotiations on Tuesday, telling reporters, “We’re very far along in the process, which came as a surprise to some folks, but it’s not a done deal, which is why we don’t have anything to announce quite yet.”

The Oxon Cove site is home to a farm museum, a park and a “witness tree” that survived the War of 1812. Bald eagles nest there.

“I know the value of what’s there,” Bick said. “I played on this land when I was growing up. That National Park Service land is very high value.”

Amelia Chasse, Hogan’s communications director, said state officials are committed to hearing the community’s concerns as they pursue the land swap.

“Our administration is completely open to working with local residents and stakeholders to preserve existing historical features and public park spaces on this beautiful piece of land,” Chasse said in an email to Maryland Matters on Wednesday evening. “We believe that it can support a world-class stadium while continuing preserve and honor it’s unique natural and historical character.”

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.

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