Press Release Nov 2, 2022

Data Center Developers Take Aim at Manassas National Battlefield Park

"As national park advocates, we will be there every step of the way, fighting for this priceless place and looking for every opportunity to protect its history."

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Today, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors moved one step closer to allowing developers to build massive industrial data centers near Manassas National Battlefield Park.

The Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a comprehensive plan amendment, kickstarting a rezoning process for land directly adjacent to Manassas National Battlefield Park and other important historic, cultural, and natural resources. Data center developers and a select group of landowners have proposed that this land to be rezoned in order to build 27.6 million square feet of data centers, a project they call the Prince William Digital Gateway.

This vote is a deep blow to NPCA’s efforts to protect the battlefield, but the fight is not over. The rezoning process will be lengthy and will likely provide several opportunities for public engagement and input to help prevent impacts to park resources. No required building permits have been issued.

For more than a year, conservationists in Northern Virginia and across the country have registered deep concerns about the impacts these loud, environmentally unfriendly data centers would have on the battlefield. Famed documentarian and director of “The National Parks, America’s Best Idea,” Ken Burns has spoken out about the need for smarter growth and siting data centers away from the battlefield.

Manassas National Battlefield Park, established in 1936, preserves the site of two pivotal battles in the American Civil War. In recent years, remains of Union soldiers have been found at the park. In 2021, then-superintendent of the park Brandon Bies called proposals for data centers adjacent to the park “the single greatest threat to the park in nearly three decades.”

Statement of Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“It is disappointing to watch the Prince William County Board of Supervisors greenlight a comprehensive plan change intended to allow massive data centers in the shadow of Manassas National Battlefield Park. This decision could have devastating impacts for one of our country’s most iconic battlefield national parks, where hundreds of thousands of people come from all over the country to walk this hallowed ground. Communities in Northern Virginia depend on this precious green space as a place of reflection and recreation in a rapidly urbanizing region.

“Manassas National Battlefield Park was the site of two of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Park Service rangers work tirelessly to ensure the park is a safe and welcoming space to learn about some of the darkest chapters in our country’s history. Approving rezoning for loud industrial facilities – the size of several Pentagon buildings – on the park’s doorstep would be an insult to their efforts to tell these important stories, and defies the very reason this place was protected as national park site.

“While we are disappointed by the Board of Supervisors’ decision, there are still upcoming opportunities ahead to keep this national park site from bearing the brunt of unnecessary, destructive development. As rezoning applications are submitted for review in the coming months, county officials and staff must work together with the public, drawing a plan that will prioritize park protection and community needs over corporate development interests. As national park advocates, we will be there every step of the way, fighting for this priceless place and looking for every opportunity to protect its history.”

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About The National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

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