ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association released new polling data finding that Northern Virginians overwhelmingly support protecting their national parks from massive, improperly sited data center development.
NPCA commissioned TargetPoint Consulting to conduct a regionwide survey of 300 registered voters in Northern Virginia in April to gauge their support for national parks and their opinion on rezoning land near those parks to build data centers.
This new polling found that a stunning 86% of surveyed Northern Virginia voters would support legislation that would prohibit large industrial data centers from being built within a mile of a national park, state park, or other historically significant sites. Eight-three percent [83%] of surveyed voters would react favorably if their elected representative took a strong stand to support such legislation.
“This new polling confirms what we always knew. Virginians care deeply about our national parks and want to see them protected from the looming threat of industrial-scale data center development," said Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
This news comes as conservationists in Northern Virginia and across the country continue to fight proposals to build loud, environmentally unfriendly data centers at the edge of Manassas National Battlefield Park and Prince William Forest Park.
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. Data center developers and local landowners have proposed that land directly adjacent to the park be rezoned in order to build 27.6 million square feet of data centers, a project they call the Prince William Digital Gateway. The project would be the size of four Pentagons.
In 2021, then-superintendent of Manassas National Battlefield Park Brandon Bies called proposals for data centers adjacent to the park, “the single greatest threat to the park in nearly three decades.”
Nearby Prince William Forest Park is the largest protected green space in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Proposals to construct a data center complex near this park would not only disrupt this rare protected green space but also could dump tens of thousands of tons of sediment into the nearby Occoquan Reservoir – an important drinking water supply for more than 800,000 people who live and work in Northern Virginia.
“Our parks are more than just places on a map or signs you pass on the highway. Manassas National Battlefield protects powerful lessons and stories from a war that ripped our country apart," said Hart. "Prince William Forest Park protects a rare gem of vast green space along an increasingly urbanized landscape. National parks in Northern Virginia were protected for their precious natural resources and complex history and for the benefit of future generations. There is no place for data centers near our national parks."
When asked about the top three ways Virginia benefits from national parks, the list “Hiking along trails” and “gathering with friends and family” topped the list as the activities enjoyed by most voters surveyed, with 65% and 62% respectively.
Additionally, 64% of voters say national parks increase tourism to the area, providing outdoor recreation (57%), and preserving America’s history (56%).
At every turn, national park advocates and community activists have joined together to express deep concerns about the impacts these data centers would have on the battlefield and other resources.
“It’s clear from the polls that voters in Northern Virginia understand what is at stake here. Now the question is, do their elected officials? Commonwealth leaders must take a stand for their parks and their constituents, and stop these data centers in their tracks," said Hart.
About 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 more than 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 http://www.npca.org/