Northern Virginia: Poll in Northern Virginia reveals local opposition to data center development near national parks

May 15, 2023 | Posted by MadalineDunn

A poll of Northern Virginia residents by the National Parks Conservation Association has found that the majority oppose the development of data centers near public land, including national parks. The survey polled 300 voters from several Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

Of those polled, 77% supported localities maintaining current zoning laws rather than adapting to accommodate development near parks. Meanwhile, 86% supported prohibiting data centers within a mile of a national park, state park, or historically significant location. Further, 96% supported elected representatives taking "a strong stand in support of protecting Virginia's national parks from the impacts of data centers."

"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," Kyle Hart, the NPCA's mid-Atlantic program manager, said in a news release.

"Our parks are more than just places on a map or signs you pass on the highway," said Hart. He went on to say that Manassas National Battlefield "protects powerful lessons and stories" from a war that ripped the country apart. "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," he added.

“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.”

This poll comes at a time when tensions are high in Prince William County specifically, where supervisors recently approved the Digital Gateway, a zoning change that allows data center projects in areas near Manassas National Battlefield Park.

The poll didn't ask about the potential revenue and employment opportunities brought to the region by the developments. 

As reported by Baxtel, the Digital Gateway has been the subject of heated debate and a number of protests and while certain elements of the development have been approved, it looks as though there will be continued opposition going forward.