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Park land donated to Fredericksburg

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Butler-Brayne Franklin

Butler-Brayne Franklin

With Mother’s Day just days away, Jenny–Lynn Franklin Guth has made a gift to Fredericksburg that will forever honor her late mother, Butler–Brayne Thornton Robinson Franklin.

Click to see map full-size

Click to see map full-size

On Thursday, Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron announced Guth’s donation of three parcels totaling 28.12 acres. The land stretches from Fall Hill Avenue to the Rappahannock River.

“This is a remarkable donation of land which will now be preserved forever as a public park, thanks to the vision and generosity of Jenny–Lynn Franklin Guth,” he said.

Once it is opened up to the public, it will be named “Butler–Brayne Park.”

Guth, who lives in Orange, Texas, donated the land that has been in the family’s possession since the early 18th century.

She could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Butler–Brayne Franklin had four children. She died in 2003 at age 104 after a life of worldwide travel, activism for women’s rights and an appreciation for Fredericksburg history.

Though born in Nebraska, Franklin had deep roots in Fredericksburg and spent much of her life at Fall Hill, the Georgian estate overlooking the Rappahannock River built by her family in 1736.

Franklin and her husband, Lynn Franklin, retired to Fall Hill in 1949, after his 25-year career in the American foreign service.

Through her efforts, the house was designated a state historic landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

She later sold 44 acres of their 135-acre property to the city and what was then the Fredericksburg–Stafford Park Authority, which became Old Mill Park.

Franklin also was among the founding directors of Historic Fredericksburg Inc., which was the precursor to the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation.

On Dec. 10, the City Council honored Franklin by placing her name on its Wall of Honor, a tribute given to people who made significant contributions to Fredericksburg.

The three parcels donated by Guth are adjoining. The northern border overlooks the Rappahannock River and is adjacent to other city property. The land stretches south to Fall Hill Avenue.

The northernmost part of the property is located just below Sunshine Ballpark, baseball fields built by the Sunshine Lady Foundation, The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and the community.

Guth’s land had an apple orchard for many years. It’s now undeveloped and wooded, with a natural surface trail along the shoreline of the Rappahannock River.

The property has upland woods, minor streams and steep river bluffs.

John Tippett, executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock, said his group is “thrilled” by the donation because it extends the buffer along the river.

“It’s creating this corner of Fredericksburg as the city’s oasis of green,” he said, noting that it adds to the protected corridor that stretches to Fauquier and Orange counties.

“That’s great for water quality and wildlife,” he said.

One of the city parcels that adjoins Guth’s donation is nearly 29 acres conveyed to the city in 1996 by her sister Bessie Franklin Turk and Fred Turk.

Before taking any steps to develop the parcels, city officials will inventory and protect all historic features. They also will create a plan to protect trees on the property.

The latest donation will enable park development on the Turk tract because of access to Fall Hill Avenue from the Guth land. Amenities may include public parking, picnic shelters, trails and views of the Rappahannock.

“It’s just an amazing collection of properties that will someday create a beautiful park along the river,” Cameron said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972