- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Two recent stings by Virginia State Police in which more than 50 men were arrested for engaging in public sex acts in a Prince William County state park that has been plagued by illegal public sex for more than 15 years have not slowed homosexual activity in that area, police said.
"We didn't know if it would make a difference or not, and it doesn't seem that it did," said state police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell. "It's just as popular as ever."
Mrs. Caldwell was quick to note that the ongoing stings at Conway Robinson State Forest are "not an anti-gay operation."
"Our job is to make this park usable for everyone," she said. "It's simply public sex going on to the point that it makes people uncomfortable."
The stings were carried out after a Boy Scout troop, exploring the park in March, discovered individuals engaged in sexual activity. The Scouts' troop leader notified Prince William Republican Delegate Robert G. Marshall, who urged an investigation by law enforcement.
Conway Robinson, as well as Manassas National Battlefield Park and a nearby rest stop on Route 66, have developed reputations, thanks to word-of-mouth and the Internet, as hot spots for homosexuals seeking anonymous sex in bathrooms and on park grounds, Mrs. Caldwell said.
During the first week of May, state police arrested more than 30 men, ages 28 to 71, after a monthlong sting at the park. The men arrested included schoolteachers, business executives and postal workers.
Mrs. Caldwell said that during the earlier sting, two undercover state troopers were approached, solicited and even attacked by different men in the park.
More than 70 charges were filed in the spring, and they included indecent exposure, attempted forcible sodomy, criminal solicitation and disorderly conduct.
In the latest arrests, made over several days last week, state police took into custody 23 men implicated in a sting operation that lasted from July through August. One of the men arrested was the head of a Children's Learning Center in Ohio, and another was Gregory Vanover, 52, of Remington, who was president of the Prince William Education Association until the sting, after which he resigned.
One of the men who frequents Conway Robinson is known to have the HIV virus, Mrs. Caldwell said.
Conway Robinson is a 400-acre, unstaffed wildlife and nature reserve with hiking trails and picnic areas. Mrs. Caldwell said that the state police are sharing information with Prince William Police and U.S. Park Police but that the illegal sex occurs year-round, mostly during the day, and is hard to stop.
"In the big picture, we're involved in a lot of different issues, but this is one that's just going to be ongoing," she said. "We're going to do what we can."
Mr. Marshall said he has talked to residents in Gainesville who are upset that the park is essentially unavailable to them and their children.
"They're annoyed that they can't use the park," he said. "This is not some public venue for private behavior. These people claim this right of privacy, but they're out here in public."
Mr. Marshall suggested putting the pictures of individuals arrested in the paper. He also said that parks and recreation workers will clear out some of the brush and that a permanent, staffed building in Conway Robinson would be a strong deterrent to illegal sexual activity.
Nearby Manassas National Battlefield, a 5,000-acre historic site, has also had long-standing problems with public homosexual sex on its grounds.
Park Superintendent Robert K. Sutton said their problems have not been as severe as those at Conway Robinson because the park has a full-time staff. Last week, he said, U.S. Park Police arrested two men for engaging in public sex acts.
But this is a tough crime to stop all together, Mr. Sutton said.
"We try to keep up our surveillance, but there might be a lot of stuff going on that we just don't know about," he said. "We patrol the entire park every day, but if someone is in and out in an hour, then we don't catch them."
"We think we have it under control, but there's no way to tell."


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