- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

Forty years ago, families, church groups and Boy Scout troops would gather and play at Conway Robinson State Forest in Prince William County, now notorious for homosexual trysts.
"There'd be 20 to 30 cars in there, kids running around and parents cooking out," said a Gainesville woman in her late 50s who asked to be identified only as Betty.
"We used to go down there and cook hamburgers and hot dogs, having a good old time. It's gorgeous back there," she said. "Now I don't even want to go back there. They completely ruined it."
Gainesville's 4,382 residents are forced to co-exist with the state-owned nature reserve, known for the past 10 years as a site where men meet anonymously and engage in sex acts.
Virginia State Police recently have targeted sex offenders at Conway Robinson, a 400-acre wooded wildlife park on Route 29. Police conducted a sting operation in May that resulted in more than 30 arrests and another last week that resulted in 23 arrests.
Troopers noted that many of the men were brazen in their sexual activities, and some even sexually assaulted undercover officers, said Prince William Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claiborne T. Richardson II, who is prosecuting the cases.
"Some officers were approached and asked to perform certain acts," said Mr. Richardson. "If they refused, then some of the individuals tried to grab the officers, either around the face or the head. It was extremely bold and blatant."
The park is not safe, he said. "I wouldn't go there."
State police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell told The Washington Times that the stings have had little effect in stemming sexual activity at the park. "It's just as popular as ever," she said.
Betty said she raised two children in Gainesville but never allowed them to go to Conway Robinson.
John, 74, who has lived in Gainesville for more than 40 years, expressed anger over the loss of the park. "I don't understand those kind of people," he said, "but it's a shame that people can't use the park anymore."
John and Betty said the problems at Conway Robinson began about 10 years ago after police began driving illegal sexual activity out of the rest stop on Interstate 66 near the border of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Manassas National Battlefield Park also has had problems with men engaging in public sex but to a lesser degree, largely because a full-time staff patrols the grounds.
Men meet for anonymous sex in public places across the United States, and such activity has been happening for at least 15 years in Virginia. One homosexual-oriented Web site lists locations by state where men seek public sex. The 22 locations listed in Virginia include department-store bathrooms, parks and rest stops.
Authorities targeted Conway Robinson after a Boy Scout troop in March found men engaged in sexual activity. The troop leader notified state Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, who urged a police investigation.
"It all got started because of other people trying to use the park Cub Scouts and people walking their dogs when people were having sex in the park and not trying to hide themselves when people walked up on them. In fact, they would invite people to watch, whether they were people they knew or not," Mr. Richardson said.
Mr. Richardson said most of the convicted sexual offenders have received one-year suspended sentences, and those with criminal records serve about 10 days of their sentences.
Repeat offenders will be forced to serve the remainder of their sentences, he said, and those who are aggressive or resist arrest are prosecuted more forcefully.
Homosexual rights groups have not protested the stings, said Frank Kameny, co-founder of the D.C. branch of the Mattachine Society, a homosexual rights group based in Los Angeles.
Mr. Kameny said he would take issue with any arrests for solicitation of sodomy or public sex. He said it would be a double standard because all solicitations for sodomy, public or private, are illegal in Virginia.


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