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NEXT PUBLIC MEETING: May 1 , 7:30 p.m. at Pohick Regional Library. All are welcome.

How to Make This Happen

Burke is an unincorporated town within Fairfax County. That means it doesn’t have its own mayor or police force, and relies on the county Board of Supervisors to manage it. A self-sufficient Virginia city (e.g., Alexandria or Richmond) could rename itself overnight, but “Burke” isn’t a legal entity. It’s just a geographic feature on maps whose name helps U.S. mail carriers and census-takers.


That means its name is under the control of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a cross-agency government panel that meets about once a month. It includes representatives from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and State; the Government Publishing Office; the Library of Congress; the U.S. Postal Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency. 


States have their own geographic naming boards, but they officially play only an advisory role. The Virginia Board on Geographic Names sets its own standards and holds its own meetings, but it consists of just two people: the Virginia state archivist and the senior map archivist at the Library of Virginia.


Anyone can go to the federal board with a proposal to change the name of a domestic geographic feature. They offer an online form and public guidelines. I plan to propose to the board that it rename one Populated Place (Burke) and two Census Designated Places (Burke and Burke Centre). “Fenton” would replace “Burke,” and “Fenton Centre” would replace “Burke Centre.”


Your support for this project matters. If you live in Burke, or nearby, tell your neighbors. And email the Fenton Project if you'd like to help. If you're in high school, tell your history teacher. If you live on TikTok, tell everybody

If you live nowhere near northern Virginia, drop a note to your member of Congress. A few nudges from Capitol Hill might turn out to be the most important pieces of this campaign.

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