Governor’s Office Designates Virginia Treasures
Virginia has a strong history of conserving working farms, forests, waterways and open space, and the Virginia Treasures initiative continues that commitment with a goal of designating 1,000 special properties in the state.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently named 12 Virginia Treasures that have been conserved by private and public owners with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. These properties have been placed in conservation easement with the Trust, and remain in private ownership and can be sold or passed on to heirs as the landowner wishes.
“Private landowners who recognize the importance of conserving open space and ecological treasures in perpetuity are heroes in the community,” says Peggy Stevens, executive director of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. “They understand that choosing to conserve their property is leaving a conservation legacy that will last forever.”
The Virginia Treasures the Trust holds in conservation easement include both urban and rural land across the region, from small lots next to a state natural area preserve in Stafford County, to working farmland in Loudoun County, to private land with public trails in Prince William County, to treasures in the midst of urban Fairfax and Fauquier counties.
In each case, the conservation value of the land is protected by permanent easements held by the Trust, or in fee simple ownership. Two significant urban Virginia Treasures are examples of the importance of land conservation in rapidly developing urban areas:
- A 5.5-acre parcel in the heart of Fairfax County, owned by Cafferty-Indian Run LLC, buffers the Indian Run Stream Valley Park and is next to an office park. Current zoning, however, allows for heavy industrial use, so the conservation easement not only keeps the wooded land in its natural state, but prevents land use that threatens the watershed. In addition, there’s a walking trail for the office workers and residents that connects them to nearby nature.
- The historic Yorkshire House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register,is an oasis in the midst of development. The conservation easement on 5.5 acres in the downtown Warrenton historic district protects open space, the home, and the trees that front the street and enhance the district’s special features. The easement benefits the community by protecting tree canopy, wildlife habitat, and an important connection to nature: the view from the sidewalk.
Other new Virginia Treasures held in easement or owned by the Trust are: (click for Google Photos to see other properties)
- Prince William County: two separate parcels in Woodbridge, one placed in easement by a private foundation and sold to the Town of Occoquan, and a second owned by Kettler and transferred to Prince William County, both for use as parks; 42 acres of working farm land in the Manassas area; 380-acre Leopold’s Preserve at the Villages of Piedmont, with conserved land and publicly accessible trails; and 112 acres of the county’s James Long Park in Haymarket, part of a stream mitigation bank project.
- Loudoun County: three separate parcels of working land, conserved by private owners in Purcellville and Round Hill.
- Stafford County: two small lots purchased by the Trust in Crow’s Nest Harbour area, an undeveloped area that is next to the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve owned by the state.
The Trust works throughout the region to help balance growth and development with land conservation. Conservation easements with private landowners are an important tool in local and state land use, and assure the people of the Commonwealth that the natural areas that define the state will continue.
In addition to recognizing land privately owned conserved land, the Virginia Treasures initiative also counts the natural, cultural, and recreational treasures that expand public access to “the great outdoors.”
“The public benefit of land conservation provides natural places for children to play, scenic views and green spaces that help improve health and well-being, working farms that sustain us, nature preserves, and historic homes and landscapes,” says Stevens. “These benefits are important now and for future generations.”