The Capital Region Land Conservancy is Central Virginia’s only land trust dedicated solely to serving the City of Richmond and Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, Powhatan, New Kent, and Charles City counties. Our mission is to conserve and protect the natural and historic land and water resources of Virginia’s Capital Region for the benefit of current and future generations.
We live in an extraordinary place, unparalleled for its history and remarkably diverse natural resources, where the rolling hills of Virginia’s Piedmont give way to the Coastal Plain. Here in the watersheds of the James and York Rivers, where Native American tribes had already thrived for thousands of years, our nation took hold. While mapping Virginia in 1612, Captain John Smith declared “heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a more perfect place for man’s habitation.” 400 years later, more than one million people call the Capital Region home.
Today, prosperity brings new challenges. The counties surrounding the City of Richmond have been developing land at a rapid rate and this growth is often fragmented. Tree cover is in decline. Water quality is imperiled by new and diffuse sources of pollution not traditionally regulated under the Clean Water Act. Our forests, wetlands, farms, and wildlife are our greatest resources and provide us with quality of life and economic benefits that we don’t always appreciate until it’s too late. At the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC), we believe that our future depends upon taking care of what makes the heart of Virginia so special. By balancing growth in our communities with conservation of our natural environment, we can ensure that the places we love will be enjoyed by the generations that follow in our footsteps.
In its first ten years, CRLC has facilitated the conservation of over 7,000 acres of land, including over 35 miles of stream and river frontage. Protecting land in our region helps ensure safe drinking water, locally grown food, preservation of our historic resources and habitat for wildlife.
To further its mission to protect the natural and historic land and water resources of Virginia’s Capital Region for the benefit of current and future generations, the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) has entered into a contract to purchase Malvern Hill Farm for the appraised value of $6,562,000. The property consists of 875 +/- acres in Henrico County and Charles City County and is owned by descendants of William Heighler Ferguson Sr. (1885-1984) who originally purchased Malvern Hill Farm in 1939.
The Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places first listed Malvern Hill in 1969, recognizing its role in Virginia and United States history dating to the late 17th Century. Thomas Cocke (1639-1697) built the first Anglo-American residence there about 1690 and the architecturally significant ruins are well preserved today. The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) encamped on the property in the summer of 1781 and the Virginia Militia also made camp there during the War of 1812.
But the name “Malvern Hill” is more strongly associated with a climactic moment in the American Civil War when the entire property lay behind the front infantry line of the Union army during the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. This deadly clash of armies ended with 5,650 Confederate and 2,100 Union casualties, bringing the Seven Days Battle and the Peninsula Campaign to a close and prompting President Abraham Lincoln to draft the Emancipation Proclamation.
According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Malvern Hill Farm ranks as “very high” in its vulnerability model. In 1993, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission listed Malvern Hill in the Top 10 of Virginia’s battlefields that are highly threatened. Despite its proximity to downtown Richmond and development pressures in the Varina district of Henrico County, the property has remained mostly unaltered in appearance since 1862.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s soil maps show Malvern Hill Farm contains nearly 400 acres of prime farmland and more than 150 acres of “farmland of statewide significance.” Coupled with the “very high” ranking on Virginia’s Forest Economics Model as well as DCR’s evaluation of Ecological Cores and habitats of endangered species, the property is a priority for land conservation.
The National Park Service (NPS) has long sought portions of Malvern Hill Farm for inclusion in the Richmond National Battlefield Park. The United States Congress has approved roughly 443 acres in its legislatively authorized boundary for the park. “Acquisition and preservation of this farm would be a critical step forward in ensuring the long term integrity of such an historic place” noted David Ruth, Superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. DCR specifically names Malvern Hill in its Virginia Outdoors Plan for provision of public access with walking and biking trails and a Turkey Island Creek canoe/kayak launch to reach the James River, the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail and the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. Likewise, nearly 2 miles of the Virginia Capital Trail along scenic Route 5 passes by and/or traverses Malvern Hill Farm.
The Capital Region Land Conservancy has secured more than $2 million in funding towards this important acquisition. This includes $687,500 from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), $400,000 from the Virginia Battlefields Preservation Fund (VBPF), $500,000 as a two-to-one challenge grant from The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, and $500,000 as a two-to-one challenge grant from the Cabell Foundation. CRLC is actively applying for other grants and seeking private donations to support this important acquisition. The Conservation Fund is also considering financing for the project.
In September, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the awarding of the VLCF grant to CRLC citing the Malvern Hill project’s protection of “Virginia’s biodiversity, history and way of life while enhancing public access to our natural resources.”
Director of Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, Julie V. Langan, awarded the VBPF grant in November and commended CRLC for its “dedication and commitment to protecting important Civil War Battlefields for the future of Virginia and the nation.”
“In one transaction CRLC is taking a giant step in protecting the natural and historic land and water resources of our region” said Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director of Capital Region Land Conservancy. “Malvern Hill Farm represents a significant opportunity to conserve prime farmland, native forests, nearly three miles of perennial streams, and more than 325 years of history while also opening the property to public access for outdoor recreation. I am delighted that CRLC could be the champion to lead a multifaceted effort to permanently protect this property forever.”
"The tremendous national, state, and local support for this purchase validates Malvern Hill's worth, not as real estate, but as a treasured place in our history and in our present day lives", said CRLC founder and Board president Bill Greenleaf.
Brian Watson, CRLC’s Vice President, said "we are excited to continue to lead conservation efforts in our area and be able to protect this historically significant property for generations to come."
The consortium of organizations assisting CRLC in the acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm include American Civil War Museum Foundation, Chesapeake Conservancy, Civil War Trust, James River Association, Richmond Battlefields Association, Richmond National Battlefield Park, and Virginia Capital Trail Foundation. Donations to support the acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm and contribute toward the challenge grants should be made payable to the Capital Region Land Conservancy and mailed to P.O. Box 17306, Richmond VA 23226.