An Unusual Holiday Gift:
Local land trust takes ownership of Appomattox River islands for conservation
January 22, 2019
Richmond, VA – Even for a land trust, it isn’t every day someone offers you a gift of an island, let alone three. In early November, the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) received just such an overture from Joan Cowan proposing a donation of Grape Island, Hyde Island, and Watson Glenn Island in the Appomattox River in southern Chesterfield County.
CRLC’s staff and Board of Directors acted swiftly in the waning days of 2018 to take ownership of this property in the portion of the Appomattox River designated as a state scenic river since 1977. By the time the new year had begun, significant due diligence and the transfer of the islands to CRLC’s ownership were complete. In working with both Chesterfield County and another local nonprofit, Friends of the Lower Appomattox (FOLAR), CRLC was able to plan for the islands’ future. The change in ownership and the eventual public accessibility of the islands align with the Appomattox River Trail master plan FOLAR drafted in 2017.
“We were pleased to facilitate the connection between Mrs. Cowan, CRLC, and Chesterfield County as part of our mission to conserve and protect the Appomattox River for all to enjoy,” said Wendy Austin, FOLAR Executive Director. “We look forward to future opportunities to work together with CRLC to benefit the health of the river and our communities.”
The cluster of small, forested isles lies down river from Brasfield Dam and the Lake Chesdin Reservoir and total about nine and a half acres. The islands are visible from the southeastern side of the river from the wheelchair accessible Lower Appomattox River Trail System that runs from Ferndale Appomattox Riverside Park in Dinwiddie County to the west for a mile and a half along a historic canal tow path. On the northeastern side of the river, the islands are in close proximity to the 87-acre John J. Radcliffe Conservation Area and its canoe/kayak launch about a mile upriver in Chesterfield County. The protection of these islands therefore has great scenic value for visitors on the water as well as those who may never step foot on or paddle by the islands.
The magic attendant to islands, associated in the imagination and the arts with a sense of retreat and exploration, inspired the gift from their former owner and donor Mrs. Cowan who noted the many adventures they afforded family and friends while also allowing her “... to escape from all of the world for a week of peace and quiet while on my own little oasis ... painting the peaceful settings of nature.” It is Mrs. Cowan’s wish that the islands be available to the public for their own respite and enjoyment without damage to their natural resources and no hunting of the resident wildlife.
Though the islands will not be open to the public during the time they are in CRLC’s ownership, CRLC is working to transfer them to Chesterfield County’s Department of Parks and Recreation so future recreationists will be free to make any of the islands a stop on their excursions through a section of the river notable for its sense of wildness and remoteness. Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors’ member Steve Elswick said, “Every community has places of importance to them that deserve protection. It’s this part of our region that is particularly special to me and those in the Matoaca district that celebrate our river. We thank CRLC for working to preserve these islands and the many opportunities they afford us now and in the future."
CRLC’s commitment to conservation of natural, scenic, and historic resources allows it to act on opportunities to hold perpetual conservation easements on private and public lands as well as accept ownership of property such as the gift of the Grape, Hyde, and Watson Glenn islands. “This is a niche CRLC was able to fill. We gave this project the same scrutiny we give to our conservation easements, but were still able to act decisively in a short period of time to make Mrs. Cowan’s dream a reality. This isn’t just a gift to CRLC, it’s a gift to the community and the future, of the Appomattox River,” said CRLC’s Executive Director, Parker Agelasto.
18th century Hanover County Farm Protected Forever with Conservation Easement: Past and Present Merge Where Llamas Now Roam
December 19, 2018
RICHMOND, VA – Hanover County was in its infancy and still a wilderness when British sea captain John Hope built his home, “Westerham House”, near the village of Montpelier. It would appear little changed to Captain Hope nearly 300 years later, except perhaps for the animals grazing its pastures. While Westerham’s original owners brought one of the first flocks of sheep to the New World from England, the present 96-acre property is now home to a herd of llamas,a species not brought to North America from their native Peruvian Andes until the early 1800s.
The livestock may have changed, but the farmland and forests of Westerham on Taylors Creek Road will endure thanks to the foresight of its current owner, Rachel Levin, a secondgeneration easement donor. On December 18, 2018, Ms. Levin finalized her donation of a charitable conservation easement on Westerham to the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC), Richmond’s only local land trust. The conservation easement permanently protects the property from any residential or commercial development.
Under Virginia’s Conservation Easement Act, a conservation easement is a voluntary act of the property owner and must be compatible with the locality’s comprehensive plan. Hanover County’s comprehensive plan adopted earlier this year explicitly encourages “the preservation of prime and important agricultural and forest lands whenever possible through . . . dedication of Conservation Easements . . .” The plan also recognizes the importance of rural areas as “an integral and vital component to Hanover’s culture and economy” and environmental benefits including stream and wetland buffers and wildlife habitats.
Ms. Levin noted in an early correspondence with CRLC that, “when I found out about Westerham, I thought this would be the ideal property to save open space.” The focal point of the property is the 18th century federal style residence which, though somewhat altered from its original construction, continues to be an exquisite example of Flemish Bond brickwork and is eligible for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places. Westerham also features Virginia’s largest private collection of English and American boxwood, planted in the early 1950s, as recognized by the American Boxwood Society.
The Westerham property
includes over forty acres of Prime Farmland as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service while slightly more of the agricultural land is also
classified as Soils of Statewide Importance by the
Commonwealth of Virginia. Approximately half the property is forested, including buffers along 1,000 feet of an intermittent stream which drains to the South Anna River within the York River watershed.
The terms of the conservation easement prevent cutting of those riparian buffers, require Best Management Practices for any future forestry, allow for ongoing agricultural uses, and prohibit subdivision. Restrictions ensure protection of the historic manor house and the bucolic views of Westerham from Taylors Creek Road. “Westerham is a unique place in so many ways yet it also embodies the history and character of western Hanover County,” noted CRLC Executive Director Parker Agelasto. “At CRLC we feel privileged to have the opportunity to protect this historic landscape and assist its stewardship in perpetuity.”
The farm is presently rented and professionally managed and will continue to be in the near term, but Ms. Levin’s ultimate plans include making it her home. Her altruistic goals for Westerham go beyond protecting its history and environment. Ms. Levin is familiar with benefits of llamas that may not be readily apparent to the passersby admiring the Westerham herd from Taylors Creek Road. Caring for and spending time with people-friendly llamas can bestow therapeutic well-being for both children and adults coping with physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. Ms. Levin is exploring possibilities that may include a teaching collaboration with Virginia Tech, service through the Make a Wish Foundation, or programs for local school children. Any walking trail network on the property would be developed in accordance with silvopasture principles, a mutually beneficial practice combining forestry and grazing for domestic animals.
“Ms. Levin’s approach to Westerham’s future exemplifies the spirit of stewardship, truly regarding it as part and parcel of the larger community,” said Brian Watson, president of CRLC’s Board of Directors. “Finalizing an easement on Westerham is a great way to end 2018 and celebrate this special time of year.”
Henrico County Landowner Records Second Conservation Easement - Over 350 Acres in Deep Bottom Now Protected
October 30, 2018
RICHMOND, VA – Randall Welch of the Varina District of Henrico County has just completed his second conservation easement, increasing by 271 acres the land he has permanently protected from development in eastern Henrico County. As with his earlier conservation easement on 81 acres, the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC), along with the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District, facilitated the review and recordation of this most recent easement on four additional parcels on Deep Bottom Road. The historically significant property’s boundaries include two miles of creek and river frontage. This initiative represents Phase II of a conservation easement project that now protects 352 acres including approximately three miles of combined frontage on Four Mile Creek, Roundabout Creek, and the James River.
The easement is unusual not just because it marks the first time CRLC has worked with the same landowner on a second easement, but because Mr. Welch includes provisions for regular public access in his easements. Another unique feature of the Deep Bottom project is that Colonial Farm Credit is also a signatory to the easements because it has a mortgage on the properties, which requires that their loan be subject to the terms of the conservation easement. “We have been pleased with the willingness the bank has shown to work with landowners interested in protecting their property in perpetuity”, said Parker Agelasto, Executive Director for CRLC.
The combined acreage is adjacent to Deep Bottom Park where two boat launches provide public access for canoes and kayaks at Four Mile Creek and motorized boats at the James River. The Virginia Capital Trail along Route 5 in eastern Henrico County is within one-mile of these properties. Protection of this land will enhance recreationists’ experience as they travel between the Capital Trail and Deep Bottom Park. The public access trail that winds throughout the eased property possibly may become an off-road link between the two in the future. The land’s permanent protection from residential and commercial development provides a buffer for recreational uses, adjacent natural resources, and scenic views from the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail within the James River.
The property is managed for timber, but all portions adjacent to the creeks and river have off-limits “riparian buffers” encompassing a large area of high-quality bottomland hardwood forest and non-tidal marshes and wetlands which protect stream ecosystems from stormwater run-off pollution, sedimentation, stream bank erosion, and increased temperatures.
“The District is thrilled to play a role in conserving these 271 acres. As perpetual green space, this land will protect soil fertility, slow and filter storm water runoff, and provide scenic beauty and habitat for future generations of Henrico residents”, said Nicole Anderson Ellis, Vice-Chair of the Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation District.
Portions of the protected property are said to have been part of “Claymount” owned by Stephen B. Sweeney (1799-1863) and included in his earthenware pottery operation with several kilns and a hotel along today’s Route 5, a Virginia scenic-byway. Other portions of the property were owned in the 1850s by Titus C. Rice and operated as Deep Bottom Landing with a ferry crossing the James River to Chesterfield County.
The property displays evidence of three Civil War battles - First Deep Bottom (Jul 27-29, 1864), Second Deep Bottom (Aug 13-20, 1864), and Chaffin’s Farm (Sep 29-30, 1864) when Union troops advanced on Richmond using pontoon bridges connecting to Jones Neck. The 4th United States Colored Infantry Regiment along with the Union X Corps advanced across the property to victory at New Market Heights.
Terms of the conservation easement protect historic resources by strictly prohibiting relic hunting and ground disturbance around identified rifle pits, the remains of the ferry-keeper’s house, and earthworks and a strict prohibition on relic hunting. Mr. Welch’s first easement provides identical protections.
Planned trails connecting the property’s historic features and scenic views will accommodate visitor access. Future educational and environmental interpretation will allow visitors of all ages to enjoy an enriching outdoor experience.
Under Virginia’s Conservation Easement Act, a conservation easement is a voluntary act of the property owner and must be compatible with the locality’s comprehensive plan. Henrico County’s 2026 Future Land Use Map designates the property as a “Prime Agriculture and Environmental Protection Area”. CRLC’s and HSWCD’s conservation easement on this property protects these agricultural soils and stream and river buffers while supporting the Henrico County Comprehensive Plan’s Community Character and Natural, Cultural and Historic Resource objectives to “protect areas with intrinsic natural, historic, and cultural resources.”
Brian Watson, President of the Capital Region Land Conservancy, said, “Mr. Welch is our first repeat easement donor and this project will hopefully inspire others to amplify their land conservation legacy by expanding property under conservation easement.”
“My experience working with CRLC and the soil and water conservation district has been nothing but positive. I knew when I did the first easement that I’d be doing another,” said landowner and easement donor Randall Welch. “Completing this next phase has been even more satisfying because it ensures that over 350 acres will continue to contribute to the rural character of eastern Henrico County.”
Capital Region Land Conservancy Applying for
Land Trust Alliance Accreditation
Stakeholder Notification/Public Notice
August 3, 2018
The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Capital Region Land Conservancy is pleased to announce it is applying for accreditation. A public comment period is now open.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. The process of pursuing accreditation challenges and strengthens a land trust as it scrutinizes and thoroughly documents every aspect of its operations while improving its policies and practices. Land Trust Alliance accreditation assures landowners, supporters, funders, and the land trust's community that it is an organization abiding by the highest standards of excellence.
The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how the Capital Region Land Conservancy complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-practices.
To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments may also be faxed or mailed to:
Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments:
(mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.
Comments on the Capital Region Land Conservancy's application will be most useful by October 28, 2018.
Local Land Trust to Expand
with New Funding
Richmond, VA, May 29, 2018 – The Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE). The funding will support the land trust’s efforts to assist the increasing number of landowners interested in pursuing voluntary conservation easements and to expand strategic land conservation along the Richmond region’s rivers to include the Pamunkey River.
Earlier this month VEE announced grant awards of $284,612 to 14 organizations dedicated to protecting and improving Virginia’s natural resources and environment. Since its founding in 1977 the Endowment, combined with matching funds, has provided more than $86 million in environmental improvement support.
Demand for CRLC’s services has taken off with the land trust now holding or co-holding 16 conservation easements on 1,957 acres and having facilitated an additional 28 conservation easements with other holders on another 6,347 acres in its ten-locality service area. CRLC Executive Director Parker Agelasto said: “We’ve made great progress recently in the amount of land conserved through easements, yet still just two percent of the Richmond region’s land is protected under permanent conservation easements. We intend to increase that to five percent. VEE is confidently backing our ability to continue to advance toward that goal.”
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a private, nonprofit land trust or a government agency; it restricts residential or commercial development of the land in perpetuity while retaining all other rights of ownership including uses such as farming and forestry. Each conservation easement is as unique as the property it protects, the result of a collaborative process between the landowner and the land trust or agency.
In a region defined by the historic James River and also traversed by the Appomattox and York rivers and their tributaries, CRLC trains its strategic focus on lands adjacent to those waterways. The benefits of protecting farmland and forests along streams and rivers are as indefinable as fostering a sense of place, and as measurable as protecting water quality. Improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay depends on increased land conservation in its watershed, with forests doing more to improve the quality of water reaching the bay than any other land type. Conservation easements in river corridors also give historic context to significant landmarks while ensuring that future generations will enjoy the same scenic views that contribute to current residents’ sense of home.
The VEE grant will enable CRLC to extend these benefits to the Pamunkey River corridor, the 93-mile tributary of the York River that forms the northern boundaries of Hanover and New Kent counties. Landowner consultation is the cornerstone of a land trust’s success and CRLC can now invest in this important part of its service area. “It’s gratifying to know we will be able to move forward with the conservation easement process on complex, time-intensive projects and to respond to new opportunities,” said Jane Myers, CRLC’s Land Conservation Manager. At the same time, CRLC will expand its Conservation Mapping Toolkit to include the Pamunkey River. Originally a pilot project with the Chesapeake Conservancy, the toolkit helps capture and assess the conservation values of different properties, supporting the documentation process and making it more efficient.
CRLC’s commitment to protecting land that in turn protects the region’s waterways is a hallmark of the private nonprofit’s work, perhaps nowhere enjoyed by more regional residents and visitors than within the James River Park System in the City of Richmond. CRLC co-holds a conservation easement on nearly half of the system’s 600 acres along with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Enrichmond Foundation. VEE’s $20,000 investment in CRLC’s mission will also support work toward adding 125 acres to the existing conservation easement.
“The Virginia Environmental Endowment is a steadfast partner in high-impact land conservation work throughout the Commonwealth,” said CRLC Board of Directors President Brian Watson, “CRLC is in excellent company in this round of grant recipients and we are honored to be among them. On behalf of CRLC’s Board of Directors, staff, and members, I extend our gratitude to VEE.”
TUESDAY, MAY 15TH, 2018
The official signing of the Department of Historic Resources conservation easement on 486 acres of Malvern Hill Farm was covered by ABC 8 News.
CRLC Closes on Acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm
February 1, 2018 (RICHMOND, VA)
It was a proposal that raised both hopes and doubts: could a local nonprofit land trust raise nearly $7 million dollars to purchase a vulnerable 871-acre farm, site of a historic 1862 Civil War battle, on the outskirts of the fast-growing Richmond region? On February 1, a year and a half after the Capital Region Land Conservancy’s (CRLC) Board of Directors greenlighted the ambitious plan, CRLC purchased Malvern Hill Farm in eastern Henrico County’s Varina District along the historic Route 5 corridor.
Said CRLC President Brian Watson: “The success of the strategy to purchase and protect Malvern Hill Farm is a credit to our staff, Board, partners, and supporters. Collectively, they have transformed CRLC so that we are a stronger land trust capable of facilitating significant conservation projects in our area.”
With a rich history dating to the late 17th century, Malvern Hill Farm is the only documented place in the United States that has seen U.S. troop activity during the three major military conflicts that occurred on American soil. The location was the base for the Marquis de Lafayette during the summer of 1781 and an encampment for the Virginia militia during the war of 1812. The architecturally significant ruins of the first Anglo-American residence built around 1690 are well preserved. But it is the deadly clash of Union and Confederate forces on July 1, 1862 when the entire property lay behind the Union army’s front infantry line that is forever tied to the farm’s name.
CRLC completed the acquisition of the much sought-after property following extensive fundraising, complex negotiations, and partnership building at the local, state, and federal levels. The purchase was made possible thanks to funding from the Cabell Foundation, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, the American Battlefield Protection Program, the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, Henrico County, the James River Association, and many private donors. The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, provided a $2 million loan to bridge the remaining funds needed for the purchase.
Listed since 1969 on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, Malvern Hill Farm has been a priority for many preservation organizations over the years. CRLC’s partners in this preservation effort include the National Park Service (NPS), the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR), the Civil War Trust (CWT), Henrico County, and the James River Association (JRA).
DCR Director Clyde Cristman added, “Federal and state agencies, local government, and the non-profit community have partnered to complete one of the most important land conservation initiatives in recent years. In this singular project, we celebrate the preservation of working farms, historic sites, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and public access to the outdoors.”
The Battle of Malvern Hill ended with over 7,750 casualties, bringing the Seven Days Battle and the Peninsula Campaign to a close while signaling that the horrific war would not come to a swift end. Within weeks, President Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, altering the course of the war and of the country. Through it all, Malvern Hill Farm endured.
William Heighler Ferguson Sr. purchased Malvern Hill Farm in 1939 and managed it in a manner that left it virtually unchanged since the Civil War. The farm remained in the Ferguson family for nearly 80 years, but with twenty-six cousins sharing ownership, the sale of the property became inevitable. Fragmenting the nearly 900 acres did not: it went on the market as a single parcel.
“The decision to sell Malvern Hill Farm was a difficult one. The farm is family and is at the heart of our history and our memories. You can’t spend time here growing up or live here and not love it,” said Meade Ferguson Welch. “We were all so grateful to CRLC for their efforts in preserving this place.”
The property had been on the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission’s Top Ten list of most threatened battlefields since 1993 and has long been a NPS priority for addition to the Richmond Battlefield National Park, but its resources and value go beyond its history and deep into its soil. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services identifies nearly 400 acres as prime farmland and more than 150 acres as “farmland of statewide significance.” Malvern Hill Farm’s woodlands rank “very high” on Virginia’s Forest Economics Model and the agency’s evaluation of Ecological Cores and habitats of endangered species also gives the property a high ranking. DCR further designated Malvern Hill Farm in its Virginia Outdoors Plan as a desired site for publicly accessible walking and biking trails and a Turkey Island Creek canoe and kayak launch to the James River. Nearly two miles of the Virginia Capital Trail along scenic Route 5/New Market Road passes by or traverses Malvern Hill Farm.
Heather Richards of The Conservation Fund remarked, “With such an abundance of historic, natural, agricultural, and scenic resources, saving Malvern Hill Farm was in everyone’s interest. CRLC knew the chance wasn’t just worth taking, but absolutely necessary. We’re honored to support this important milestone on the journey to protecting Malvern Hill Farm.”
CRLC will place a conservation easement on nearly half of the Malvern Hill Farm and transfer it to Henrico County. The land will be open to the public for passive recreation and historical interpretation in the future. JRA will provide kayak and canoe access on Turkey Island Creek, connecting paddlers to the James River, the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail, and Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. The National Park Service ultimately will take ownership of nearly 400 acres for enlargement of the Richmond National Battlefield Park.
“These federal, state, and local commitments vividly affirm just how meaningful the protection of Malvern Hill Farm is,” said CRLC Executive Director Parker Agelasto. “Our partners were quick to support our efforts to protect the farm's sweeping views that have taken in centuries of American history, from the region's original tribal communities through European exploration and settlement, the colonies' fight for independence, our new nation's first conflict, enslavement and emancipation, and the war that ultimately led us toward ‘a more perfect union.’” Henrico County Supervisor Tyrone Nelson concluded, “All who treasure Malvern Hill Farm can now rest assured that its future is secure and residents and visitors alike can look forward to enjoying the farm’s natural beauty, history, and new recreational access.”
One Mile of James River and 181 Acres Protected at River’s Bend
January 19, 2018
(Richmond, VA) – The path of the James River takes many twists and turns along its 348-mile journey from the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay yet there is only one place that has come to be named “River’s Bend.” Several hundred homes in eastern Chesterfield County occupy a neighborhood that shares that same name and River’s Bend Golf Course operated there from 1991 until 2015 when the failing business declared bankruptcy.
The 180-acre property, which was formerly the 18-hole golf course, could have been developed into a dense residential subdivision with an additional 100-homes built along the James River. Instead, the property’s owner, Riversbend Land LLC, has protected the wetlands, views, and one mile of shoreline with a conservation easement held by the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) that also provides for public access. Owner and easement donor Neil Amin remarked, “Finalizing this easement was a great way to end the year. Having grown up in River’s Bend, I care about the future of this area and am proud to be able to help protect it and share it with the community.”
CRLC has been evaluating options for a conservation easement at River’s Bend since 2010. The property sits at the nexus of a wealth of natural, historic, and scenic resources.
It adjoins 144 acres of wetlands owned by Virginia Commonwealth University’s River Rice Center and mere two parcels separate it from another 25-acre privately owned property under conservation easement with CRLC since 2005 for its bald eagle habitat. It lies across the river from Chesterfield County’s Dutch Gap Conservation Area, comprised of 810 acres of woods and wetlands. Presquile National Wildlife Refuge and Brown and Williamson Conservation Area are also nearby. River’s Bend is within the direct viewshed of Henricus Historical Park, a 10-acre public park interpreting the site of the English colony’s second settlement in 1611 and it is adjacent to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, designated by the National Park Service as a water trail that follows the 1607-1609 voyages of Captain John Smith to chart the land and waterways along the James River and Chesapeake Bay.
Kirkland Turner, former Director of Planning for Chesterfield County (and now Director of the Department of Community Enhancement), pointed to the easement’s compatibility with other nearby conservation areas when confirming that the conservation easement is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan’s direction to prioritize, “the county’s unique natural resources specifically along the James River to support tourism, enhance recreational opportunities, and protect water quality through public and private cooperation”. Under Virginia’s Conservation Easement Act, a conservation easement is a voluntary act by the property owner and must be compatible with the locality’s comprehensive plan.
The newly protected land includes 85 acres of emergent wetlands and forested or shrub wetlands according the United States Fish and Wildlife Service inventory. The easement’s terms include 100-foot buffer protections for the property’s mile of James River shoreline and 35-foot buffer protections for the wetland areas as well as the 11,000 feet of stream bank and 2,600 feet of pond border. The existing infrastructure of over two miles of paths will be available for public access and will be open to the public year round.
Chesterfield County Bermuda District Board of Supervisor, Dorothy A. Jaeckle noted, “River’s Bend is a great example of balancing growth and change with respect for our natural resources and our history. Private land conservation plays an important part in fulfilling our long term strategic goals for Chesterfield County along the James River for the benefit of all our citizens.”
In 2012, the Capital Region Collaborative identified the James River as one of seven priority areas and charged the community to celebrate the region’s most important natural resource as “a centerpiece for entertainment, recreation and commerce”. Specifically, the Collaborative made recommendations to improve public access to the river through a strategic plan. Published in 2017, the Regional Rivers Plan outlines goals which include “a public access network throughout the region that allows people to connect to the James River in a variety of ways and that enhances and expands existing network elements”.
CRLC Board of Directors President, Brian Watson concluded, “We at CRLC are so proud to be a partner in conserving River’s Bend. Like many conservation easements, this was neither a simple nor speedy process. Our dedicated staff and Board members recognized the remarkable opportunity for public benefit and connecting with other protected areas as part of a large scale scenic landscape.”
Historic Powhatan County Farm Protected with Conservation Easement
December 20, 2017
(Richmond, VA) – For Connie Harriss, protecting her home, “Norwood,” in Powhatan County was her duty. Her family had stewarded the property for six generations dating to 1834 when Robert Beverley Randolph (1790-1839) purchased the land and the original brick farmhouse that he greatly enlarged into the building that stands today. It is a view that is mostly frozen in time and will remain so due to the permanent protections afforded under a conservation easement recorded with Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) on December 20, 2017.
Norwood is one of the most stately homes in the region. The late 18th century red brick manor house, along with its dependencies and rare brick farm buildings, stands gracefully in an informally landscaped park of holly and other shade trees amidst open fields that descend to the banks of the James River. As described in the nomination form listing Norwood on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1975 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it forms “a memorable picture of rural antebellum gentility” and is one of the principal historic plantations of the Upper James region.
Today, the 145-acre property along Route 711 (Huguenot Trail) encompasses 112 acres of prime farmland according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs has designated Norwood as a “Century Farm” in honor of the same family residing and operating a farm there for at least 100 consecutive years.
The property also shares 1,500 feet of shoreline on the south bank of the James River. This portion of the James River is potentially eligible for state Scenic River designation under the plans prepared by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. A 100-foot riparian buffer area on the property along the James River will help ensure that runoff is limited and water quality is improved in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The terms of the perpetual conservation easement also incorporate viewshed protection that will allow passersby on Route 711 to enjoy the tranquil setting of Norwood.
The historic preservation, watershed preservation, and preservation of scenic open space provisions of the conservation easement will ensure that Norwood and the natural resources behind the lovely view will be unspoiled for generations to come. The conservation easement allows for continued agriculture - including renovations and additions to farm structures - but forever prevents residential or commercial development.
“After nearly a decade of conversations with my friend Dan Jones, Emeritus Board Member at CRLC, I am delighted that Norwood finally has the protections that my family has sought” said Connie Harriss. “My grandson who will inherit this land will mark the eighth generation of my family ownership. He will be responsible for that legacy and ensure its proper stewardship.”
Under Virginia’s Conservation Easement Act, a conservation easement is a voluntary act by the property owner and must be compatible with the locality’s comprehensive plan. The 2010 Powhatan County Comprehensive Plan has a goal to preserve and protect the county’s natural and historic resources and includes Norwood on the list of important places to safeguard. The plan designates the property in “Rural Preservation” and “Natural Conservation” areas. “Norwood is a very special place and we appreciate CRLC’s work in helping the family preserve it,” said Powhatan County Manager Ted Voorhees.
David Williams, District 1 Supervisor, remembers “my uncle worked at Norwood for the Kennon family for many years and owned land adjacent to the farm so the property has particular meaning to me. I am certain it does for other county residents and delight in knowing it will be protected forever.”
CRLC’s easement includes specific provisions that apply to the manor house and other buildings and the land trust will provide ongoing stewardship with annual monitoring visits. Ms. Harriss (and any subsequent owner) retains all rights of ownership except those expressly prohibited by the easement, primarily development and industrial or commercial uses.
Assisting the landowner in drafting the conservation easement were CRLC Land Conservation Manager, Jane Myers, and Taylor Cole from Conservation Partners. Of Mrs. Myers, “she had answers to my questions and was diligent in keeping this project on track,” said Mrs. Harris. “I am grateful for her good work.”
“Norwood is a great example of bringing together many facets of CRLC’s mission into a single project by conserving and protecting both natural and historic land and water resources for the benefit of current and future generations,” said Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director for the Capital Region Land Conservancy. “CRLC is honored to be part of the history of this property and serve as an additional steward.”
Land Conservation Vision Map Cultivates
November 21, 2017
RICHMOND, VA - In the Richmond region, just 2 percent of the land is permanently protected from development. Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) - Richmond’s local land trust which holds and co-holds voluntary conservation easements on both privately and publicly owned property - envisions a future of thoughtfully planned growth that includes land conservation as a compatible goal.
With funding support from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, CRLC recently published a Land Conservation Vision Map for the Capital Region, a view of the nine localities in CRLC’s service area from 30,000 feet that illustrates existing conserved lands as well as general areas identified as potentially appropriate for conservation in the Comprehensive Plan future land use maps from Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan counties plus the Town of Ashland and the City of Richmond.
“The Land Conservation Vision Map will help guide CRLC’s work to educate landowners and increase the acreage of permanently protected land in our region in collaboration with our local government partners,” said Parker Agelasto, CRLC’s executive director.
CRLC consulted with planning staff from each of the localities in its service area to draft the Vision Map which was facilitated by staff at the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission (RRPDC) who also helped to generate new Base Maps with 2017 data. Officials from each locality now have an individual, updated Map for their jurisdiction. “The Vision Map reminds us that our decisions affect our neighbors and suggest areas where we can most effectively work together for the benefit of our communities”, noted Chesterfield County planner Heather Barrar.
Collaborating with local governments is familiar ground for CRLC and essential to the organization’s mission. Section 10.1 of the Virginia State Code requires that all holders of donated conservation easements certify that the terms of the easement protecting the property conform to the Comprehensive Plan for the locality in which the property is located. This legal requirement underpins CRLC’s engagement with the planning departments of each locality during the conservation easement process. RRPDC Senior Planner Sarah Stewart commended CRLC for “appreciating the ‘big picture’ and reaching out to local governments to produce and share tools, using the most current and accurate data, that help align our mutual efforts in planning for the future of our communities.”
For CRLC, bringing strategic coherence to conservation efforts also dovetails with other priorities such as the Regional Rivers Plan (released earlier this year by the Capital Region Collaborative and James River Association) that incorporates goals established in the Virginia Outdoors Plan.
CRLC is striving to expand the amount of conserved acreage in the capital region to 5 percent by strategically focusing on conservation easements adjacent to the James River and its tributaries. These riparian lands help to protect and improve water quality for drinking water, habitat, and recreation. Agelasto concluded, “Supporting cross-locality communication with tools to visualize our region's future as a whole is another way we are fulfilling our mission to conserve and protect our natural and historic land and water resources for everyone who calls our wonderful region home and for all those who will in the future”.
New Conservation Easement
on Four Mile Creek in Henrico County
November 7, 2017
RICHMOND, VA - 81 acres in eastern Henrico County are now permanently protected from development. Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) facilitated the review and recordation of the conservation easement on the historically significant property in the Varina District that includes nearly a mile of stream frontage on Four Mile Creek. The Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) co-holds the conservation easement with CRLC. This initiative represents Phase I of a multi-phase, multi-year conservation easement project that ultimately will protect 341 acres including nearly one and a quarter miles of Four Mile Creek frontage, over half a mile along Roundabout Creek, and one-tenth of a mile of land adjacent to the James River.
The combined acreage is adjacent to Deep Bottom Park where two boat launches provide public access for canoes/kayaks at Four Mile Creek and motorized boats at the James River. The Virginia Capital Trail and Four Mile Creek Trailhead are within a mile of the properties. The land’s permanent protection from residential and commercial development provides a buffer for adjacent natural resources, recreational uses, and scenic views from the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail within the James River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
Although parts of this property are managed for timber, the portions of the property adjacent to Four Mile Creek protect a large area of high-quality bottomland hardwood forest and non-tidal marshes and wetlands providing vital protection of stream ecosystems from non-point source pollution, sedimentation, stream bank erosion, and increased temperatures.
“We're thrilled by the opportunity to protect these 81 acres of the James River watershed," said Nicole Anderson Ellis, Vice-Chair of the Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation District. "This easement advances our mission - to protect clean water and healthy soils - in numerous ways, including the preservation of a broad forest buffer along Four Mile Creek," notes Anderson Ellis, "We're providing a critical service to our constituents.”
Portions of the property are said to have been part of “Claymount” owned by Stephen B. Sweeney (1799-1863) and included in his earthenware pottery operation with several kilns and a hotel along today’s Route 5, a Virginia scenic-byway. Other portions of the property were owned in the 1850s by Titus C. Rice and operated as Deep Bottom Landing with a ferry crossing the James River to Chesterfield County.
The property displays evidence of three Civil War battles - First Deep Bottom (Jul 27-29, 1864), Second Deep Bottom (Aug 13-20, 1864), and Chaffin’s Farm (Sep 29-30, 1864) when Union troops advanced on Richmond using pontoon bridges connecting to Jones Neck. The 4th United States Colored Infantry Regiment along with the Union X Corps advanced across the property to victory at New Market Heights. Terms of the conservation easement include protection of historic resources, including no ground disturbance areas around identified rifle pits and remnants of a winter hut and a strict prohibition on
relic hunting. A cemetery on the property which includes the gravesite of WWI African American veteran Paul Morris, Jr. also will be protected in perpetuity.
Planned trails connecting the property’s historic features and scenic views will accommodate visitor access. Future educational and environmental interpretation will allow visitors of all ages to enjoy an enriching outdoor experience.
Under Virginia’s Conservation Easement Act, a conservation easement is a voluntary act of the property owner and must be compatible with the locality’s comprehensive plan. Henrico County’s 2026 Future Land Use Map designates the property as a “Prime Agriculture and Environmental Protection Area”. CRLC’s and HSWCD’s conservation easement on this property also supports the Comprehensive Plan’s Community Character and Natural, Cultural and Historic Resource objectives to “protect areas with intrinsic natural, historic, and cultural resources.”
Parker Agelasto, Executive Director of the Capital Region Land Conservancy, said, “It’s assuring to know that there are important places like Mr. Welch’s property yet to be conserved that offer such significant value to the community by protecting both natural and historic resources.”
“Working closely with CRLC and HSWCD staff,” said landowner and easement donor Randy Welch, “I have been able to meet my goals for this land and insure a future vision that reveres the property and preserves our ecology and history for the enjoyment of future generations.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: American Battlefield Protection Program Awards $1.7 Million to Support Acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm
DATE: July 6, 2017
RICHMOND, VA - The American Battlefield Protection Program (“ABPP”) has awarded $1,707,500 through a competitive Land and Water Conservation Fund (“LWCF”) Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant (“BLAG”) to the Capital Region Land Conservancy (“CRLC”) in support of its $6,562,000 acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm in Henrico and Charles City Counties. Administered through the National Park Service (NPS), the ABPP was initially created by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1991 and signed into law by the United States Congress with adoption of the American Battlefield Protection Act in 1996. Over the past 19 years, ABPP’s Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants have helped preserve land at 101 Civil War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812 Battlefields in 19 states.
The ABPP “allows for the protection of significant battlefields that cannot always be preserved through public ownership. It is important that our preservation partners help to protect the battlefields in their communities in order for future generations of Americans to understand the important role the events that took place at these sites played in our nation's history.” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said “We must preserve these battlefields for future generations of Americans to remember and understand the impact of sacrifices of those who fought on these hallowed grounds.”
Portions of Malvern Hill Farm are within the boundaries of four Civil War Battlefields as determined by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (“CWSAC”) that was established by the U.S. Congress in 1991 to identify the significant Civil War sites, determine their condition, assess threats to their integrity, and offer alternatives for their preservation and interpretation.. These include (i) core and study areas of the Malvern Hill Battlefield (July 1862), which has a CWSAC Preservation Priority I.1 Class A rating; (ii) core and study areas of the Glendale Battlefield (June 1862), which has a CWSAC Preservation Priority I.3 Class B rating; (iii) core and study areas of the First Deep Bottom Battlefield (July 1864), which has a CWSAC Preservation Priority II.3 Class C rating; and (iv) study area of the Second Deep Bottom Battlefield (August 1864), which has a CWSAC Preservation Priority I.3 Class B rating. ABPP’s Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States published in 2007 also identifies Malvern Hill one of only two sites in Virginia associated with both the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
In July 1781, Marquis de Lafayette along with 2,200 troops maintained a headquarters at Malvern Hill. Many historians credit Lafayette's position at Malvern Hill as preventing General Charles Cornwallis from advancing up the peninsula long enough for George Washington to arrive and force Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown in October 1781.
The name “Malvern Hill,” however, is more strongly associated with a climactic moment in the American Civil War when the entire property lay behind the front infantry and artillery 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 3,100 Union casualties, bringing the Seven Days Battle and the Peninsula Campaign to a close and prompting President Abraham Lincoln to draft the Emancipation Proclamation.
“We are overjoyed to have been awarded this significant grant from the ABPP. It is the largest battlefield grant ever awarded in the Richmond region and constitutes the largest grant in the latest national funding cycle” said Parker Agelasto CRLC’s Executive Director. “LWCF programs have contributed greatly to the protection of America’s natural and historic resources. CRLC is honored to be a recipient. It’s essential that these funds are available to support projects such as Malvern Hill.”
As part of the grant agreement, the ABPP funding requires CRLC to record a conservation easement with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) on roughly 440 acres of the 871± acre Malvern Hill Farm. The remaining portion of the property, roughly 420 acres, not going under DHR easement is being set aside for future inclusion in NPS’s Richmond National Battlefield Park as previously approved by the United States Congress, and 13 acres will be under an easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation where the James River Association will build a public access canoe/kayak launch into Turkey Island Creek.
“Preserving a tract of this size illustrates the power of collaboration. Without a shared vision among multiple partners and a willingness to commit when the opportunity presented itself, this ambitious acquisition would not be possible,” stated Julie Langan, Director of the Department of Historic Resources. “DHR couldn’t be more pleased to participate both as a funder and as a long-term partner in the perpetual stewardship of this extremely significant property.”
The ABPP grant raises the funding secured by CRLC to more than $4.3 million towards this important acquisition. This includes $687,500 from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), $400,000 from the Virginia Battlefields Preservation Fund (VBPF), $100,000 from the Open Space Land Preservation Trust Fund, $60,000 from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, $25,000 from an anonymous donor, $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. The Conservation Fund has also approved financing a bridge loan for the project. Closing is set for early October 2017. CRLC is actively applying for other grants and seeking private donations to support this important acquisition.
The consortium of organizations assisting CRLC in the acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm include American Civil War Museum, Chesapeake Conservancy, Civil War Trust, James River Association, Richmond Battlefields Association, Richmond National Battlefield Park, The Conservation Fund, Virginia Capital Trail Foundation, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and Virginia Outdoors 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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: New Conservation Easement creates 6-acre wooded buffer to Joseph Bryan Park in Henrico County
DATE: April 21, 2017
RICHMOND, VA - Five years ago, members of the Friends of Bryan Park (FOBP) were facing the seeming inevitability of development of the Shirley subdivision in Henrico County adjacent to the forested section of the park near the Nature Center and Environmental Education Area. In 1924, the land had been divided into fourteen lots as part of the Shirley subdivision, but had remained mostly undisturbed through the decades. Suddenly, in 2012, a development proposal intended to build 40 modular houses on roughly 6.5 acres, clear-cutting the forest there and creating a dense neighborhood tucked into a dead end. John and Bucci Zeugner, and many members of Friends of Bryan Park were determined to change the property’s fate. Today their vision became a reality with the recording of a conservation easement on the land they bought to permanently protect.
The Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) and the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) co-hold the easement. CRLC will provide ongoing stewardship with annual monitoring visits. Mr. and Mrs. Zeugner, as the property’s owners, retain all rights of ownership except those expressly prohibited by the easement, primarily residential development and industrial or commercial uses.
”Easements in urban and suburban areas are uniquely challenging and the Zeugners have dedicated years of effort to creating this legacy. Their determination to protect a treasured City Park and actually add to it is an inspiration,” said CRLC Land Conservation Manager Jane Myers.
Under Virginia’s Conservation Easement Act, a conservation easement is a voluntary act of the property owner and must be compatible with the locality’s comprehensive plan. Henrico County’s 2026 Comprehensive Plan lists as an objective the identification and protection of “areas with intrinsic natural, historical, or cultural resources” and encourages “protection of natural and historic resources by the private sector.” It also “encourages the preservation of private open space by supporting the use of conservation and open space easements.”
The 6.5 acres of undeveloped land, now permanently protected by a conservation easement, drains into Upham Brook, a tributary of the Chickahominy River listed as “impaired” by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. “Maintaining the stands of mature, mixed hardwood trees and understory can only help Upham Brook,” noted HSWCD director Nicole Anderson-Ellis. “Nothing is better for water quality than forested buffers around our streams.”
The 6.5-acre parcel also provides a 600-foot wide buffer zone along a 500-foot long portion of the northwestern boundary of Joseph Bryan Park which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This important forested buffer sustains habitat for the park's existing wildlife populations without the threat of encroachment.
Since 1994, Friends of Bryan Park has been committed to the preservation and improvement of Joseph Bryan Park for use as a public park for all citizens. Belle Stewart Bryan and her sons purchased the 262-acre “Rosewood” farm and donated it to the City of Richmond as a memorial park to her late husband. Reflecting the “City Beautiful” movement and the “rustic aesthetic” of the National Park Service, Joseph Bryan Park established “a naturalistic landscape that afforded visitors a retreat from the City.” (City Annual Report, 1918).
Parker Agelasto, Executive Director of the Capital Region Land Conservancy said, “In the spirit of Belle Bryan, the Zeugners’ efforts demonstrate that conservation easements, today, aren’t just for large farms and forests in rural areas. They are also a valuable tool for conserving natural resources on private property in urban and suburban areas. They can connect to rivers and streams, parks and valuable open-space, and expand access and protection to wilderness and habitat conservation areas.”
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