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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