In one of his last official acts as governor of Virginia, Mark Warner signed the deed for 1,100 acres in Stafford County, purchased by the commonwealth for $6.1 million using Virginia Public Buildings Authority bonds. “The Widewater peninsula is one of the most significant, undeveloped properties remaining on this stretch of the Potomac River,” Warner said.
With two miles of river frontage along the Potomac and Aquia Creek, the heavily wooded property will become a state park.
The Widewater peninsula is 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., and a short drive from the booming suburbs of Northern Virginia. “This new state park will be an outdoor haven,” said Warner, “and will preserve a significant portion of some of the commonwealth’s most impressive natural landscape.”
Widewater was purchased from Dominion Resources with assistance from The Trust for Public Land and Stafford County officials. DCR worked alongside the other parties for four years to resolving legal issues related to land use and a proposed development on the site.
“This has been some time in the making. We greatly appreciate the combined efforts of state and county governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, that made this outstanding acquisition possible,” said DCR Director Joseph Maroon.
The purchase price agreed to by Dominion represents a significant savings, as the land has been appraised at $11 million. The Trust for Public Land negotiated the sale, and Senior Project Manager Debi Osborne looked over Warner’s shoulder beaming as he closed the deal.
“The fact that over 1,000 acres of waterfront property are available for conservation during this era of rampant development is practically unheard of,” she said.
Lee County, Va., has a character all its own: a terrain of forested ridges, mountain balds and the historic Cumberland Gap, where Appalachia meets America’s heartland. Sandwiched between Kentucky and Tennessee, Lee County stretches further west than Detroit, Mich.
And only in this far corner of Virginia do you find the Lee County cave isopod (Lirceus usdagalun). The aptly named shrimp-like creature dwells in the limestone caverns of Southwest Virginia and nowhere else.
A federally designated endangered species, the crustacean saw its odds improve in December, when DCR added 77 acres to Cedars Natural Area Preserve. The long-sought property includes a cave with a thriving isopod population.
Because Lee County cave isopods rely on subterranean springs, they are particularly susceptible to groundwater pollution. Protecting the isopods’ dark habitat means protecting water quality above ground.
Rainwater quickly penetrates the karst aquifers of Southwest Virginia. The limestone woodlands at Cedars Natural Area, which now totals 885 acres, serve as an essential filter.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the nation’s endangered species program, facilitated the Cedars purchase. The tract was the 11th to be purchased at Cedars Natural Area since its creation. It was also the 11th parcel added to the state natural area preserve system in 2005.
The system’s recent growth spurt—doubling in size since 2002—began with voter passage of the 2002 state parks and natural areas bond. Bond funds enabled DCR’s Natural Heritage Program to protect 20,796 acres, including a dozen new preserves.
Protected: Grayson Glades Natural Area, May 13, 2003
Habitat loss and illegal collecting threaten this palm-sized turtle. It keeps a low profile by living in wet meadows in Southwest Virginia and other scattered sites in the eastern United States.
Protected: Mount Joy Pond Natural Area, June 15, 2004
Virginia sneezeweed grows in seasonally wet ponds at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. One of the largest known populations is in Mount Joy Pond in the Shenandoah Valley.
Southern purple pitcher plant
Sarracenia purpurea ssp. Venosa
Protected: Cherry Orchard Bog Natural Area, Sept. 15, 2004
Relying heavily on periodic fire to clear competing vegetation, pitcher plants are scattered in just a few places in Virginia. This small population has begun to rebound thanks to prescribed burns.
Basic oak-hickory forest natural community
Protected: Elklick Woodlands Natural Area, Jan. 20, 2004
Basic oak-hickory forests are one of the most species-rich natural communities in Virginia. One of the finest remaining examples was protected when Fairfax County dedicated this natural area.
Sea level fen natural community
Protected: Mutton Hunk Fen Natural Area, April 8, 2005
One of our rarest natural communities, Virginia’s few sea level fens are on the Eastern Shore. Fresh groundwater percolates to the surface, minimizing the effects of the tide to create a predominantly freshwater marsh fringed by salt marsh.
Four years ago, I was given the honor and responsibility of leading the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Soon thereafter, we set to work on an agency action plan. I encouraged DCR staff to honestly evaluate where we were and where we needed to go. The resulting document, Vision 2006, outlined nine goals for the department.
Well, 2006 has arrived, so where do we stand? I am pleased that we have reached many of our objectives and made significant headway on others. DCR has assumed new responsibilities associated with the general obligation bond, new parkland and natural areas, Chesapeake Bay Local Assistances, federal and state stormwater responsibilities, dam safety compliance, and new tributary strategies. This column highlights considerable achievements but is by no means a complete list. Many thanks to the dedicated DCR staff and partners who contributed to the successes of the past four years. I look forward to working you over the coming years.
Goal 1: Pass and effectively implement the 2002 State Parks and Natural Areas General Obligation Bond. The citizens of Virginia did their part, passing the bond referendum with an overwhelming majority. DCR utilized bond funds for upgrades and acquisitions across the Commonwealth. Just in time for Virginia State Park’s 70th anniversary, six of our 34 parks will boast new cabins, eight new or improved campgrounds, three new visitor centers and one a new marina. Our park system grew as well, acquiring land for future parks in Powhatan, Gloucester, Shenandoah, Stafford and the Farmville area. Bond funds also enabled Virginia’s Natural Area Preserve system to double in size, with a dozen new natural areas plus 41 new tracts of land. We now protect more than 40,000 acres and 500 rare plants, animals and natural communities.
Goal 2: Make land conservation and protection a signature activity of DCR. We began with the Virginia Land Conservation Needs Assessment, an online mapping tool that identifies critical lands for preservation. In 2005, we reinstated DCR’s Office of Land Conservation and, thanks to investments by Gov. Mark Warner and the General Assembly, conducted two rounds of Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grants. A total of $12.7 million in matching grants will protect more than 12,000 acres of farmland, battlefields and nature preserves. Well over $30 million in requests were submitted.
Goal 3: Accelerate real improvements in water quality by enhancing related DCR program effectiveness. This is perhaps our most challenging goal, and it will remain a challenge in the years ahead. Nevertheless, we have enhanced program effectiveness with changes to our Agricultural Best Management Practices (Ag BMP) Cost-Share Program, new incentives for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and a $300,000 investment in outreach to the farm community. Our urban water quality programs—Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance, Stormwater Management and Erosion and Sediment Control—have been streamlined and strengthened as well, with locality compliance rates rising as a result. Over the past two years, we have received a sizeable increase in funding to address nonpoint source pollution and anticipate additional funding will emerge from this year’s General Assembly. However, without additional resources for service delivery, DCR and local soil and water conservation districts will be severely handicapped in meeting Virginia’s water quality goals.
Goal 4: Improve stewardship of DCR’s lands, workplaces and facilities, and model stewardship principles for other public properties. DCR committed to incorporating environmentally sensitive building principles into our new construction. The highlight thus far is our state-of-the-art visitor center at Wilderness Road State Park, one of the first state-owned buildings to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. DCR intends, when possible, to add LEED buildings in other state parks. DCR also helped to initiate and develop a resource stewardship component for the state’s Agency Management Scorecard.
Goal 5: Protect public safety by effectively administering the Dam Safety Act and Floodplains Management Program and through education of local governments, the public and private dam owners. In 2002, the General Assembly greatly increased the number of dams potentially subject to the Dam Safety Act, dropping the minimum dam height from 25 feet to 6 for water bodies larger than 50 acre-feet. DCR’s Dam Safety and Floodplain Management Division has performed admirably despite being woefully understaffed. By 2005, an additional 40 high-hazard dams were under state regulation. Owners of more than 560 of Virginia dams now hold operation and maintenance certificates. DCR also initiated successful legislation encouraging localities to map dams and inundation zones. We are currently advancing legislation that, if adopted, will improve our enforcement options and offer financial assistance for dam repairs.
Goal 6: Promote the adequate funding for the operation, maintenance, acquisition and development of facilities and programs in Virginia State Parks. This has been a priority for the past four years and will remain so in the future. I believe that the governor and state legislature agree that Virginia State Parks are a sound investment. Last year’s allocations increased park staff by more than 57—a record for the department—and supplemented the cost of new cabins and campsites. Private citizens have invested in our parks too; we received major land donations at Chippokes Plantation and the future Seven Bends State Park. We continue to seek funding in line with the 2000 recommendations by the Commission on the Future of Virginia’s Environment. Newly acquired parkland will be “land banked” until funding to develop and operate new parks is provided.
Goal 7: Broaden and build DCR’s constituencies and support for Virginia’s natural resources. DCR has numerous constituents and we have strengthen our working relationships with several key groups over the past few years: soil and water conservation districts, local governments, the agriculture community, other agencies, nonprofits and “friends of” groups, land trusts, developers, businesses, watershed roundtables, etc. We will continue to seek common ground and mutual support as we move ahead.
Goal 8: Enhance our environmental education offerings and opportunities as related to DCR’s mission and stakeholders. DCR implemented a Conservation Education Plan and assembled a working group from across the agency’s program areas. In addition to workshops for educators such as the Chesapeake Bay Academy, DCR crafted educational messages aimed at various age groups. DCR recently developed Capt. John Smith’s Trail on the James River. The companion poster, trail guide and Website offer information not only about Smith’s adventures, but also the cultural and environmental changes the Chesapeake Bay has seen since he explored it.
Goal 9: Build and better utilize DCR’s many citizen boards. In 2003, DCR oversaw the consolidation of 18 local scenic river boards into a single statewide board. DCR’s affiliated boards have enjoyed strengthened membership and mission. Two of our boards, the Virginia Board of Soil and Water Conservation, and the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board, recently met for the first time in combined session with the State Water Control Board to discuss common water quality goals.
Just two days after his inauguration in Williamsburg, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine reappointed DCR Director Joseph Maroon, making Maroon the first department head to serve two administrations since L. Douglas Wilder reappointed B.C. “Bud” Leynes Jr. in 1990.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the Commonwealth and to join Gov. Kaine and Secretary Bryant in their vision for ‘Moving Virginia Forward,’” said Maroon.
“This is a reaffirmation of the hard work and commitment of everyone at DCR,” Maroon continued, “and a chance to build upon the successes we achieved together over these past four years. It will be a privilege and an honor to continue my public service here at DCR.”
Prior to his appointment as DCR director by Gov. Mark Warner in 2002, Maroon worked for nearly 17 years as executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia office. He also worked for seven years with the Virginia General Assembly's watchdog agency, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. He holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Virginia Tech.
On this winter day, the trenches that run along the bluff of Fisher’s Hill are scarcely visible beneath a blanket of snow. Wind whispers in the cedars and pines above a shallow pit where once a cannon thundered.
A ribbon of white at the base of the hill, the original Valley Turnpike, long since rerouted, remains visible against the slope. It stops at a stone abutment beside Tumbling Run, all that remains of a bridge that saw pitched hand-to-hand combat during the Civil War.
John Hutchinson, resource protection manager for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, walks among the trees at the crest of Fisher’s Hill. “You can see the earthworks running there,” he says, pointing to a trench line that extends through the forest. “That line continues along the edge of the hilltop.”
With him is Elizabeth Paradis Stern, the foundation’s manager for public and government relations. Beaming with pride, they discuss the prospects for interpretive signage and visitor facilities on this battlefield, newly acquired with a $212,000 grant from the DCR-administered Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF).
In the fall of 1864—two years after Stonewall Jackson famously drove Union troops from the Shenandoah Valley—Gen. Ulysses S. Grant appointed Gen. Philip Sheridan to lead a new assault on the Confederate Army’s breadbasket.
A cavalryman, Sheridan orchestrated a charge that took Winchester on Sept. 19. The retreating Confederates dug in atop Fisher’s Hill, overlooking the Valley Turnpike. But despite the strength of their position, they were outnumbered and outflanked.
A month later, the Confederates mustered a surprise attack in the Battle of Cedar Creek only to be beaten back, firing as they fled along the turnpike. In the shadow of Fisher’s Hill, the Valley fell to the Union. The defeat presaged the fall of Richmond the following year.
“From this perspective, you can see the road and really get a sense of how the battle happened,” Stern says as she surveys the ground below. “This the perfect vantage point for interpretation.”
Although the visitor amenities she envisions are months away, the hilltop is already more picturesque than when the Battlefields Foundation acquired it last summer. “A former owner had dumped a lot of trash back here,” sighs Hutchinson. “There was on old car sitting on those earthworks.”
While Civil War rifles no longer echo at the base of Fisher’s Hill, the fight to save historic battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley rages on. For more than a century, the Valley’s agricultural economy preserved the land much as soldiers saw it. But today, industrial and suburban sprawl threaten to erase evidence of the War Between the States.
There is no shortage of well-intentioned landowners, but preservationists find it daunting to raise a fair price for property and easements. “We have an existing acquisition program with about 35 projects in the queue,” Hutchinson explains. Those projects total $12 million, but the foundation has only $3 million in the bank. “Some state money is essential at this point,” says Hutchinson.
Congress designated the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District in 1996, and the Department of Interior chartered the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation four years later. Its management plan was crafted to take full advantage of VLCF. But in 2001, the well dried up. VLCF went unfunded by the cash-strapped General Assembly.
“When VLCF was funded again last year, we were overjoyed,” says Hutchinson, “It’s a really good fit.” The foundation’s matching grants enabled Shenandoah Battlefields to leverage its federal funding and double its purchasing power.
More than $12 million was awarded in two VLCF grant rounds announced last year. In all, 34 projects representing 12,000 acres received funding.
“The striking thing about the VLCF is that it is a broad-based program,” says DCR land conservation coordinator Sarah Richardson. “There are four categories: open spaces and parks, historic resources, farmlands and forestlands, and natural areas. That brings in a lot of different kinds of projects.”
Grant applications are reviewed by an interagency task force that includes DCR, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Departments of: Forestry, Game and Inland Fisheries, Historic Resources, and Agriculture and Consumer Services. “There are so many different types of land conservation projects in Virginia, and the program is intended to find the best projects by going through a careful scoring process,” Richardson explains.
“As you can imagine, there can be farmland that has a historic house on it or open space that includes some forestry land,” she adds. “That’s taken into account when scoring the projects.” In the case of historic battlefields, the land is often in agricultural use, and preservationists want to keep it in production.
Using another VLCF grant for $245,000, Shenandoah Battlefields will soon acquire an easement on a farm at Cedar Creek Battlefield. Hutchinson recently toured the site with staff from the Virginia Department of Forestry. He hopes the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) will enable the landowner to create riparian buffers on land bordering the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.
And he has even bigger plans for the 247-acre Huntsberry Farm near Winchester. The November round of VLCF grants awarded Shenandoah Battlefields a $1 million dollar match towards purchase of the property, the last unprotected battlefield in the hamlet-turned-boomtown. “It’s under contract to someone who wants to develop it contingent on rezoning,” says Hutchinson. Rejection by the local zoning board would scuttle the sale. “If that happens, our goal is to have an offer on the table.”
On a chilly autumn day, with Shenandoah River rolling past in the background, state and local officials dedicated Seven Bends State Park near Woodstock in Shenandoah County. Named for a series of oxbow curves in the river, the 1,066-acre site has almost four miles of river frontage.
Dr. James R. Myers of Franklin, Ohio, donated a majority of the as-yet undeveloped property. His gift of several parcels totals 675 acres. The Town of Woodstock donated 85 acres to the new state park, and town officials were instrumental in introducing DCR planners to Myers.
“With the pace of development in the state, donations such as those by Dr. Myers and the people of Woodstock are more important—and appreciated—than at any time in our history,” said outgoing Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. DCR has long eyed the Seven Bends area as a possible park site. Two years ago, the national nonprofit Trust for Public Land negotiated the state’s purchase of the 306-acre Camp Luton property, which is contiguous to the donated lands.
“We need to thank our long-time partners at The Trust for Public Land,” said DCR Director Joseph Maroon. “The Camp Lupton property was paid for using funds from the 2002 state parks and natural areas bonds. So we have about two-thirds of Virginia’s voters to also thank for the acquisition.” Maroon also credited key DCR staff, including Joe Elton, director of state parks; John Davy, director of planning and recreation resources; and Tyson Van Auken for their indispensable aid.
DCR has six new parks in development. Master plans are being scheduled for new parks in Powhatan, Gloucester and Stafford counties as well as for High Bridge Rail Trail, a linear park that passes through Farmville and four neighboring counties.
“We are all anxious to get this park opened,” Maroon told onlookers at the Seven Bends dedication. “However, first we need to develop a master plan using a very public process. We need to have the people of this area and the state give us their ideas regarding what they want to see in their new state park.”
What did the bond provide?
• $119 million total
• $36.5 million for land acquisition for parks and natural areas
• $4.5 million to prevent severe shoreline erosion at several parks
• $78 million for construction, improvements, trails and repairs
• Chippokes Plantation State Park - New water system
• First Landing State Park - Improved campground, new bathhouses
• Grayson Highlands State Park - Renovated visitor center, improved campground
• Hungry Mother State Park - New campground acquired
• Lake Anna State Park - New cabins
• Leesylvania State Park - New picnic shelter, rebuilt boat piers
• Staunton River Battlefield State Park - Renovated Mulberry Hill Plantation
• Wilderness Road State Park - New visitor center, new parking areas and roads
Projects under construction
• Bear Creek Lake State Park - New cabins and meeting facility
• Belle Isle State Park - New visitor center and campground
• Chippokes Plantation State Park - New campground, renovations to historic buildings
• Claytor Lake State Park - New cabins and lodges, upgrades to marina
• James River State Park - New campground, cabins and lodges
• Kiptopeke State Park - New lodges
• Lake Anna State Park - New campground and laundry
• New River Trail State Park - Expanded water system
• Occoneechee State Park - New cabins and equestrian campground
• Pocahontas State Park - New cabins, expanded campground
In December, Virginia’s governor-elect Tim Kaine appointed Lynchburg delegate Preston Bryant to succeed the retiring Tayloe Murphy as secretary of natural resources. Bryant earned a reputation as a pragmatic environmentalist while serving the General Assembly. He sponsored successful bills to protect nontidal wetlands, restructure stormwater management and create a nutrient-credit trading program for sewage treatment plants and other point-source polluters. We spoke with him in January.
What life experiences inspired you to champion Virginia’s natural resources?
My wife, Liz, and I avidly canoe and kayak Virginia’s rivers, and we also do a good deal of hiking. Just a few months ago, we spent time in Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking in the 10,000-foot range. I also have fond memories of spending time with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at Port Isobel, soon after I was first elected, which I mark as perhaps a seminal event that sparked wonderful interest in our bay.
Legislatively, I have worked steadily over the course of my decade in the House of Delegates to advance a number of rather significant bills … which I strongly believe will do a great deal to improve our state’s water quality.
What are some of your aspirations for the year ahead?
First, I want to get to better understand the departments within the secretariat … getting to know to the extent possible, the more than 2,000 employees across the departments.
Second, it’s vitally important that the regulations associated with the nutrient-credit trading program be solidly formed and that the market soon sort out the value of credits to be traded.
And I also look forward to taking direction from Gov. Kaine and providing input from the natural resources secretariat on his high-priority initiative of better integrating land-use planning with transportation planning. This will mean working closely with Secretary Pierce Homer and his transportation colleagues.
Farmers have a key role to play in meeting Virginia’s water quality and land conservation goals. How do we involve and empower them? We must continue working very closely with the agricultural community.
Secretary [of Agriculture and Consumer Services] Bob Bloxom is an old friend, and I look forward to fully involving him in our water quality and open space preservation policies.
Our agricultural community is a key part of our state economy, not to mention a historic part. I believe farming generates $50 billion annually. Thus, it’s very important that our policies recognize this. The BMP cost-share and CREP programs appeal to farmers as business owners. With increased funding and a streamlined enrollment process, they hold great promise.
It is in the farming community’s best interest to be good stewards of their land. Doing so goes to the heart of their livelihood … Our work must appeal to and be complementary to their inherent notions of stewardship.
Outside your life in public service, you worked at a planning firm in Lynchburg. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Virginia’s growing cities, and how can the state help?
I worked for more than a decade at Hurt and Proffitt Inc., a highly regarded engineering, surveying and planning firm that always worked with natural resources stewardship in mind. While I am not an engineer, working there taught me an incredible amount about the industry as well as land-use and transportation planning …
To preserve open spaces while also addressing transportation challenges, it is my personal feeling that we need to be much more focused on encouraging urban infill development and brownfield restoration. I also believe that “sustainable development” ought to be more than simply a new-urbanism buzzword. We should develop business-friendly policies that drive sustainable development.
You earned a master’s degree in literature and chair the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities board. Does that background give you a fresh perspective on natural and historic resources?
I would like to think so. My master’s focus was actually on Joseph Conrad’s use of landscape to represent character development and the broader human condition in a number of his novels. I have served on the VFH board for nearly a decade. It is an organization whose mission is to advance Virginia history, among other things. And virtually nothing is more historical in Virginia than our natural and historic resources.
Finally, what is the role of the average Virginian in protecting our resources?
The greatest thing we can do, broadly speaking, is teach Virginians the benefits of environmental stewardship … The more we preach the message of river and bay cleanup, the more we pitch the virtues of our Blue Ridge Mountains, and the more we preserve our historic structures, then the more our citizenry will develop an inherent desire to be good stewards of our land, water and air.
Toward that end, we can work with the state Board of Education to continue integrating environmental education in the Standards of Learning; we can foster hunting and fishing stewardship and safety programs through DGIF; we can educate homeowners on the benefits of reducing, if not abandoning, lawn fertilizers; and the list goes on.
Our state parks are excellent venues for helping Virginians better understand their relationship with the natural world, and we should continue to model low-impact development, native-plant landscaping and recycling as our park system grows.
Gov. Mark Warner unveiled Virginia’s newest trail—Capt. John Smith’s Trail on the James River—on Nov. 29, 2005, at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. “The trail is an exciting opportunity to experience the James River and the wonders of the Chesapeake Bay just as Smith did,” he told a crowd of environmentalists and educators.
“Now, visitors and students can retrace Smith’s journeys in a kayak or canoe as well as from a car or a classroom.”
With the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement only a year away, Virginia is gearing up for an influx of visitors. A Hollywood film based on John Smith’s exploits, a National Geographic documentary and scores of popular history books have piqued the public interest.
It was with 2007 celebrants in mind that DCR designed the boat and auto tour, which stretches along the James from Richmond to Newport News. User maps will be available along the route this spring. The trail’s next leg, on the York River, is slated for completion in November.
In developing the trail, DCR worked closely with the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Virginia Council on Indians and Jamestown 2007. The Conservation Fund, National Geographic, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the James River Association also lent their support to the effort.
The trail will continue to beckon visitors to explore Virginia’s natural beauty well beyond 2007. In fact, pending the results of a National Park Service feasibility study, the trail may become part of a larger network with a lengthy name: the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail.
At a November meeting of Chesapeake Bay governors and leaders, Warner announced that Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia would together contribute more than $50,000 towards completion of the Park Service study.
The Bay Program’s state and federal partners also signed a watershed-wide education agreement that calls for members to “leverage” public interest in Jamestown and John Smith “into a lifelong commitment to Chesapeake Bay watershed protection and restoration.”
DCR designed Capt. John Smith’s Trail to do just that. Boaters and motorists retrace Smith’s “Adventures on the James,” and along the way discover the native plants and animals that so amazed Smith. Smith’s story unfolds—his capture by the paramount chief Powhatan and subsequent rise to president of the colony—against the backdrop of an unspoiled river teeming with wildlife.
That same story comes alive for those who travel the “virtual” trail online at www.JohnSmithTrail.org. Hosted by Virginia Tourism Corp., the site features an interactive map, extended interpretive text and related links. Teachers are encouraged to use the site in their classrooms or when planning field trips to trail stops such as Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Chippokes Plantation State Park and Mariners’ Museum.
Finally, a color poster of the trail is available free of charge to Virginia educators. Featuring elements drawn from Smith’s 1612 “Map of Virginia,” the poster features brief descriptions of each site and its significance. Teachers should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
DCR will assist the John Smith 400 Project stage an April 2007 reenactment of the colonists’ arrival at First Landing State Park. A crew of 15 will then retrace a leg of Smith’s Bay explorations by oar and sail. The voyage is intended to raise awareness and support for the proposed Chesapeake national water trail.
The project’s re-creation of Smith’s shallop debuted last November in Chestertown, Md. Outgoing Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Tayloe Murphy told the crowd, “Virginia’s James and York trails can serve as models for the development of a Bay-wide water trail. The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and there is no better way to discover the real Chesapeake than from the water—just as John Smith did.”
The John Smith 400 Project is a partnership between education nonprofit Sultana Projects and the Friends of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail. For information, including a schedule of the shallop’s museum tour, visit www.JohnSmith400.org.
DCR Director Joseph Maroon took his boss by surprise at December’s holiday brunch, unveiling a rendering of Tayloe and Helen Murphy Hall. The historic building at Westmoreland State Park will be renovated using private, donated funds and renamed in honor of outgoing Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. and his wife.
Murphy’s initial recreation was one of momentary disbelief: “You mean you’re going to name something after me?” Upon hearing details for the proposed Murphy Hall, he said, “You could not have done anything for Helen and me that would have meant more to us.” Murphy was born in Virginia’s Northern Neck and resides not far from Westmoreland State Park. He fondly recalled attending dances and social functions at the building during his youth.
Built by the Civilian Coservation Corps in the mid-1930s, the building’s interior features exposed beams, a large brick fireplace and wrought iron hardware forged by a blacksmith on site. Once the park’s restaurant, it will soon be renovated to better accommodate meetings, special events and environmental education.
“It is appropriate that we recognize Tayloe and Helen during the 70th anniversary of the Virginia State Park system,” said Maroon. “Combined they have an immeasurable legacy in helping Virginia protect both our natural and historic resources.”
Prior to being appointed Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources by Gov. Mark Warner in 2002, Murphy served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1982 to 2000. During his tenure in the General Assembly, he chaired the Chesapeake Bay Commission and spearheaded passage of landmark legislation, including the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Act.
“I’m retiring from state service, not the environmental movement,” said Murphy. “I may be leaving, but I’m not letting go.”
Helen Murphy has also been active in protecting Virginia’s natural and historical resources. She now serves on the Virginia Historic Resources Board and is a past member of the Virginia Board of Conservation and Recreation. She has also served on master plan advisory committees for Caledon Natural Area and Westmoreland State Park.
Long active in the Garden Clubs of Virginia, in 2002 the Murphys were awarded the Massie Medal for Distinguished Achievement, the GCV’s oldest and most prestigious award, for their work with the Garden Club of Northern Neck.
Besides landscaping worthy of its namesakes, the historic building gets new heating and air conditioning, upgraded and accessible bathrooms, and three upgraded meeting rooms. Perched atop pale dolomite cliffs, Murphy Hall will retain its timeless view of the Potomac River rolling below.
The Virginia Turfgrass Council and DCR present an Erosion and Sediment Control Workshop, with a focus on effective techniques for establishing vegetation at work sites, March 8 in Fredericksburg. Register online at www.thevtc.org.
Educators who wish to learn more about the 2006 Project Learning Tree Environmental Education Activity Guide can choose between one-day workshops in Richmond, Feb. 25 and March 25, and near Providence Forge, March 3. The new guide features 96 activities correlated to Virginia’s Standards of Learning. Contact Lisa Deaton at (804) 328-3031 or email@example.com.
Learn how karst topography, with its caverns and aquifers, influences watersheds and ecosystems in Appalachian Virginia at DCR’s Project Underground Training, March 1–2 at Douthat State Park. Educators can attend a six-hour curriculum session on March 1 or attend the full training to become a Project Underground facilitator. Call Carol Zokaites at (540) 831-4057.
The League of American Bicyclists hosts the 2006 National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., March 1–3. With a focus on building bike-friendly communities, the conference will provide with models for local use of federal transportation dollars. Visit www.bikeleague.org for details.
The Hampton Roads office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation hosts Green Breakfasts the second Saturday of “odd” months at Uncle Louie’s Restaurant in Norfolk. The March 11 breakfast will feature a one-hour Bay-Friendly Landscaping Workshop. For more information, consult the calendar at www.cbf.org.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the American Community Gardening Association present their Growing Communities Workshop on March 17–18 at Saint John’s Church in Richmond. The two all-day sessions will address fundraising and coalition building in the fields of community gardening and urban forestry. Visit www.acb-online.org or call (804) 775-0951.
Register now for Environment Virginia 2006, April 18–20 at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. In its 16th year, the conference brings together environmental agencies and private sector stakeholders. This year’s theme is “Linking Economic and Environmental Health.” Register at www.environmentva.org.