First bond projects detailed | Message from director | Watershed profile | Virginia Flora effort underway | Ward Burton signs on as parks promoter | Chesapeake Bay, river sojourns | 2003 Virginia Outdoors Plan released | New DCR land conservation website | Kiptopeke receives award from birder group | Lee Hill honored for shoreline work | 10 state parks on list of top 100
In November 2002, Virginia voters said "yes" to a $119 million general obligation bond to fund the conservation of the state's important natural heritage and provide more recreational offerings. Of immediate priority is acquisition of land for parks and natural areas. DCR will choose from among five nominated sites on the Middle Peninsula and will purchase land in the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River. Next DCR will investigate property in the upper Shenandoah Valley for another park acquisition.
Natural Heritage staff is actively discussing natural area preserve acquisitions with landowners. In addition, using the Virginia Public Building Authorities bond money, they are conserving limestone barrens in Lee County, sinkhole pond communities in the Shenandoah Valley, Piedmont grassland and coastal plain bog communities, and old growth cypress wetlands along the Blackwater River as natural area preserves.
The governor's Capital Implementation Plan (CIP) outlines 29 first-phase bond projects. Some are large-scale construction, "which will finally make parks bought by 1992 bond money destination attractions for visitors," according to John Davy, DCR planning and recreation resources director.
Park visitors, 40 percent from out of state, contributed $144 million to the state's economy in 2001. Initial bond projects include cabins and campgrounds at Lake Anna, James River and Shenandoah River state parks; visitor centers at Belle Isle and Wilderness Road; overnight lodges at Kiptopeke; cabins and a small meeting facility at Bear Creek Lake; and the renovation and stabilization of historic structures at Chippokes Plantation State Park.
As money is available in July, planning and design can proceed this summer. Construction for first-phase projects may begin at the end of 2003, but most will occur in 2004. Certain of these facilities could be on-line for the 2004 parks season, but the majority will wait until 2005.
Future issues of Grassroots will detail the next bond project phases, as well as timelines for their availability. All projects are expected to be complete in five to six years. The state will have spent $78 million on facilities and infrastructure improvements for its parks.
Grassroots has returned! The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's quarterly newsletter is back after a two-year hiatus. We are bringing it back to reconnect to our readers and constituents, new and old. We intend to present useful information about the department's programs and related efforts. DCR programs and activities - state parks, soil and water conservation, watershed protection, dam safety, natural heritage, land conservation and conservation education - touch virtually every Virginian.
Grassroots readers are important to us. I hope you will share your thoughts and ideas. We need to know what you would like to see included in future issues. We are challenging ourselves in these very difficult times to make progress as we carry out the agency's mission of caring for the natural and outdoor recreation resources with which we have been entrusted. But we need your help. New partnerships, new thinking and renewed commitments will make a difference.
Grassroots offers us one forum for dialogue with you. While we are initially bringing it back in print, we encourage you to look on page 3 to see how you can be alerted to an electronic e-mail version that will help us save on expenses and on resources. As always, your subscription is free.
As I complete my first year here at DCR, I want to thank all of you who volunteer or partner with us. Virginia's natural resources are better because of you.
- Joseph H. Maroon, DCR Director
Upcoming issues of Grassroots will feature Virginia watershed profiles. These will highlight people, groups and activities in Virginia's 14 major watersheds. They will demonstrate efforts to conserve, maintain and restore natural resources. The examples result from coordinating and integrating programs, tools, resources and stakeholder needs.
As you read them, you will notice many similar phrases and activities. The activities, which range from meetings and workshops to promotional, educational and volunteer opportunities, revolve around improving and maintaining Virginia's natural resources and environment. The profiles are intended to deliver news of progress, instigate ideas and promote activities that can be duplicated throughout the state for successful stewardship in communities that make up these watersheds.
DCR regional contact: Neal Kilgore in Abingdon, (276) 676-5529.
Who to know: Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and Big Sandy River Basin Coalition.
The Upper Tennessee River Roundtable Inc. first met in 1999. Once all volunteers, the group now has a paid coordinator, Brian Schmidt. Twenty-six board members represent regional conservation interests.
The roundtable has a watershed strategic plan and is coordinated by members from agencies and organizations that have committed financially and/or technically to achieving the plan's goals.
The UTRR is being considered for a $1.3 million Watershed Initiative Grant from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For more information, contact Schmidt at (276) 646-2892 or log onto the website at www.uppertnriver.org.
Virginia shares the Big Sandy River basin with neighbors Kentucky and West Virginia. The states' abbreviations (KY, WV, VA) were translated into the rally cry, "Keep Your Watershed Vision Alive."
Big Sandy River is the seventh most endangered river in the country because a mineshaft beneath a coal slurry impoundment collapsed, suffocating aquatic life in the water and threatening public water supplies in October 2000. EPA called it one of the worst environmental disasters to ever occur in the southeast.
The Big Sandy Coalition, still in its infancy, is beginning to make a difference that shows mainly in people's attitudes and enthusiasm. Robert "Bobby" Hall is chair of the coalition. He also chairs the Big Sandy Soil and Water Conservation District and is a member of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board. For more information regarding the Big Sandy River Basin Coalition, call Hall at (276) 566-8985 or Clark Allison at (606) 789-7706. The website is www.kywatersheds.org/Big_Little_Sandy/BSbasin.htm.
What's going on: Watershed management, resource restoration, a "sign" of things to come and land trust news
* Riders and hikers might be surprised to come upon a 7-by-4 foot four-color sign in the middle of the Virginia Creeper Trail in Washington County. Entitled "Improving the river neighborhood," the sign explains how a nearby 17-acre riparian buffer protects water quality in the South Fork Holston River, enhances recreation and wildlife, and satisfies the needs of the farmer whose land it's on.
DCR staff recognized an education potential for the many bikers, hikers and equestrian enthusiasts who frequent the Creeper Trail, and the agency took the initiative to fund the sign. Sponsors include the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and Canaan Valley Institute. See it on the www.fibresign.com website!
* In the Finley Creek watershed, a sub-watershed of the Upper Tennessee-Big Sandy, a group of 30 landowners met to discuss logging road stabilization, riparian restoration, unauthorized all-terrain vehicle traffic and illegal dumping. Emory & Henry College intern Jessica Ambrister, working in DCR's local watershed office, researched landowner records, contacted landowners and arranged logistical details for the meeting.
Landowners and representatives from the Holston River SWCD, Virginia Department of Forestry and the Nature Conservancy identified key issues and brainstormed potential solutions. Washington County Supervisor Bobby Ingle attended the meeting. Solutions to issues are being pursued, and they meet next in June.
* In Washington County, a proposed development project and the county's comprehensive plan sparked interest and controversy. To help educate local decision-makers and citizens, DCR's Upper Tennessee-Big Sandy Watershed Office coordinated a low-impact development and stormwater management forum. Nearly half the 35-member audience was county supervisors, town council members or Washington County employees. A professional engineer from Anderson & Associates spoke, and DCR's Phyllis Hinch was on the technical expert panel that fielded questions.
* Land trusts are gaining more attention in the conservation of natural resources and open space in Virginia. In Abingdon, potential interest for developing a land trust to complement efforts of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and Western Virginia Land Trust led to a meeting of about 15 people. VOF, Mount Rogers Planning District Commission and DCR were at the table. Those gathered decided to affiliate with a group called Mountain Heritage Inc. (MHI), whose founder Frank Kilgore is the new VOF chair. MHI has a broad scope, including watershed management activities. A recent MHI project was the replacement of 26 "straight pipes" with septic systems along Lick Creek, a Clinch River tributary; the group used a $50,000 Water Quality Improvement Fund grant to do so. MHI also cleaned up the largest illegal dumpsite in Southwest Virginia, a 50-year-old site in the Clinch River watershed.
The land trust is focusing on Washington, Russell and Smyth counties, though all counties in the Upper Tennessee-Big Sandy rivers watershed will be served as more people learn about its work. Bill Wasserman of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is leading this effort. Coincidentally, Wasserman was recently recruited to be a director on the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable board.
John Clayton, whom Thomas Jefferson considered America's finest botanist, developed Virginia's first and only systematic account of flora in 1739. More than 250 years later, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is helping support the Foundation for the Flora of Virginia Project as its members develop the first comprehensive document since Clayton's work.
A flora is an identification manual of plants that grow naturally in an area. The manual will be used in the field, classroom and library as a key reference to Virginia's plants. Anyone interested in Virginia's plant life must now rely on out-of-date floras developed for neighboring regions or states. These floras lack critical components to make them useful to Virginians. The format and text of the new work will be designed for use by Virginia educators to introduce the state's plants to its citizens and to enrich the knowledge of the state's more advanced botanists.
According to DCR Director Joseph Maroon, a modern flora will help natural resource professionals provide more reliable information about Virginia's plant life. "This resource will help citizens, land planners and decision-makers make more informed land use decisions," said Maroon.
DCR provides office space, equipment and staff to support the project. Foundation members' primary responsibilities are developing the manual and raising more than $1 million for production costs.
"A well informed public is key to confronting environmental challenges," said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. "Helping Virginians better understand the natural world is critical to conservation of the natural treasures that sustain us."
The Flora of Virginia's primary authors, Chris Ludwig and Alan Weakley, also head a 51-member advisory team of the state's best botanists. The entire project is expected to take five years and, as of December 2002, volunteers from the team agreed to complete the first of three steps to identify about 1,500 (more than half the commonwealth's) plant species. "At standard rates for botanical consultation, this asistance is worth more than $100,000," Ludwig said.
The guide will contain as many as 4,000 illustrations. A project illustrator completed 25 illustrations in 2002; she and her counterpart then have only 3,975 to go! Their goal for 2003 is to finish 300, and their time is worth another $10,000.
An 11-member board leads the foundation. Board members are Dr. Donna Ware, former curator of the College of William and Mary herbarium and a coauthor of the Atlas of the Virginia Flora; Michael Lipford, vice president and Virginia executive director of the Nature Conservancy; Nicky Staunton, president of the Virginia Native Plant Society; Dr. Chip Morgan, representative of the Wintergreen Nature Foundation; Marion Lobstein, vice president of the Virginia Academy of Science; Tom Smith, DCR Natural Heritage Program director; Mike Garson, a Virginia attorney; Joslin Gallatin, formerly with the Foundation of the State Arboretum; Ann Regn, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality educator; Deborah Roach, board member at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; and Chris Ludwig, DCR's chief biologist and executive director and board president of the Foundation for the Flora of Virginia Project.
The foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Donations to the project are tax-deductible. For more information about the Flora of Virginia, contact Chris Ludwig at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the DCR website at www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/.
NASCAR Winston Cup driver Ward Burton is the new spokesperson for Virginia State Parks.
"Ward and the parks are a natural fit," Gov. Mark Warner said in announcing the partnership. "He is a Virginia native deeply involved in his community. Virginia state parks are family-oriented attractions that entertain guests from around the country and are vital parts of the local communities they serve."
Burton narrates radio and television state park public service announcements. The That Winning Feeling spots began airing on more than 80 radio and nearly 30 television stations across the state in February. A second PSA, narrated by Governor Warner, also continues to air.
Burton, who resides in Halifax County, also established the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, www.twbwf.org, to promote wildlife conservation and proper natural resources stewardship. The foundation now manages land along the Staunton River to maintain suitable wildlife habitat. It is raising money to acquire adjoining land and develop an environmental education center.
What? Week-long expeditions to highlight major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Participants can canoe and camp for a day or the whole week. Each day's trip is about 10 miles and features educational programs and water quality activities.
Where? There are two sojourns in Virginia. The first is in the James River (June 22 - 29) from James River State Park to Richmond. The second is in the Potomac River (June 14 - 21) from the District of Columbia to Nanjemoy Creek, Md.
Contact information: Hadley Milliken, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, (804) 775-0951
Jamie Alberti, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, (202) 466-4633.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has produced its latest rendition of the state's comprehensive outdoor recreation and open space conservation plan. The document is available in hard copy or on CD, or it can be downloaded from the DCR website. Check www.dcr.virginia.gov/recreational_planning/vop.shtml for ordering information.
This version includes, for the first time, a chapter on sustainable development. This chapter is one reason the 2002 Virginia Outdoors Plan (VOP) is considered more comprehensive than other such plans. The National Park Service calls it one of the nation's best.
In a new format, the plan is organized along 21 planning regions of the state - local planning district commissions or their equivalents. The document is relevant for local governments as they strive to manage resources to benefit citizens and visitors to Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has a new website to help those interested in conserving and protecting Virginia's open spaces. The extensive site at www.dcr.virginia.gov/land_conservation/ provides answers, tools, contacts, references and other information needed for effective land conservation.
Call (804) 225-2048 or write email@example.com for more details about land conservation issues.
Kiptopeke State Park received the Virginia Society of Ornithology's Jackson M. Abbott Conservation Award for 2003. The group presents the award annually to honor significant contributors who conserve Virginia's birds or their habitats. Near the southern tip of Virginia's Eastern Shore, Kiptopeke's location makes it a key area in the annual migration of songbirds and raptors. For years the park has been the site of a bird banding area.
The award recognizes Kiptopeke's leadership and investment in environmental studies focusing on Virginia's birds. The society commended the park's enthusiastic and friendly support to onsite researchers, and complimented the park's nature walks and its role in the annual Eastern Shore Birding Festival. Park Manager David Summers attended the society's annual meeting in May in Charlottesville to accept the award.
As a member of the Back River Restoration Team, Lee Hill is one of several who were honored April 8, 2003, with the Coastal America Partnership Award. A DCR shoreline engineer, Hill helped develop long-term shoreline stabilization plans at Langley Air Force Base.
As the stabilization protects shoreline, it enables restoration of valuable underwater grasses. Because of Hill's design expertise, Langley garnered funding for a demonstration project. He was also instrumental in creating a Memorandum of Agreement between the agency and the Air Force that enabled an Old Dominion University graduate student to produce shoreline protection design scenarios.
Project team members also represent Langley AFB, U. S. Department of Defense, Virginia Marine Resources Commission, City of Hampton Public Works Department, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
America's "Top 100 Family Campgrounds" include 10 Virginia state parks. Compiled by Reserve America, those who made the first annual list were: Westmoreland, Holliday Lake, Twin Lakes, Bear Creek Lake, Smith Mountain Lake, Fairy Stone, Staunton River, Occoneechee, Grayson Highlands and Chippokes Plantation. Parks were selected based on criteria requested by family campers including park amenities, scenery and educational facilities.
"Our Top 100 Family Campgrounds list was created as a resource to the camping consumer looking to plan and reserve a family trip for this spring or summer," said Brock Weatherup, Reserve America president. "We are proud to honor these outstanding public parks, which provide such a high level of service and dedication, while protecting our beautiful natural areas for future generations."