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Media inquiries: Please contact Julie Buchanan, julie.buchanan@dcr.virginia.gov, 804-786-2292.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: April 08, 2014
Contact: Julie Buchanan, Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-2292, julie.buchanan@dcr.virginia.gov

Festival, walking tours planned for Virginia Cave Week, April 20-26

RICHMOND — Virginia Cave Week, now in its 15th year, is the annual celebration of Virginia’s rich cave resources. Walking tours in Montgomery County and a festival in Front Royal this year will enable Virginians to learn about the world beneath their feet — and the surrounding limestone habitats known as karst. 
 
The theme is “On ‘Hollowed’ Ground,” a play on words that represents the role of caves in historical events. For example, many soldiers during the Civil War took refuge in caves, sometimes to escape the heat.
 
More than 4,000 caves have been documented in Virginia. They provide habitat for rare and threatened species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat (Virginia’s state bat) and the Madison Cave isopod. Karst landscapes are characterized by caves, springs, sinkholes and sinking streams. In Virginia, these landscapes occur in 27 counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thousands of Virginians depend on karst aquifers for drinking water.
 
Virginia Cave Week is coordinated by the governor-appointed Virginia Cave Board. The board was established in 1979 to conserve and protect the state’s caves and karst landscapes, and to advocate the wise use of cave-related resources. 
 
April 22 and 23
2, 4 and 6 p.m. 
Walking tours of Mill Creek Springs Natural Area Preserve
Montgomery County
Free
 
Guides will lead tour groups on a moderate hike of this 222-acre preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy. Participants will see a karst landscape and learn about its relationship to water quality and sensitivity to changes in land use. The preserve features a rare red cedar-chinquapin oak dolomite woodland community, and a variety of wildflowers should be in bloom. Caves beneath the preserve are home to several globally rare invertebrate species that have adapted for life underground, including blind beetles, millipedes and crustaceans.
 
The hike will be less than 2 miles. Participants should dress for the weather and prepare to get wet feet. Tours will be held rain or shine both days at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Each time slot is limited to 20 people, and reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis. Directions to the preserve and instructions about access will be provided to those who register. Call 804-786-7951 to reserve a spot.
 
Editors: Images of Mill Creek Springs Natural Area Preserve are available at DCR's Flickr page: http://tiny.cc/8p4zdx.
 
April 26
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cave and Karst Fest at Skyline Caverns
Front Royal
Free
 
This festival will include displays about limestone geology, bats, and efforts to protect cave and karst resources. Guided, aboveground hikes of Skyline Caverns’ Karst Educational Trail also will be offered. Attendees will receive $2 off admission to Skyline Caverns the day of the festival. For more information, contact Janet Tinkham of the Front Royal Grotto of the National Speleological Society at 540-933-6850 or janete@shentel.net. Skyline Caverns is at 10334 Stonewall Jackson Hwy. (U.S. Route 340), Front Royal.
 
Other activities
Teachers can download virtual cave tours and free lesson plans about cave and karst resources at www.vacaveweek.com.
 

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