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Pull quote for Virginia Treasures

Virginia Treasures progress indicator

A focus on quality

The Virginia Treasures initiative focuses on quality rather than just quantity. The program stresses safeguarding significant sites and assets rather than just the numbers. The idea is to preserve, protect and highlight Virginia’s most important ecological, cultural, scenic and recreational assets as well as its special lands.

The conservation of working farms, forests, waterways and open space will continue. Most of this effort will be accomplished through conservation easements, which preserve land and improve the health of waterways, including that of the Chesapeake Bay. Particular attention will be paid to land with rare and endangered species and habitat.

The initiative also aims to identify and expand public access to the great outdoors through playgrounds, boat ramps, scenic byways, public gardens and so on. By increasing public access to and appreciation for Virginia’s outdoor treasures, public support for conserving, protecting and maintaining Virginia’s natural resources will likewise grow.

Virginia Treasures will be the scorecard by which the McAuliffe administration measures success at protecting land, water and recreational space. The goal is to identify, conserve and protect at least 1,000 treasures by the end of the governor's term.

Visit this page for a list of Virginia Treasures by locality.

Land Conservation Treasures

A land protection treasure is one permanent, fee-simple conservation or open-space easement, or an amendment of an existing easement that permanently protects significant resources. Significant resource protection is measured by means of 14 metrics; a treasure must protect at least one metric.

  • Cultural or historical assets
  • Agricultural land
  • Local agricultural and forest districts
  • Forest land
  • Virginia Natural Landscape Assessment
  • Natural Heritage Conservation Sites
  • Wetlands
  • Forest land with high water quality value
  • Riparian buffers
  • Recreation land
  • Land near protected land
  • Land near scenic rivers, scenic byways, the Appalachian Trail or the Potomac National Scenic Trail
  • Virginia Outdoors Foundation special project areas
  • The Nature Conservancy Focus Areas

Contact DCR's Natural Heritage Program staff for details about the above metrics.

A few land conservation treasure examples

  • Natural Bridge and more than 1,600 acres of wildlife habitat, streams and caves that are home to hundreds of wildlife species, rare bats, invertebrates and unusual communities of plants.
  • Dundas Granite Flatrock Natural Area Preserve in Brunswick County, which supports a globally rare plant community and two rare plant species.
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park, which added nearly 300 acres in 2014 through a partnership between the Civil War Trust and the National Park Service.

Natural, Cultural and Recreational Treasures

A recreational treasure is a one that provides new public access to a natural, cultural or scenic outdoor recreation resource. These are projects that help the public by enhancing outdoor recreation and foster stewardship of natural and cultural resources. Emphasis is on ventures that meet the public’s most needed outdoor recreational offerings. Treasures are added when they are opened to the public. To be eligible, recreational or cultural treasures must be owned by the federal, state or local government or, if privately owned, accessible to the public.

An asset must consist of at least one of the following:

New facilities

  • Trails
  • Water access
  • New park facilities
  • Gardens and arboretums
  • Playgrounds and natural play areas
  • Historic rehabilitation
  • Newly restored habitat for wildlife viewing

Special designations

  • Historic or cultural sites that receive state or national register designation and provide public access
  • Trails special recognition, such as national trail designations
  • Scenic river and scenic byway
  • Scenic viewshed
  • Recreational use agreement

A treasure is not

  • An event or program
  • A management or maintenance function (e.g., stocking a lake with fish, bush-hogging an existing viewshed, painting a building, dredging a boat ramp or conducting a routine prescribed burn)
  • Ball fields, golf courses, sports facilities, zip lines… i.e., facilities in which the primary focus is not on natural or cultural resources

Contact Virginia Treasures Program Coordinator Robbie Rhur, 804-371-2594, robbie.rhur@dcr.virginia.gov, for details on recreational treasure criteria.

A few recreation treasure examples

  • Tobacco Heritage Trail, a 17-mile multi-use trail in Southern Virginia.
  • Pitts Landing Boat Ramp, providing universal access to the Chesapeake Bay in Accomack County.
  • Canoe access at Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve in Stafford County, providing access to the Captain John Smith Trail, the Potomac Heritage Trail and the Star Spangled Banner Trail.

Virginia treasures art that links to application form.