News

Media inquiries contact:

Jessica Spatafore, Director of Development & Communications at (304) 413-0945 or email jessica@wvlandtrust.org

Adam Webster, Conservation & Communications Coordinator at (304) 413-0945 or email adam@wvlandtrust.org

SnapShots: Fall Newsletter

http://www.wvlandtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/WVLT_Fall2017NL_WEB.pdf

West Virginia Land Trust acquires land for public use

Just south of Morgantown, near Little Falls, sits an 84-acre mature forest, known as Elizabeth’s Woods Nature Preserve. In 1995, Elizabeth Zimmermann donated the property to the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) to be managed as a natural area available to the public for hiking and nature study. More than 20 years later, the land trust is tripling the size of the preserve and eyeing a way to open the property to the public.

Dunlap_Upstream_Fall_DJI07795

“We’ve just added another parcel to the original preserve, which will bring the Morgantown area a nearly 260-acre forested park that connects to the Mon River Rail-Trail, which is already a major recreational asset for the region,” said Brent Bailey, the land trust’s executive director.

The newly acquired 174-acre parcel was donated in the will of Edward Dunlap to The Nature Conservancy in 2015. Since the tract touches Elizabeth’s Woods, it made sense for the West Virginia Land Trust to purchase the land from TNC.

Dunlap_Downstream_Fall_DJI07789

According to Bailey, the property addition, known as the Dunlap tract, is mostly forested and sits above the Monongahela River, providing both upstream and downstream views. The property also includes a cascading waterfall along Tom’s Run, a tributary of the Monongahela River.

“Although recreational opportunities might be the most exciting part of protecting and linking these properties,” commented Rick Landenberger, WVLT’s Science and Management Specialist, “this area is ripe with seasonal streams and seeps that flow directly into the river.”

Dunlap_TomsRun_waterfall_IMG_9522 smaller

“By protecting this land from being developed and restoring and maintaining the natural qualities of the streams on the property, we’re getting an added benefit of protecting water quality just upstream of Morgantown’s drinking water intakes,” Landenberger said.

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Landenberger, along with other land trust staff and volunteers, spent the last three years building hiking trails on the Elizabeth’s Woods Nature Preserve and has already mapped a trail network on the neighboring Dunlap tract, which connects to the rail-trail.

“Our properties are connected to other private owners in the area and we are asking the public to help us be a good neighbor by not visiting the property on their own, for now, to avoid trespassing.” Bailey said.

With current access being limited, visitation will be hosted by the land trust. Two community hikes are being offered at 6 PM on Thursday, August 17 and 24. Anyone interested in hiking the properties, volunteering to do trail work, or otherwise donating toward efforts to construct parking and access, is encouraged to call the West Virginia Land Trust at 304-413-0945.

The preserves will be open to the public once construction of parking and access areas are complete. Fundraising for the parking area is currently underway, and those wishing to donate may do so by visiting wvlandtrust.org.

“This is a big effort and we’re going to need public support to open this property to the public. It’s taken 20 years to get this far, but we’re working hard so that it’s not much longer until these properties are open to the public and are an asset for residents and visitors to the area,” said Bailey.

The West Virginia Land Trust worked closely with West Virginia University’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic to purchase the Dunlap tract.

SnapShots: Summer Newsletter

SnapShots: Summer Newsletter 2017
Protecting special places one acre at a time… in this newsletter read about the additional 938 acres we recently protected!

Camp Bartow: A Civil War Site Protected

West Virginia Land Trust preserves site of Civil War battle, camp
News story by Rick Steelhammer, courtesy of Charleston Gazette.

The core section of Camp Bartow, a fortified encampment with still-visible earthworks built by 1,800 Confederate soldiers, has been preserved and will eventually be opened to the public following its recent purchase by the West Virginia Land Trust.

The encampment was built by soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas and Virginia who occupied the site for several months during the opening year of the Civil War, and it was used to fend off an attack by a much larger Union force during the Oct. 3, 1861, Battle of Greenbrier River.

The 14-acre tract, bought with assistance from the national Civil War Trust, Pocahontas County Commission, state Division of Highways, Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance and First Energy Foundation, overlooks the East Fork of the Greenbrier River and borders a still-used segment of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, a strategic east-west supply route during the Civil War.

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(Above photo: An aerial view of the former Confederate encampment shows a hilltop entrenchment and a graveled segment (right) of the former Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.)

The site also overlooks Travellers Repose, a 19th-century inn serving Turnpike users that was torched during the Civil War but rebuilt on the same site a few years after hostilities ended.

“Protection of this site represents a tremendous success towards the conservation of West Virginia’s historic and cultural resources,” said Ashton Berdine, lands program manager for the West Virginia Land Trust. “I am very proud that the story and lessons of this site will be preserved and available for all to visit and learn.”

After being routed by Union troops at Philippi in June of 1861, defeated again at the Battle of Rich Mountain near Beverly on July 11 and losing their commanding officer, Gen. Robert Garnett, to enemy fire during the Battle of Corricks Ford at Parsons three days later, the Confederate Army of the Northwest, retreated eastward to Monterey, Virginia, to rest, regroup and review plans to return.

In early August 1861, two Confederate brigades under the command of Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson returned to mountainous terrain of what is now West Virginia, marching into Pocahontas County on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. On Aug. 13, after descending Allegheny Mountain until the East Fork of the Greenbrier came into view, the Confederate force seized Travellers Repose and owner Andrew Yeager’s surrounding grazing land.

In the weeks that followed, the southerners blocked passage on the turnpike to Union troops and commerce, built a campground atop a nearby hill and developed a series of trenches, cannon emplacements and firing pits along the contours of hills overlooking the inn, river and turnpike. Jackson named the beehive of Confederate activity Camp Bartow in honor of fellow Georgian Francis Bartow, an officer killed while rallying his troops during the Battle of Bull Run a few weeks earlier.

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(Above photo: A Confederate-dug trench line makes an ‘S’ turn as it follows a hillside contour at the former Camp Bartow.)

“It is very rare to be able to preserve and protect a Civil War encampment and battle site that has remained the same for more than 150 years,” said Hunter Lesser, of Elkins.

Lesser is the author of “Rebels at the Gate,” a history of the war’s first campaign, which took place in West Virginia between June and December 1861 and included battles at Philippi; Rich Mountain; Corricks Ford; Laurel Hill, near Belington; Cheat Summit, about 12 miles west of Camp Bartow; Camp Allegheny, about 6 miles east of the encampment; and the Battle of Greenbrier River, which took place at Camp Bartow.

“Many of the bigger engagements took place near metropolitan areas, and their battlefields tended to get overtaken and destroyed by development,” Lesser said. “But some of the smaller battlefields found in wild areas still have a lot of their original integrity, like this one.”

Camp Bartow, the site of the Battle of Greenbrier River on Oct. 3, 1861, had an added layer of protection by having been owned by the same family from the 1840s until 2013.

Andrew Yeager built Travellers Repose, the first stagecoach stop on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike west of Allegheny Mountain, in the early 1840s, and farmed the land surrounding it. After the inn was burned by bushwhackers in 1864, descendant Peter Dilly Yeager, a Confederate veteran and former prisoner of war, rebuilt a new inn on the foundation stones of the previous one five years later.

In 1915, Jessie Beard Powell, a Yeager descendant, was born at Travellers Repose and married at the former inn 25 years later. After accompanying her husband, a Navy officer, through a career that included postings at bases around the world, the couple returned to the tranquility of Pocahontas County farm country.

Powell outlived her husband and remained a fixture at Travellers Repose, as well as an advocate for preserving Camp Bartow, until she died in the former inn in 2013 at age 98.

While the Monongahela National Forest owns and preserves a small section of the Pocahontas County battlefield, the original Yeager farm, encompassing most of Camp Bartow and the land on which the Battle of Greenbrier River was fought, was auctioned off and subdivided in 2014.

While much of the former battlefield still consists of pasture land and forest, development possibilities remained active, so the West Virginia Land Trust and its partners worked tenaciously and diligently to secure titles to parcels containing most of the Confederate encampment’s earthworks and entrenchments.

“[Powell’s] dying wish was for the farm to be protected and the battlefield opened to the public,” Lesser said. “After several other efforts to protect the land failed, the West Virginia Land Trust’s purchase was a real victory for her and for the people of West Virginia.”

Camp Bartow served as the staging area for one of several regiments of Confederate troops taking part in the first attack of the war planned and led by Gen. Robert E. Lee — the Sept. 12, 1861, Battle of Cheat Summit Fort, an attempted siege of a nearby mountaintop fort occupied by Union troops.

Lee’s battle plan turned out to be needlessly complex, involving a two-pronged simultaneous attack and an elaborate diversion provided by units arriving at the enemy fort from several different directions. Bad weather, poor communications and an uncoordinated series of assaults by the Confederates resulted in a victory for the greatly outnumbered Union garrison and in embarrassment for Lee.

Union Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds attempted to return the favor on Oct. 3, when he led nearly 5,000 Union troops down the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike from the top of Cheat Mountain in a bid to surprise and overwhelm the 1,800 Confederate soldiers under Jackson’s command dug in at Camp Bartow.

The Battle of Greenbrier River began at 7 a.m. with a blistering barrage of artillery fire from 13 cannons wheeled to the scene by the federal force. More than 1,200 rounds of shot and shell from the Union gunners fell on the encampment, which the Confederates were unable to match with their six cannons, according to Lesser.

Despite the superior amount of personnel and firepower available to Reynolds, his Union force was unable to cross the East Fork of the Greenbrier and engage the Confederate force in an infantry battle due to stubborn resistance by Jackson’s men. With ammunition running low and Confederate reinforcements expected, incorrectly, to be arriving soon, Reynolds broke off the attack and marched his force back to Cheat Summit.

Casualties from the battle, which mainly were the result of artillery fire, were eight dead and 35 wounded for the Union force, while the Confederates suffered six dead and 33 wounded.

“The protective earthworks built by the Confederates prevented many more men from being killed or wounded,” Lesser said.

The Union troops, subjected to a fraction of the cannonading targeting Camp Bartow’s occupants, took cover behind trees, fence rows and natural embankments to avoid shrapnel. Infantry from opposing sides were positioned so far apart during the engagement that small arms fire was ineffective.

Travellers Repose was perforated by 28 cannonballs during the battle, according to a 2012 Goldenseal article.

While the Battle of Greenbrier River was not fought on the scale of an Antietam or a Gettysburg, Lesser said, “it was an important battle for West Virginia, when taken into account as part of the First Campaign of America’s Civil War, which secured western Virginia for the Union and helped pave the way for West Virginia statehood.”

Tentative plans call for building a parking area and pathway leading visitors to the features remaining on the landscape from the property’s time as Camp Bartow, including a grove of mature white oak trees shading Confederate entrenchments, a leveled-out site for tents where the 31st Virginia Infantry, which included a number of soldiers from the local area, once camped. Signs explaining the earthworks, encampment, battle and its significance are expected to be placed in the parking area and along the pathway.

“I am very proud that the story and lessons of this site will be preserved and available for all to visit and learn,” Berdine said.

A public tour of the property is scheduled for Aug. 12, hosted by the West Virginia Land Trust and led by Lesser. Those interested in attending are urged to visit www.wvlandtrust.org and sign up to receive the Land Trust’s newsletter.

http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/20170211/west-virginia-land-trust-preserves-site-of-civil-war-battle-camp

HL Map - Battle Ground of Greenbrier River - McRae

Rare Habitat in Grant County Protected

West Virginia Land Trust protects rare habitat in Grant County

“There’s more than meets the eye on this property,” said Ashton Berdine, Lands Program Manager for the West Virginia Land Trust, speaking about a Grant County property that the Land Trust recently protected.

In December, Shirley and Cliff Gay together with the West Virginia Land Trust placed a conservation easement that protects their 14-acre property on Knobley Mountain, near Petersburg. The easement includes an agreement that the property’s unique natural features are protected from future development.

“In the beginning, it was all about the view,” said Shirley Gay.

Rock outcrops on the property overlook North Fork Mountain, Dolly Sods, and the Monongahela National Forest.

According to Berdine, the Gay’s eventually learned that the property hosted rare plants associated with dry limestone glades, a habitat found in only a few West Virginia counties.

“Being a relatively small property, this location has a high concentration of plant communities that are unique not only for West Virginia, but also from a global perspective,” Berdine said.

In a survey conducted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the agency identified 13 rare, threatened, or endangered plants growing on the property. One wildflower, Smokehole bergamot, is found nowhere else in the world except a few locations in eastern West Virginia and Virginia.

“Learning more about the plants on the property helped us appreciate the biodiversity of our land and ultimately inspired us to donate our easement to the West Virginia Land Trust,” Gay said.

In addition to the donors, the land trust worked with the West Virginia University’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic to protect the property. The Law Clinic works with the Land Trust to provide law students with hands on experience.

The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund was a key partner in this transaction by contributing monetary support for a stewardship endowment which supports the long-term monitoring of the property. The West Virginia Legislature created the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund to invest in the conservation of unique and important wildlife habitat, natural areas, forest lands, farmland, and lands for hunting, fishing and recreation.

SnapShots: Land Protection Special Edition Newsletter

Land Protection Special Edition
From ancient forests to river islands, WVLT protects spaces with public benefits in mind!

West Virginia Land Trust Earns National Recognition

Accreditation Promotes Public Trust, Ensures Permanence

The West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT), a statewide nonprofit land conservation group, has achieved national accreditation, a mark of distinction in land conservation.

The National Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that West Virginia Land Trust’s lands will be protected forever. Almost 15 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas vital to healthy communities are permanently conserved by accredited land trusts nationwide.

“Conserving land plays a critical role in our communities,” said Dr. Brent Bailey, WVLT Executive Director. “Land Trust Alliance accreditation is a credential that exhibits that our organization takes seriously its role in shaping the future of conservation in West Virginia. It assures our partners and the public that we bring to the table a strong set of skills and a thoughtful, deliberate approach that can help conserve land for the benefit of all West Virginians.”

WVLT is dedicated to protecting West Virginia’s natural lands, scenic areas, water quality, and recreational access forever. Since 1995, the organization has permanently protected or facilitated the protection of more than 6,000 acres of land statewide. This includes family farms and forests, a private community nature preserve, improved public access to rail trails, and four public nature preserves – one of which boasts six miles of river frontage in the Gauley River Canyon.

The West Virginia Land Trust was among 16 land trusts nationwide to achieve first-time accreditation in 2016. WVLT joins the more than 350 accredited land trusts that demonstrate their commitment to professional excellence through accreditation, helping to maintain the public’s trust in their work.

“It is exciting to recognize the West Virginia Land Trust with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts stand together, united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. This network of land trusts has demonstrated fiscal accountability, strong organizational leadership and lasting stewardship of conservation land.”

Each accredited land trusts meets extensive documentation requirements and undergoes a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation application. The process is rigorous and strengthens land trusts so they can help landowners and communities achieve their goals.

The Commission is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization. The Commission recognizes conservation excellence by awarding the accreditation seal. More information about land trust accreditation can be found here.

About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,100 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available here.

Join Us for a Spooky Flashlight Hike!

Bring your flashlight and spooky stories as we hike to the cemetery located in the Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve!

When: Saturday, October 8
Time: 7pm
Place: Charleston
Cost: FREE
Level: Beginner / Easy

There is no cost to attend, but please register so we can plan accordingly!

Click here to register!

Needleseye Boulder Park; Oak Hill, WV

Oak Hill considers 300-acre rock climbing municipal park
(News story courtesy of Register Herald)

OAK HILL — Council moved forward on a large land conservation effort that could change the face of the city by making Oak Hill a destination for outdoor adventure tourism.

City Manager Bill Hannabass said the proposed Needleseye Boulder Park is a nearly 300-acre destination in the Minden area of Oak Hill on land currently owned by Berwind Land Co.

“This will attract a huge number of people. It will enhance our tourism industry and help the City of Oak Hill economically,” he said. “It protects a treasure, not just for West Virginia, but for our nation. It is strikingly beautiful.”

On Monday council committed $25,000 toward purchase of the property and entered into a partnership with West Virginia Land Trust to secure the remaining funds through the organization as well as grants.

Ashton Berdine, lands program manager with the nonprofit land conservation group, said his organization often has trouble finding public recreation projects in which to invest. The group preserves working farms, historic sites and wildlife habitats across the state.

“The property is on a hillside, but there is plenty of space for gentle walking trails,” he said. “I can see this being used for climbers, but also older members of the community looking for a easy wooded walking trail.”

Packed with natural rock features, Hannabass said the site would be a draw for bouldering, an offshoot of rock climbing where climbers scale boulders without the use of harnesses and other equipment.

The proposed site feels very remote but is close to a lot of amenities,” he said.

“You always hear about rock climbing, not bouldering,” noted Berdine. “If this project is billed as bouldering, it could draw a different crowd or those nearby looking for a quick evening climb.”

This project’s feasibility is hinged on securing an Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund grant through the West Virginia Department of Commerce.

“We would be thrilled to contribute land trust money and thrilled the city is also willing to contribute, but we have to survive the application process,” Berdine said. “This is a good fit and an appealing project, but it is not a guarantee.”

The West Virginia Land Trust will prepare a grant application by Sept. 30.

Berwind Land is willing to sell the acreage, and the cost will be negotiated after it is appraised, he said.

Mayor Fred Dickinson said seeing pictures of the property and land features made him excited about the possibility of the park.

“I could be a big asset to the City of Oak Hill, and a park that everyone can enjoy,” he said.

“I’m so excited about the future of Oak Hill,” said councilman Paul Baker. “Things are moving on our schools, this Needleseye Boulder Park and our dog park. There are a lot of great things happening.”

Oak Hill Councilman-at-large Tom Oxley has been named president of the West Virginia Municipal League. He has been a member for 30 years.

City Clerk and Treasurer Damita Johnson has been named president of the West Virginia Municipal Clerks and Recorders Association.

http://www.register-herald.com/news/oak-hill-considers–acre-rock-climbing-municipal-park/article_0a4c1f10-79f4-594f-990b-245857c0a266.html

A Ruckus in the Red Spruce: The Civil War on Cheat Mountain, 1861

Pack a picnic lunch and join us for a historical tour with Hunter Lesser, Author & Historian
When: Saturday, August 20
Time: 10am – 4pm
Place: Cheat Mountain (Huttonsville, WV)
Cost: $20
Level: Beginner / Easy
Optional lodging: Tent camping

Description: The raw beauty and natural wonders of Cheat Mountain will be on full display as we rediscover General Robert E. Lee’s first campaign of the Civil War. Aided by the letters, diaries and artifacts of soldiers and civilians, guests will explore the Cheat Mountain wilderness, the drama of war, and the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.

Click here to register!

Hidden River Farm Forever Protected

One farmer’s dream of permanently conserving her land for agricultural use and habitat protection has been realized in collaboration with the West Virginia Land Trust. Hidden River Farm, a 110-acre working farm near the border of Randolph and Pocahontas counties, is located in the Elk River headwaters near Snowshoe. The conservation easement donated by the landowner will now be held in perpetuity by the land trust.

“This is a voluntary land conservation effort that demonstrates the many benefits of conservation,” said Ashton Berdine, Lands Program Manager for the West Virginia Land Trust. “The landowner is able to continue traditional farming, safeguarding the property from residential and commercial development while also conserving streams, caves, and wildlife habitat on the property,” he said. Because an easement permanently restricts development on the land, any future owners of the property will also be subject to the conservation restrictions.Peuleche 2 KM

According to Berdine, the upper Elk River is considered an outstanding cold water and trout fishery. It is also habitat for a number of globally rare species, such as the Elk River crayfish and the hellbender salamander.

“The tributary of the Elk that flows through this property originates from a vast network of limestone caves that underlie the region. Many of these caves are known habitat for globally-rare subterranean invertebrates and bat species,” Berdine said.

Tolly Peuleche, owner of Hidden River Farm, commented that a conservation easement is something that she has been considering for a number of years.Peuleche_Tolly_holding_produce_IMG_0076_jpg

“The interests of the West Virginia Land Trust in the Elk River headwaters and my ongoing passion for this river have intersected at the perfect time,” Peuleche said. “I hope this easement can be an example for other landowners on this special river to consider similar action,” she said.

“This easement donation is a great Christmas gift to the ongoing conservation of West Virginia’s landscape,” said Brent Bailey, Executive Director for West Virginia Land Trust. “Protecting a river system at its source is a critical component of maintaining its use as a fishery and recreational resource, as well as its ability to deliver clean water to downstream communities. We are grateful that the landowner has put this concept into action by protecting her land under a conservation easement,” Bailey continued.

According to Bailey, the Elk River, from its headwaters near Snowshoe to its mouth in Charleston, is an area where the West Virginia Land Trust is focusing conservation efforts.

“The Elk River is a valuable and irreplaceable resource for the state of West Virginia,” Bailey said.

Bailey added that the Elk River is identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as one of the most ecologically diverse waterways in the state, supporting more than 100 fish species and 30 mussel species, including four federally endangered mussels and seven mussel species of concern. The river also serves as a drinking water source for many small communities along the river, as well as larger communities in the Charleston area.

(Photos courtesy of Kent Mason.)

West Virginia Land Trust Seeks National Accreditation

The West Virginia Land Trust is pleased to announce that it is applying for national accreditation through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. The accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how the West Virginia Land Trust complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For a full list of the standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/tips-and-tools/indicator-practices.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. “By undertaking this accreditation process, the West Virginia Land Trust has established a system for making sure that we implement best management practices that are applicable to nonprofit and land conservation organizations. Landowners, donors, and key stakeholders can be assured that when they work with the West Virginia Land Trust, there is accountability and transparency in the relationship,” said Jonathan Marshall, President of the West Virginia Land Trust.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visitwww.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org. Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3138; (mail) 36 Philadelphia Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Comments on the West Virginia Land Trust’s application will be most useful if received by November 1, 2015.

Land Trust targets Greenbrier watershed

LEWISBURG — The fragility of drinking water sources was brought home to thousands of local consumers earlier this year when a tanker spilled diesel fuel into a tributary of Anthony Creek, which feeds into the Greenbrier River, threatening public water systems in Lewisburg and Alderson.

Consumers weren’t the only ones paying attention. The incident provided a rallying point for a West Virginia Land Trust work plan for a project dubbed the Greenbrier Watershed Initiative that had launched only a month earlier, in December […]

Read full story at The Register-Herald.

More Farmland Protected on Summers County’s Highest Mountain

Hinton, W.Va. – Coming into December, the West Virginia Land Trust was expecting to hit a mark of protecting just over 1,000 acres across the state.  It was a sizable achievement, but the cooperation of a landowner in Summers County during the final hour allowed the group to push the tally to permanently protecting 1,400 acres statewide during 2014.

“It was down to the wire, but we were able to secure a conservation easement with a landowner that protects more than 350 acres on Elk Knob, one of the highest points in Summers County,” said Brent Bailey, executive director for the West Virginia Land Trust, an organization that worked with the landowner and Summers County Farmland Protection Board to finalize the easement.

A conservation easement is a permanent agreement that limits the types of future development allowed on a property and protects its unique characteristics, such as farmland, scenic views, or natural habitat.

“The land is still privately owned and can be used, sold, or passed on to family members. But, if the land is sold or passed on, the easement is a permanent fixture attached to the land and the development restriction must be upheld under the new ownership,” Bailey said.

Elk Knob, known locally as the Grace Walker Farm, is one of the highest and most scenic points on Keeney Mountain. According to Bailey, the property changed ownership several times over the years and at one point was considered for a residential development that would have subdivided the property into 75 separate lots. When plans to develop the property fell through, the current owner purchased a majority of the property and another buyer acquired the remaining acreage. The two owners—now neighbors—made a pact to never allow the land to be developed and approached the land trust and protection board about a way to make that happen.

“I have always felt that the beauty of this place is not only related to the ground, it’s also about the experience and I don’t ever want that to change. This mountain has power, but even powerful mountains need friends,” said the owner of Elk Knob, who did not wish to be named for this story.

According to Bailey, Elk Knob became a focus for the land trust and the farmland protection board in early 2014 when the adjoining property owner, Terry Williams, granted a separate conservation easement that protected 175 acres on Keeney Mountain.

“It made sense to work with the owner of Elk Knob to join with their neighbor and create a larger parcel of nearly 500 acres of protected land on Keeney Mountain,” Bailey said. Both of the easements protect the land from being developed and ensure that agricultural uses, open spaces, and scenic views remain intact for future generations, Bailey said. Chris Chanlett, President of the Summers County Farmland Protection Board, expressed a similar sentiment about the Elk Knob easement.

“We who want to protect our agricultural future are gratified that the new owners used our resources at the protection board to preserve the grassland on one of the highest locations in our county. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the West Virginia Land Trust for their major contribution to maintain the scenic and ecological character of this landscape,” Chanlett said.

Elk Knob is located in a unique ecological region of West Virginia. Streams flowing from the property enter into two of West Virginia’s largest watersheds, Hungard Creek flows toward the Greenbrier River to the east and Laurel Creek travels toward the New River to the west.

“Protecting land on a property such as this also safeguards the streams and ensures that water quality for downstream communities is protected from the very beginning, at the headwaters. By placing a conservation easement on their property, the owners of Elk Knob have demonstrated their commitment to being good stewards of the place that they call a powerful mountain,” Bailey said.

The West Virginia Land Trust is a statewide nonprofit land protection organization that works voluntarily with land owners and communities interested in protecting lands of scenic, recreational, agricultural, or ecological importance.

According to the land trust website, other projects completed in 2014 include protecting 665 acres in the Gauley River National Recreation Area, providing a loan to the Greenbrier River Trail Association to purchase an access area near Caldwell, and protecting farmland in Greenbrier and Monroe counties.

West Virginia Land Trust Permanently Protects Historical Farm

Monroe County, W.Va. – More than 600 acres in Monroe County have been protected by an agreement between The West Virginia Land Trust and a family who has owned the property since 1776, the year the United States declared its independence from the British Empire.

Spring Valley Farm, an historic home and property located along U.S. Route 219 near Union, has been owned by the Dickson family since it was settled nearly 250 years ago. Page Dickson protected a majority of the property in 2012 by donating a conservation easement to the land trust. The remainder of the property, owned jointly by Page Dickson, and her niece and nephews, Sarah, Joseph and Richard Dickson, was permanently protected under an agreement signed in early December.

“In 1776 Richard Dickson settled on 185 acres and the original family log cabin was built here. Every generation after has cherished the beauty and serenity of this place. I want to make sure that future generations can enjoy what we have been so fortunate to inherit,” said Page Dickson.

Located on Route 219, the farm serves as a gateway into the history and rural culture of Monroe County. Nearly two miles of Second Creek, fed by the third largest spring in West Virginia, winds its way through the farm. In its early history, the creek hosted more than twenty mills for powder, grist, lumbering, and finishing. Today, the creek is a popular canoe and kayak run, as well as a renowned trout fishing stream. Remnants of mills and other historic structures are still visible along the stream banks.

“One of the motivating reasons we wanted to seek permanent protection of the property was to preserve the scenic and agricultural character of the land,” Dickson said.

While the original 185-acre parcel was settled in 1776, the Dickson family acquired the remainder of the property in 1837. The property’s location along U.S. Route 219, a historic turnpike that connected the Greenbrier and New River Valleys, made it a popular stop for travelers, including Henry Clay, a prominent figure in early American history and founding member of the Whig Party.

“I’m thankful to the Land Trust for all of the work that’s been done toward fashioning this easement so that our land and its history can be preserved and protected,” said Joe Dickson, part-owner of the property. “The fact that our family has held on to the original settlement for so many generations is extremely rare. The exceptional beauty and seclusion of the area makes the land worth saving from development,” he said.

The West Virginia Land Trust works with landowners who voluntarily seek ways to protect their land from development and who are interested in maintaining the natural and historical characteristics of their property. One way of achieving this protection is through the use of a deed of conservation easement that places permanent protections on the land.

“Our work with the Dickson family has been very rewarding”, said Brent Bailey, Executive Director for the land trust. “We spent several years working with the family to develop an easement that reflected their vision and our desire to ensure that Second Creek and the Spring Branch, scenic views, and the agricultural landscape remain unspoiled for years to come. Now and forever, when you enter Monroe County from the north, you will be greeted by the unspoiled beauty of Spring Valley Farm.”

Spring Valley Farm was originally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

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