VOF allocates $548,000 for public access projects

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is directing $548,000 from its Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund (PTF) to facilitate the acquisition of four open-space easements that will increase public access to natural areas. The projects are located in the cities of Richmond and Suffolk and the counties of Gloucester and Culpeper.

Open-space easements are voluntary agreements between landowners and an easement holder to permanently restrict development on a piece of land. In this case, the easements also require public access to all or some of the land for recreation and education.

The projects were selected from applications received through January 15, 2018. Staff evaluated nine projects based on the extent of public access to be provided, the population served by this access, the conservation value of the site, and demonstrated community support and readiness.

Based on these criteria, staff recommended funding for four of the projects. The project proposal package can be found here. The remaining five projects will need to be developed further before they would be ready for review by the VOF Board.

The funding is split into two parts: $530,000 to cover easement purchase costs, and $18,000 to cover transactional costs associated with creating and managing the easement agreements.

Project summaries:

Project Name: Suffolk Park
Locality: City of Suffolk
Acreage: 6.12
Easement Cost: $200,000
Transactional Costs: $4,500

Description: The City of Suffolk is requesting assistance to acquire a parcel of land to create a city park adjacent to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. A contact station, environmental education facility, and wetland restoration area are planned on an adjacent site by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The project will create a strong connection and access point between downtown Suffolk and the refuge.


Captain Sinclair Recreational Area
Locality: Gloucester County
Acreage: 40.84
Easement Cost: $180,000
Transactional Costs: $4,500

Description: The Captain Sinclair Recreational Area is a 97-acre property with more than a mile of frontage on the Severn River near Mobjack Bay, gifted to the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority[k1]  in 2013. The property contains a[e2]  coastal ecosystem, featuring a mix of hardwood and pine forest, tidal wetlands, and non-tidal wetlands. The county approved a waterfront recreational site plan in 2015, but the lack of basic infrastructure and maintenance funds has hampered its implementation and use by the public. The funds from the easement purchase on a 40-acre portion of the property will help create fishing access and other recreational opportunities on the waterfront.


Project Name: Culpeper Crossing at Rappahannock Station
Locality: Culpeper County
Acreage: 12.37
Easement Cost: $150,000
Transactional Costs: $4,500

Description: Situated on the south bank of the Rappahannock River at the Town of Remington, Culpeper Crossing is historically significant for its strategic importance to Union and Confederate soldiers seeking to control the territory around the river. The property is highly visible and provides public access opportunities for heritage tourism and waterfront recreation. The Civil War Preservation Trust has a purchase contract on 200 acres that includes this tract and intends for it to be included in their proposed Brandy Station-Cedar Mountain state park.


Project Name: James River Trail
Locality: City of Richmond
Acreage: 8.38
Easement Cost: $0 (easement is being donated)
Transactional Costs: $4,500

Description: This highly visible, privately owned parcel on Riverside Drive fronts on the south bank of the James River and includes a strip of land between the river and the public road that is informally used by the public as a walking path. The owner is donating an open-space easement to prohibit further development, and is offering permanent public access on the strip along the river’s edge. This could further city plans to create a connection between Pony Pasture and Huguenot Woods, two parks on the James River. It also assists with safety concerns, as visitors must either walk on the private property or on a public road to get from one park to the other.

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