Descendant of first VOF easement donor dedicates historic marker

Descendant of first VOF easement donor dedicates historic marker
Ellen Pons, niece of VOF's first easement donor, with representatives from VOF, DHR, University of Richmond, Capital Region Land Conservancy, and Goochland County

In 1968, James Ball, Jr. became the first landowner to protect his land with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation when he donated an open-space easement on 100 acres in Goochland County before gifting the land to the University of Richmond for use as an outdoor classroom.

Five decades later, his niece, Ellen Pons, who owns the adjacent Clover Hill Farm, commemorated her uncle’s pioneering effort by getting an historical highway marker placed on the easement from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

James Ball, Jr., entertaining Ellen and her cousins at the farm in 1959.

In August Ms. Pons joined representatives from VOF, DHR, the University of Richmond, the Capital Region Land Conservancy, Goochland County, and dozens of family, friends, and neighbors at the sign’s unveiling along Sheppard Town Road. She shared family photos and memories of spending time with her uncle and cousins on the farm as a child, and expressed her happiness knowing that the property would continue to be enjoyed by future generations for education.

VOF’s assistant director of stewardship for the region, Brad Baskette, thanked Ms. Pons and guests for honoring Mr. Ball’s gift to the Commonwealth, and shared quotes from state officials who had worked with Mr. Ball, including Senator Fitzgerald Bemiss, who chaired the commission that recommended VOF’s creation in 1966.

“The Commission is aware that you were the original pioneer of this idea,” Sen. Bemiss wrote in a letter to Ball. “It took someone who was both generous and capable of taking the long view to make this move and to set an example which others will increasingly understand and want to follow. All of us on the Commission want to express our gratitude and respect for this great contribution, not only to our immediate area, but to the whole state.”

Learn more about DHR’s historical highway marker program at


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