The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has been awarded two grants to purchase open-space easements in Lexington and Lynchburg that will provide outdoor recreation and education opportunities for the communities. The two grants from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) total $381,134 and were among 19 recipients of $5.89 million in VLCF funding announced last week by Governor Ralph Northam.
In Lexington, VOF will purchase an easement on 39 acres that will provide public access along a trail to the Maury River. The peninsula-shaped property owned by Andy McThenia has more than a mile of frontage on the river. There is a natural beach-like area at the foot of the trail, which lies across the river from the popular Chessie Trail that links Lexington and Buena Vista. This segment of the river is a designated blueway and provides habitat for several endangered mollusk species. The property contains limestone cliffs, sinkholes and barrens, and areas where a rare plant, three-flower melic grass (Melica nitens), has been found.
In Lynchburg, VOF will help Camp Kum-Ba-Yah Inc. in its purchase from Lynchburg Covenant Fellowship Inc. of the 44-acre urban forest by supplying funding for an open-space easement on that property. Dense commercial and residential development are imminent if Camp Kum-Ba-Yah fails to purchase the property, which is currently for sale. The VOF easement will help to save the urban hardwood forest, expand public access, and enhance the outdoor recreational and environmental programming that Camp Kum-Ba-Yah offers to thousands in central Virginia. Camp Kum-Ba-Yah has a rich civil rights history from the 1960s, when Lynchburg closed its public pools to African-American citizens and Camp Kum-Ba-Yah continued to welcome both black and white citizens to swim in its pools. Today, Camp Kum-Ba-Yah offers scholarships to nearly 50 percent of its campers and continues to provide an answer to question posed by the camp’s founder, “Where will the children play?” in the urbanizing area around them.