Bull Run Mountains Preserve temporarily closed through COVID-19 pandemic

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic has begun, much of the public has been seeking refuge and entertainment in outdoor spaces. As a result, the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve has seen a dramatic increase in public visitation, with the parking lot filling up every open day and large crowds using the trail network.

Unfortunately, with this upsurge in visitation, staff have witnessed increased attempts to use the Preserve in ways that are inappropriate and detrimental to its natural communities and cultural resources. Examples include partial demolition of a dry-stacked stone wall surrounding Dawson Cemetery, attempted looting of a Civil War quarry trench with a metal detector and excavating equipment, and increased instances of littering, mountain biking, dog walking, trespassing on closed areas of the Preserve, and other prohibited activities.

The cumulative impact of these activities, in combination with the Governor’s recent stay-at-home Executive Order, has forced the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to close the Preserve temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic until further notice, starting Friday, April 3rd.

“We truly regret this closure at a time when other local parks are closing and people are seeking exercise and fresh air outdoors, but we are obligated to manage the Preserve for the natural and cultural resources it protects, as well as for public safety,” said Preserve Manager Joe Villari. “We fear that the large crowds gathering at the Preserve pose a risk to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and violate the Governor’s Executive Order.”

Staff will continue to be present on site and will work with local police and the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s conservation officers to monitor and appropriately cite any trespassers. Please help staff protect the Preserve’s valuable resources and maximize safety for all by following this closure and spreading the word to others who may be looking to come out to our trails. Check back on our website and Facebook page for updates.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Preserve Manager Joe Villari, jvillari@vof.org, or Preserve Technician Summers Cleary, scleary@vof.org.

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2 Comments

  1. VOF has been looking for an excuse to close Bull Run Mountain for a long time. Don’t see how any of the reasons sited on the closing message relate to the Virus, other than increased attendance (which most businesses would accept as a blessing!). Rest of the state is opening. VOF should at least be able to provide a projected opening date, unless of course their intent is simply to close Bull Run Mountain.

  2. To the contrary, VOF is always looking for ways to engage more visitors while maintaining our responsibility to manage the preserve for wildlife, which is the primary purpose of all State Natural Area Preserves. In recent years VOF has improved the parking area, trails, kiosk signage, and entrances, and has dedicated full-time staff to the preserve who love meeting and hanging out with the thousands of hikers, researchers, students, and other visitors who use the property year-round. Since the start of the pandemic, the preserve saw a massive increase in users who were not following social distancing protocols, as well as an increase in violations of preserve rules, which simply overwhelmed our capacity. Our closure policies are in line with other preserves around the state, as well as many local and regional parks. VOF is working on a reopening plan and should be announcing that soon, but safety of guests and the preserve’s plants and animals comes first.

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