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.