The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has awarded $1 million in grants to support eight projects that protect the outdoors and increase access to open space in Roanoke, Montgomery, Giles, and Franklin counties, as well as in the City of Danville.
The grants were awarded from the Forest CORE (Community Opportunities for Restoration and Enhancement) Fund — a component of VOF’s TERRA program, which administers funds resulting from legal and regulatory actions involving Virginia’s natural resources. The Forest CORE Fund was established with $15 million received by the Commonwealth of Virginia to mitigate for natural resource impacts caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The most recent grant round targeted projects within impacted localities that have great importance to the community and show a high level of community support. Projects were scored on these qualities, as well as their accessibility by the public and their educational components.
Since the first round of Forest CORE grants in 2018, VOF has awarded $8.3 million from the fund. The expenditure of the funds is tied to the tree-clearing and grubbing activity of pipeline developers. Approximately 80 percent of the pipeline right-of-way in Virginia had been cleared and grubbed as of December 2020.
VOF developed the Forest CORE grant criteria in consultation with local officials, planning districts, conservation partners, and state agencies to ensure that community needs would be well represented.
The projects that have been approved for the latest funding are:
Angler’s Ridge Trail, City of Danville, $200,000
The City of Danville Industrial Development Authority will transfer 54 acres of forested land to the City of Danville Parks and Recreation Department. The city will add a picnic shelter and flora/fauna identification markers to the existing trail system, as well as a paved connection trail to the RiverWalk trail system. The Forest CORE grant will help the city complete more than half of its master plan for the property.
Blackwater River Access at Round Hill Road, Franklin County, $94,100
The Friends of the Rivers of Virginia will develop a river access point along the Blackwater River. Development includes the removal of an improperly sited river access point, a site plan showing existing and replacement river ramp details, grading, barriers, and surfacing of the gravel parking lot. River access will include a driveway, ramp, and steps. There will be signage at the parking lot and ramp location, as well as a kiosk to explain the history and ecology of the area, along with a county blueway map.
Newport Community Park, Giles County, $200,000
Established as a crossroads community in the 1800s, the historic community of Newport will develop the Newport Community Park as an outdoor space that educates the public on the ties between forests and community history and culture. It will include an improved forest-themed playground, construction of a Forest Discovery Center, parking area improvements, tree planting, and signage.
Mill Creek Nature Park Revitalization, Giles County, $39,490
The Town of Narrows is planning improvements to Mill Creek Nature Park, such as restrooms, signage, road/trail upgrades, and equipment, and the grant will assist with these costs. With traffic increasing to the area, restrooms have become a necessity. Signage and road/trail upgrades promote easier access to the attraction areas. The equipment purchased would be used to maintain upkeep in necessary locations.
Plant Southwest Virginia Natives Campaign & Propagation Center, Montgomery County, $175,000
Through the creation and printing of a Plant Southwest Virginia Natives Guide, a community-supported native plant propagation center focusing on local provenance forest communities, and implementation of a community accessible native forest demonstration garden, the New River Valley Regional Commission will work to improve the public’s relationship to their own backyards.
Meadowbrook Greenway, Montgomery County, $85,000
The Town of Blacksburg will design and engineer a greenway connecting an existing trail network to the previously VOF-funded Brush Mountain properties. The proposed greenway is needed to create safe off-road access for pedestrians, cyclists, and horseback riders to both Brush Mountain Properties and the contiguous National Forest.
Brush Mountain Property 2: Trail Planning and Implementation, Montgomery County, $32,460
The New River Land Trust will conduct site planning and trail construction on Brush Mountain Project Property 2 in the Town of Blacksburg. The goal is to add trail infrastructure to a growing regional natural recreation hub. The proposed trail will travel through an intact forest that has high ecological integrity, climate resilience, and is adjacent to the following the public land: Heritage Park and Natural Area, Gateway Park, the Mountain Bike Skills Park, the Huckleberry Trail, and the Jefferson National Forest’s Poverty Creek Recreation Area and Pandapas Pond trail system.
Carvins Cove Shoreline Protection, Roanoke County, $175,000
The Western Virginia Water Authority will acquire a 45-acre parcel on the shoreline of Carvins Cove Reservoir, which is the only parcel on the shoreline of the reservoir that is not owned by WVWA. Acquisition of this parcel will allow control of vegetative management under the existing powerline, protection of the watershed from chemicals and sedimentation, development of a circumferential trail, and establishment of experimental plantings, such as bee and pollinator-friendly plants, to educate trail users and the public on options for management of utility corridors.