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As we begin the second month of the new year, I wanted to share news about some of the projects that The Piedmont Environmental Council has going on in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Despite the challenge of the ongoing pandemic and the limitations of working at home, there is still a lot of positive conservation and land-use work we’ve been able to accomplish at the local level. These successes range from land conservation and watershed restoration, to better-connected communities and everyday access to the outdoors.
One recent project I’m particularly excited to share with you is a short video our staff put together to promote our work with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to create a more bicycle/pedestrian friendly region. Watch and share the video on Facebook or YouTube.
Friday, February 26
10:00 – 11:30 AM & 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Virtual via Zoom
Would you like to see Charlottesville and Albemarle be safer and better connected, with more access to the outdoors and less pollution? Are you ready to work on it in a coordinated way?
Take part in this free half-day workshop, at which representatives from organizations, local businesses, agencies and passionate individuals who share a mission to promote walking, biking, running, everyday access nature and active lifestyles will gather to identify areas of collaboration and to create a joint work plan. Participants will form workgroups and make commitments to accomplish specific progress within the next year.
The summit will be broken up into two sessions with a 90-minute break for lunch.
Improving Stream Health in Albemarle
Streams and rivers provide clean drinking water, beautiful vistas, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation. Creeks and streams in the Rivanna River watershed flow into our local reservoirs, which are the sources of clean drinking water in the Albemarle urban area, the City of Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia.
Unfortunately, a large portion of these streams are rated fair or poor in terms of their water quality.
Join us in working toward improving the health of our local streams, by participating in Albemarle County’s Stream Health Initiative going on this year. There are many different ways to participate, ranging from learning new information to providing citizen input or serving as a stakeholder.
The first community meeting was held on January 21, which you can watch online if you missed it. Future community meetings haven’t been scheduled yet. In the meantime, you can let the county know what kind of stream health topics you’re interested in by filling out the county’s 9-question online survey.
Over 2,000 Acres Protected in Albemarle in 2020
2020 was another great year for land conservation in Albemarle County with the permanent protection of 12 new properties for a total of over 2,000 new acres. This means that Albemarle County now has a total of almost 109,000 acres of private land that has been permanently protected with conservation easements.
Every conserved property has incredible public value in maintaining the integrity of the landscape as a whole and in protecting water resources and scenic character. No matter the size, protected land is land that helps prevent water pollution, preserve natural flood controls, promote groundwater recharge, and support local agriculture and carbon sequestration. In Albemarle, easements have protected a total of:
- 39,086 acres of prime farmland
- 72,402 acres of forest
- 474 miles of streams
- 1,414 acres of wetlands
- 5,100 acres adjacent to scenic rivers
- 43,151 acres in historic districts
- 27,403 acres adjacent to scenic byways
- 20,917 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail
The largest of the newly protected properties was Morven East at 1,159 acres. This is a property that was protected by the UVA Foundation at the beginning of 2020. This parcel is immediately adjacent to the largest easement in Albemarle County history which was donated by the Justice Corporation in 2019 on approximately 4,500 acres.
Other notable conservation projects from 2020 include the protection of 194 acres at Mountain Grove which is an outstanding example of a Federal-style Palladian dwelling from 1804. This historically and scenically important property is also located within the Southern Albemarle Historic District. In addition, these totals include two easements on about 120 acres that were purchased by Albemarle County using funding from the Acquisition of Conservation Easement program.
There are now a total of 426,808 acres of conserved land in PEC’s nine-county region, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the land area! You can view the easement maps from all of our counties on our Flickr page.
Has a friend ever asked what kind of work PEC actually does? Well we have just developed an interactive and cool new way to share the story of work in Albemarle and Charlottesville.
Check out the interactive maps, images, and links in our new Charlottesville/Albemarle StoryMap. And let us know what you think should be added (and be sure to share with that friend who wants to know more).
PEC has also been following a number of land-use issues including event venues (Hillcrest and Wavertree Hall), communication towers (94-foot Verizon Tower in Greenwood Historic District), small-scale solar (Midway Solar), and the comprehensive plan schedule. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk about these or any other issue. And don’t hesitate to contact any of our other staff in Charlottesville:
- Rex Linville, Conservation Field Representative
- Peter Krebs, Community Organizer
- Kat Imhoff, Senior Conservation Fellow
Lastly, I’d like to invite you to a virtual event next Thursday, February 11 at 6:00 PM called Brook Trout: Gems of the Piedmont. This is a talk that we are conducting in partnership with the National Sporting Library & Museum. Hear from my colleagues Celia Vuocolo and Claire Catlett about the challenges of ensuring the survival of native brook trout in the Virginia Piedmont. The event is free for PEC members and $10 for non-members.
Charlottesville, Albemarle and Orange Counties
The Piedmont Environmental Council