A Busy Spring in Clarke

The following text was sent out via email on June 6, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

Dear Supporter,

Shenandoah River in Clarke County. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Can you believe it’s already June? 2023 is flying by! PEC has been busy throughout our nine-county region, and today we wanted to share some of the amazing ways we have been pursuing conservation, restoration and smart land use in Clarke.

Tree plantings

Since fall 2022, we have planted a total of 1,349 native trees and shrubs and restored 9.3 acres of riparian buffer across Clarke County through our voluntary Potomac Planting Program. This spring, our volunteer tree planting at Clermont Farm allowed us to engage with 62 youth and adult volunteers who helped us plant 539 native trees! On another property, in Boyce, we used contractors to plant 240 native trees. PEC also donated 60 tree tubes, stakes, and bird nets to Powhatan School for a student planting experience along Spout Run.

Interested in creating or enhancing a riparian buffer on your property? Check out the requirements for our Potomac Planting Program to see if you qualify for a free tree planting this fall or next spring.

Volunteers at Clermont Farm. Photo credit Ojasvi Ramani

Conservation easements​

PEC’s Clarke County Land Conservation Fund contributed $7,350.00 toward the permanent protection of a 60-acre property in the Longmarsh Magisterial District along the Opequon Creek. A no-division conservation easement on the property, to be held by the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority (CEA), will extinguish two dwelling unit rights on the property and establish a 100-foot riparian buffer strip along the creek.

Also, the Clarke County CEA will host a  workshop later this fall for landowners interested in learning more about  conservation easements. Topics to be covered include:

  • What is a conservation easement?
  • What’s the difference between a donated and purchased easement?
  • How do property appraisals work? 
  • What are the tax benefits?
  • What do landowners with easements have to say?

Stay tuned for more information!

Land use issues

On May 5, the Planning Commission reviewed the updated Special Use Permit from Carter Hall LLC and held another public hearing on the issue. Following earlier rounds of public input, including statements from PEC, the applicant adjusted its request, now proposing only a “Country Inn,” with no additional event space. Previously proposed buildings and a large pool have been removed from the work plan as well. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposal, which now moves to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision. The Board has set its own public hearing on the application for June 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center, second-floor Main meeting room, 101 Chalmers Ct., Berryville, VA.

PEC is working with and advising the Millwood Community Association’s newly established workgroup in its efforts to develop a broad coalition of residents to support long-term, village-appropriate traffic calming measures. The Community Association began fundraising and hired a consultant to build out the plan, and on May 16, the Board of Supervisors agreed to hold back any request for action from VDOT for the time being while the plan is drafted.

Past events

February 28 – PEC hosted an informational luncheon for Clarke County residents at Blandy Experimental Farm. PEC President Chris Miller, and conservation and land use staff, were on hand to highlight the various opportunities and challenges PEC is tackling throughout the Piedmont.

March 17 – PEC Board members spent St. Patrick’s Day exploring PEC projects and partnerships in Clarke County, with stops at Long Branch Historic House and Farm, Powhatan School, and Clermont Farm. The tour concluded with lunch and a Board meeting at Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville.

April 30 – Nine students from George Mason University’s student chapter of The Wildlife Society attended an American kestrel ecology workshop led by PEC’s Wildlife Habitat Restoration Coordinator October Greenfield, learning about kestrel habitat, nesting behavior, local conservation efforts, and how to monitor nest boxes. They successfully trapped a female kestrel incubating five eggs in one of Blandy’s nest boxes, and learned how to measure wing length, tail length, and weight, and safely handle a raptor.

PEC’s October Greenfield presents on kestrel ecology. Photo credit Bernadette Rigley/Smithsonian’s Virgina Working Landscapes

May 2 – At the Blue Ridge Mountains Civic Association’s general membership meeting, PEC and Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority staff presented on the federal Forest Legacy Program and other permanent land protection options. 

May 10 – At Long Branch Historic House and Farm, PEC’s Clarke County Land Conservation Fund hosted an educational program for county residents. Speaker Fritz Reuter, owner of Virginica, LLC, reviewed biodiversity basics, such as the factors contributing to its decline and practical advice on how landowners can encourage a deep-rooted rewilding of their land.

May 16 – The Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance met at the Shenandoah University River Campus at Cool Spring Battlefield, where PEC and 10 alliance partners shared organizational updates and announcements. The business portion of the meeting was followed by a guided walk and talk on the Cool Spring property with Clay Morris, a master forager interested in preserving traditional foods and foodways in order to build resilience into our food production system. 

BRCA partners at their quarterly May meeting. Photo credit Bill Howard/The Downstream Project

Coming up

On Friday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Blandy Experimental Farm, October Greenfield, PEC’s Wildlife Habitat Restoration Coordinator, will give a talk on American kestrel ecology and conservation challenges. The talk will be followed by a field walk to learn about monitoring nest boxes. Find more information and register.

PEC, Clarke County Public Schools and Powhatan School staff are beginning to plan for the annual Clarke Conservation Fair for fourth graders. The fair will be hosted during the fall semester and each fourth grader in Clarke County will be able to participate. Approximately eight classes, totaling roughly 150 students, will rotate among hands-on stations that teach about conservation and stewardship related topics, such as worm composting, water quality, wildlife habitat, recycling, and more.

Of course, the many projects and events that PEC takes on in Clarke County would simply not be possible without our fabulous partners, volunteers and supporters! If you’re interested in further supporting PEC’s work, we hope you’ll consider making a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you for helping us protect the many natural, historic and scenic resources of Clarke County.


Hallie Harriman
Potomac Watershed Field Representative
(540) 347-2334 x 7066

Tia Earman
Loudoun & Clarke Land Use Field Representative
(540) 347-2334 x7040