Signs signify river’s natural, scenic, and historic importance
MILLINGTON, VIRGINIA (Apr. 6, 2021) – On Monday, April 5, community members joined with Piedmont Environmental Council staff members under clear blue skies and warm sunshine to unveil new Virginia State Scenic River signs along the Moormans River in Albemarle County. Albemarle Supervisors Ann Mallek and Liz Palmer, along with PEC Senior Conservation Fellow Kat Imhoff and PEC Board Member John Birdsall, who owns land along the Moormans, shared a few words about the river’s importance. Then, Mallek assisted Imhoff in removing the covering from the northbound sign at the Millington Road bridge crossing. Mallek and Imhoff later also uncovered signs at the first bridge on Sugar Hollow Road (48H4+7Q Rivermont, White Hall, VA) and further west on Sugar Hollow Road, just after the fork at Middle Mountain Road (47HG+MC Crozet, Virginia).
During the course of the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Scenic Rivers Program in 2020, Imhoff and Friends of the Moormans River member Donna Bennett noticed that signs once proudly announcing to passersby that the Moormans River is a Virginia Scenic River were missing or severely deteriorated. That led PEC to pursue the replacement of six signs, which were locally produced and installed by Performance Signs with funding generously provided by a private donor.
Mallek has described the designation of the Moormans River as a state scenic river as “a great example of how in the 80s, our forebears and community leaders really took a strong role in water protection and ecological natural resources protection in a broad way. That’s one of those things that ebbs and flows, and unfortunately has waned in the last decade” as increasing crowds of people have come to use the Moormans, which both feeds the City of Charlottesville’s drinking water supply at the Sugar Hollow Reservoir and flows out of the reservoir, as a swimming hole and dumping ground.
“The signs are so important for building awareness and understanding that this is an area of important natural resources and of responsibilities as well as their opportunities for enjoyment,” Mallek said.
“As the county’s doing its comprehensive plan update, they are thinking a lot about the scenic resources of the county and why they matter. People forget what’s in their own backyard and lose track of those natural resources that are designated at a state level as important. The Moormans is a drinking water source for much of Charlottesville, so it’s a great reminder to think about the Moormans when you open your tap at home,” Imhoff said.
“It’s terribly important to us. I don’t personally live on the Moormans anymore, but two of my daughters do, so I’m really happy to have the signs here. I think back to the late 80s when this designation was made and I thought it was a really good idea. I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Birdsall said on Monday.
Palmer, who also sits on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, added, “I just want to say, as we go forward, how important completing the water supply plan is for this river. We still have one huge segment of that water supply plan, which is the south fork to Ragged Mountain Reservoir, so we can be done with the Sugar Hollow line forever.” Palmer referred to the pipeline that has carried drinking water from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir to the City of Charlottesville since the 1920s, for many years diverting water flow from the Moormans for portions of each year.
Since the inception of the Virginia Scenic Rivers Program in the 1970, when Virginians realized their once-pristine rivers were full of industrial waste and raw sewage, the program has celebrated more than 980 miles of Virginia’s special rivers for their superior natural and scenic beauty, fish and wildlife, and historic, recreational, geologic, cultural, and other assets. Scenic river designation encourages protection and preservation of the waterway, can provide grant opportunities, and requires that construction of any dam on a designated scenic river be approved by the General Assembly. Fourteen miles of the Moormans River, from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir to its confluence with Mechums River in Brinnington, were designated a Virginia Scenic River in 1988, thanks to many local partners.
Sherry Buttrick, who once owned a property along the Moormans at the Millington Bridge, was instrumental in the river’s designation. “The Moormans has always been a very special river. It has a rocky bottom, so it runs clear and hosts some brook trout upstream; there are game corridors along the river; it has a lot of scenic value, particularly where the bridges cross the river. It’s a unifying focus for the community, people love to fish, enjoy sitting on the rocks, and like to canoe it when the water is up,” she said.
Since 1972, The Piedmont Environmental Council has proudly promoted and protected the natural resources, rural economy, history and beauty of the Virginia Piedmont. PEC empowers residents to protect what makes the Piedmont a wonderful place, and works with citizens to conserve land, improve air and water quality and build thriving communities. PEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and accredited land trust. Learn more at www.pecva.org