Members of the Carter family acted together in 2009 to protect nearly 1,000 acres of land in Albemarle County that has been in their family since 1730. The Carters’ ancestors were neighbors to the Jeffersons, with a plantation about seven miles from Monticello, and the 1792 home, Redlands, suggests a Jeffersonian influence. The house was built by Martin Thacker, who also built Monticello, and its plan resembles Thomas Jefferson’s unbuilt design for the Virginia governor’s mansion.
Redlands is listed on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register, where it is noted as “one of the Commonwealth’s most important Federal period landmarks.”
From the front porch of the stately brick house, a visitor can see over pastoral, hilly countryside to the Blue Ridge. Dr. Bob Carter, who owns Redlands with his wife Carol, says, “You’re seeing more trees than there used to be, but other than that, it hasn’t changed. Except for Route 20, you could be seeing what was there two hundred years ago. That this still exists is amazing.”
The four properties that the Carter family protected last year connect with other conservation lands to form a block of 2,700 protected acres on either side of Rt. 20, a Virginia Scenic Byway. The properties are located in the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District, and bring the total amount of protected land in the district to 17,000 acres. These four properties also have approximately four miles of frontage on the Hardware River and its tributaries.
Redlands, a 680 acre property, is about three quarters wooded, with pastures, hayfields and some small vineyards on the open land. Farm practices there have evolved over the centuries-from soil-depleting tobacco cultivation in the nineteenth century to grain and cattle operations when Dr. Carter was growing up to, potentially, locally oriented production with a commitment to sustainability.
Dr. Carter says, “We hope the locavore movement really does succeed, because property like this is better off when being used productively.” In planning the future of their family land, it was important to the Carters to protect the history, scenery and natural resources there. Carol Carter says, “The conservation of wildlife is important and we are also very interested in conserving the integrity of the land itself, protecting the soil, and preventing erosion and stream problems.”
It was also important to the Carters to maintain the economic viability of the property, so it can serve as a productive asset for their three children and coming generations, instead of a liability with expensive demands for upkeep that could force them to sell it. “You don’t want a wonderful family home to become a burden,” Mrs. Carter says.
Dr. Carter’s mother was an active conservationist, and for decades, the family had the goal of protecting their land-but it wasn’t until last year that they arrived at a conservation agreement that fit their goals.
His cousin Ned Carter spearheaded a coordinated effort to protect four adjacent parcels of family land-belonging to himself, Dr. Carter and Dr. Carter’s brothers, Andrew and John Carter-totaling almost one thousand acres.
Then it started to fall apart, when the agency slated to hold their easements indicated in late October that it could not complete the projects by year’s end. Since conditions vary from year to year, delay jeopardized the agreement. PEC took the initiative and agreed to hold the easements, although our primary role in land conservation is advocacy and outreach. Dr. Carter says, “If Rex [Linville] hadn’t stepped in at the eleventh hour and rescued this, it would not have happened.”
Mr. Linville, PEC’s Conservation Officer for Albemarle County, says, “Once we had the opportunity to protect these properties, failure wasn’t really an option. This is some of the most historically and scenically important land in Albemarle, and we were delighted to help the Carter family meet their conservation goals.”