A Neighborhood Conservation Effort along South River

Map by Watsun Randolph/PEC

In Greene County, a community-wide effort to protect land along the South River has been underway for nearly two decades. South River is a jewel of a mountain stream that originates in Shenandoah National Park and winds its way about 14 miles before its confluence with the Rapidan River. Thanks in large part to the neighborhood effort, approximately 2,000 acres of land have been permanently protected.

In 2022, a critical 140-acre multi-generational cattle farm was added to the tapestry of this corridor with a conservation easement generously donated to PEC by Mr. Laymon Breeden, who wanted to protect the farm in part to honor his father. With its 2,850 feet of frontage along the South River, a tributary of the Rapidan River, conservation of this property will help protect water quality within the Rappahannock River watershed. In addition, 45% of the property’s soils are designated as Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide Importance, which will now not be lost to development.

Most exciting about the conservation of the Breeden’s farm is that it fills in a sort of doughnut hole
at the center of many adjoining conservation easements that are held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The collective impacts of what we call the South Run conservation corridor are tremendous in terms of water quality, forestry, and soil protection, as well as for preserving the scenic viewsheds for the traveling public along South River and Teel Mountain roads.

Conservation of any one property has invaluable positive impacts, but the combined efforts of so many conservation-minded neighbors working together to protect a broader area magnifies those impacts tremendously. Larger areas of undisturbed lands promote cleaner waters, support greater biodiversity and encourage ecological resilience. “Our neighbor, Laymon Breeden, taught my husband, Rodney, and me what it means to have reverence for the land. Mr. Breeden’s life-long tenure of his farm is testimony to the importance of land preservation,” said South River landowner Chee Ricketts.

We applaud Mr. Breeden for taking action to conserve his farm, and we also wish to recognize those who’ve made contributions to special funding sources, held by the Piedmont Foundation that help make conservation an option for landowners of all income levels. The Greene County Land Conservation Fund helps PEC protect at-risk properties in Greene by providing financial assistance for direct costs associated with donating an easement, such as appraisal fees. And, thanks to a generous gift previously made by Bob French to the foundation’s Stewardship Fund, PEC was able to support the perpetual stewardship of this farm and others, without cost to the landowners.

If you would like to accelerate conservation efforts in your county with a financial gift, please contact Nora Seilheimer at nseilheimer@pecva.org or 434-977-2033, x7008, or visit pecva.org/donate. If you would like to learn more about conservation opportunities, contact Mike Kane at mkane@pecva.org.

This article appeared in 2023 spring edition of The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit pecva.org/join.