Conservation group lauds bequests by N.Va. homeowners

McLean and Great Falls landowners who placed their properties in conservation easements pose for a photo at Great Falls Village Centre after receiving awards Nov. 16 from the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and the Chesapeake Bay String of Pearls Project. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Some gifts keep on giving, but land preserved in conservation easements benefits the public and environment in perpetuity.

Leaders of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) and the Chesapeake Bay String of Pearls Project on Nov. 16 honored owners of seven Virginia properties who over the years have placed conservation easements on their lands, forever protecting them from development.

“We wanted to memorialize their efforts so that generations of the future can look back to days like this and see who has been generous enough to preserve their property for all of our benefits into the future,” said Maryland state Sen. Edward Reilly (R), who chairs the String of Pearls Advisory Committee.

“We all breathe the same air, we all drink the same water, we all enjoy the outdoors,” Reilly added. “Nature knows no political boundaries. We’re in this together.”

Conservation advocates bestowed the awards at the gazebo in Great Falls Village Centre on a lovely, if windy, late-autumn afternoon.

The environmental groups honored the following landowners:

• Great Falls residents Richard and Joan Bliss, who in 2000 donated a conservation easement for their 5.6-acre property along the Potomac River.

“If people knew what the possibilities were, we’d have a lot more participation,” said Richard Bliss, who founded NVCT in 1994.

• Douglas and Barbara Cobb, who donated an easement for their Great Falls property in 2001.

• Daniel DuVal and Karen Keys DuVal, who in 2005 donated a conservation easement to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County Park Authority for land surrounding their historic Salona home in McLean.

• Fredette and Tabitha Eagle, who in 2006 gave a conservation easement for their “Bois Doré” (French for “golden woods”) property along the Potomac River in McLean. The family eventually hopes to add 10 more acres to that tally.

• Jeffrey and Sally Lindsay, who in August 2001 donated a conservation easement for their 5.1-acre Matildaville Farm in Great Falls.

• Edward and Molly Newberry, who in 2016 donated an easement for their 4.4-acre “Pine Hill” property in McLean.

• Adrienne Stefan, who in 2011 donated a conservation easement for her nearly 1-acre property in Oakton, which is home to the last remaining trolley station from the Washington and Fairfax Electric Railway line.

Before being handed their honorary citations, award recipients signed the Register of Pearls of Chesapeake Bay, which usually is on display at the Annapolis Circuit Courthouse.

The honorees also received laudatory letters from U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and were told U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10th) would place a passage in the Congressional Record thanking them for their contributions.

Dick Lahn, director of the String of Pearls Project, said the initiative tries to stimulate preservation of land throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. That area now has 75 “pearls,” or parcels of conserved land, most of which are in Maryland, but some in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We’re in a race,” Lahn said. “The prevalent thinking is that the highest and best use of natural resources, including land, is to use them and develop them. The opposite view is to preserve the aliveness of the land, and I think that is what we’re about.”

Society must balance development with the need to preserve nature, he said.

“Is there a compromise?” he asked. “I think so, but I think the balance point is unknowable, so we need to bias decisions on the side of preserving land.”

Alan Rowsome, who recently became NVCT’s executive director, said the honorees had acted boldly to protect their properties from future development.

“These lands are home to wildlife and plant habitat, protect clean-water sources and ensure that even as many things around us change and grow and modernize year after year, some things stay the same,” Rowsome said.

NVCT has helped protect nearly 7,000 acres in Northern Virginia, from 1-acre backyard “pocket parks” in Arlington to 100-acre farms in Loudoun County, he added.

Northern Virginia is developing quickly, which creates traffic problems and imperils clean-water sources. The honorees’ generosity with their properties has made the region a better place for all, Rowsome said.

Fredette Eagle ran her idea for an easement past her children, and was proud that they all agreed to forgo what would have been princely sums from developers.

“All three of them said, ‘Go for it, Mom,’” she said. “I have lived there for 50 years and I could not stand the thought if it being developed.”

“We all decided that we would take the loss and preserve a quarter-mile of the Potomac Gorge,” said her daughter, Tabitha. “We all recognized that the woods are most beautiful the way they are now. You need to preserve these places. You can’t renew them.”

Landowners of Jug Bay to be Honored

String of Pearls to honor landowners preserving 2,350 acres of Jug Bay, AA County, MD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—             Contact:  Dick Lahn 410-858-6312

On Thursday, September 7, at 2 PM, The Chesapeake Bay String of Pearls Project (SOP) will honor Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and six landowners of farms by registering their properties in the Jug Bay area of the Patuxent River as “pearls”.  Location of event:  Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, McCann Wetlands Center, 1361 Wrighton Road, Lothian, MD 20711.

The Celebration includes Ceremony at 2 PM followed by a reception at 3 PM with refreshments, music by Hangman’s Faire, and on exhibit will be Plein Air paintings of these pearls rendered on the day of the event!

“The preservation forever of 2,350 acres of public and private lands in the Jug Bay area of south Anne Arundel County is an amazing accomplishment, four decades to achieve, which protects the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay Watersheds”, said Dick Lahn, Director of String of Pearls.  “We are humbled to praise and honor some of the people who have created this Maryland treasure.”

Anne Arundel County is being honored for preserving forever 1,700 acres that make up the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary:  Jug Bay Sanctuary Proper, Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, Patuxent Wetland Park, Nature Preserve at Waysons Corner, Shepherd Property.  The six farm, landowners being honored are:  Don and Lucy Arthur (Welch/Shepherd Farm), Jennifer and Richard Wade (Lower White Oak Farm), Janet Owens (White Oak Farm), William Lusby (Brickhead’s Chance Farm), Virginia and Al Tucker (Ole Neff Farm), Dorothy and Ken Horky (Weisbacker Farm).

At the ceremony all honorees sign the Register of Pearls of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  The Register is on public view at the Circuit Courthouse on Church Circle in Annapolis, MD. Currently, 56 pearls, all in Maryland, have been registered.  Ten pearls — with landowners being honored — will be registered at a celebration in Great Falls, VA, on November 16, 2017.  Pearls will be registered in Virginia and Pennsylvania in 2018.

Upcoming Fall Events – Save the Dates

Jug Bay

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, String of Pearls will honor Anne Arundel County, Maryland, by designating as “pearls” Jug Bay Preserve, Glendening Preserve, and other adjacent properties in South County along the Patuxent River.  In addition, 7 private landowners will be honored for preserving their lands through various Anne Arundel County perpetual easements.  The ceremony will start at 2 pm at the Jug Bay Visitors Center.

On Thursday, November 16, 2017, String of Pearls will honor 6 to 8 landowners in the Great Falls, VA, area nominated by the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.  The ceremony will take place at 2 PM in Great Falls, VA.  Details to come.