The New River Land Trust (NRLT) and the Poverty Creek Trails Coalition (PCTC) are pleased to announce a $1.2 million grant award to purchase 553 acres on Brush Mountain. Two properties make up the acreage: one in Montgomery County (County) and one in the Town of Blacksburg (Town). The properties will subsequently be transferred to the County and the Town.
Funding for the project comes from the Forest CORE Fund (Fund) administered by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The Fund is one of five pots of mitigation money negotiated by the Commonwealth of Virginia for impacts to forests and water resources from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). In this case, the money is for mitigating impacts to forestland and its associated scenic and ecological values.
According the NRLT Executive Director, John Eustis “The NRLT and PCTC are extremely pleased with the award, and thank all the local businesses, other non-profit organizations, landowners, citizens and local government officials that supported the project, as their support significantly enhanced the grant proposal. We also express our most sincere thanks to the owners of the properties who were open to our proposal and supportive of their land becoming public forest parks.”
The NRLT and PCTC, as well as the folks who supported the grant proposal, understand that the MVP is a sore subject for our regional community. Purchasing and turning these private forest properties into public parks will not heal the damage done, particularly for those directly impacted by the pipeline. It is, however, a rare opportunity to fund conservation of intact forestland that has high scenic value, and turn it into an outdoor recreation and nature-based education resource.
“This grant is not going to solve the issues created by the pipeline in our county; however, it’s a great way to save a large part of our forest and create another outdoor place for our community to enjoy,” said Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.
“While I am firmly opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, using this grant to purchase such a large amount of beautiful and valued forestland allows us to take something negative and find something positive – the opportunity to preserve part of our county for generations to come,” said Vice Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, April DeMotts.
Protection of this scenic ridgeline is critical to maintaining the Appalachian Mountain character of the Town and region. Increasing public access to natural areas and recreational opportunities is part of a larger effort to build a diverse regional economy that enhances the quality of life for residents and expands tourism opportunities.
“We’re incredibly excited about this opportunity,” said Blacksburg Town Manager Marc Verniel. “Together with the New River Land Trust and Poverty Creek Trails Coalition we will preserve these forested parcels on the eastern face of Brush Mountain. In addition to ecological benefits and viewshed protection, these tracts of land will provide recreational opportunities for our region through the development of new multi-use trails. The town is exploring opportunities to connect the Huckleberry Trail system to these properties, allowing anyone to access the Jefferson National Forest and the Poverty Creek Trail System, directly from any location in town.”
Brush Mountain is one of the region’s defining features, and anyone who has driven down US Route 460, been in Lane Stadium, or looked north from downtown Blacksburg has viewed this scenic ridgeline. The Town and the County plan to develop the properties as nature parks with multi-use trails that link to the Jefferson National Forest’s (JNP) Pandapas Pond Day Use Area and Trail System.
Going forward, the NRLT and PCTC will continue to support the project during the park buildout phase. The PCTC will assist the Town and County in trail design and implementation. The NRLT will go after funding from both local and national sources to cover cost of park infrastructure and trail development.
“The Poverty Creek Trails Coalition (PCTC) is excited to partner with the Town and County to design, build, and maintain a multi-use trail system through volunteer and grant-funded efforts. PCTC is an organized group of local and dedicated volunteers passionate about expanding trail-based recreational opportunities in the region, ” said PCTC member Mike Nelson.