Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Land Acquisition is key to Parks

Land is at the heart of any park agency. We exist as a park agency to provide the public with places to go and recreate. Much of the land that NVRPA owns today was also acquired with an eye towards environmental protection. We own almost 5,000 acres along the Bull Run and Occoquan rivers. One of the reasons for this land to be preserved was that this body of water serves as the drinking water source for 1,000,000 local residents. We also own considerable acreage along the Potomac River that helps protect drinking water quality.

In 1961 we bought our first 537 acres, which today is Bull Run Park. NVRPA acquired new parkland almost every year through the 1960’s and 1970’s. Our pace of land acquisition slowed significantly in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Today we are re-starting the process of growing our land. We are currently looking at a number of good opportunities. We have several landowners that are talking with us about land donations, and other that we are discussing land purchases with.

When I was with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust we were all about acquiring open space. Most of what we did was as a result of donations of conservation easements, but we also attracted land donations and purchased land at bargain sales. This experience leads me to the understanding that where there is a will there is a way.

NVRPA got out of the habit of acquiring land for a number of reasons: our annual capital budget was not keeping pace with land values, and our aging park facilities needed greater influxes in capital to maintain them. We also saw a number of the grant funding sources that we used heavily in the 60’s and 70’s dry up. While these circumstances have not changed, what has changed is our willingness to aggressively pursue opportunities.

We may not have the Federal Land and Water money that use to help fund purchases of new land, but we do have the best state tax credit for donations of land and easements in Virginia. We also have many generous landowners that want to see a legacy of conservation, and are willing to make generous donations of land.

Seeking land donations is not new to NVRPA, Darrell Winslow, former Executive Director, was a master at cultivating land donations. As a result of his leadership, and good donor cultivation we were able to have the following parks donated:

Temple Hall – Donated by Mrs. Symington
Meadowlark Gardens – Donated by the Means family

Moving forward, acquiring new areas of parkland is going to be a high priority. I have every faith that in life you achieve what you focus on. NVRPA is going to focus on expanding our park system and as a result of that focus we will grow.

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