The City of Roanoke has completed the donation of a two-part conservation easement in Roanoke and Botetourt counties that permanently protects 11,363 acres of open space, making it the largest easement in the state. The first part, comprising 6,185 acres, was placed under easement in 2008; the remaining 5,178 acres were placed under easement last week.
The easement, co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and the Western Virginia Land Trust, is on the Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, the second-largest municipal park in the nation. The property is owned by the City of Roanoke and surrounds Carvins Cove Reservoir, the largest source of public drinking water for several municipalities in the Roanoke Valley, including the City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, and the Town of Vinton. The Western Virginia Water Authority owns the reservoir and water treatment plant, not included in the easement.
“The latest easement is the culmination of a decade and a half of efforts by the local land preservation leaders, state agencies, and local elected officials,” Governor Timothy M. Kaine said. “It exemplifies the spirit of partnership that makes Virginia’s land conservation program so successful, and is a testament to the foresight of Roanoke’s citizens to protect this critical resource for generations to come.”
The Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is managed for watershed protection and public recreation, including hiking, fishing, boating, and equestrian use. The property is located near Interstate 81 and borders 14 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The rock outcrop at nearby McAfee’s Knob, which overlooks the conserved property, is one of the most frequently visited and photographed panoramas on the Appalachian Trail. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage has identified rare biological communities on the property, which the easement will protect by limiting future development.
“From wildlife habitat to public recreation to drinking water for thousands of citizens, no VOF easement protects as many public values as these 11,000 forested acres,” said Roanoke resident and VOF trustee, Dr. M. Rupert Cutler, who also is a member of Roanoke City Council.
VOF now protects more than 20,000 acres in Botetourt and Roanoke counties, and nearly 550,000 acres of natural, scenic, historic, open-space, and recreational lands statewide, including more than 4,000 miles of streams and 200,000 acres of farmland. The Western Virginia Land Trust, a private non-profit land conservancy, has helped to preserve more than 76,000 acres of land and 30 miles of streams in southwest Virginia since 1996.