One of the most popular places for bird-watching in Botetourt County has been permanently protected from development, thanks to a conservation easement donated by the property’s owner to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
The 106-acre tract, owned by Barry Kinzie, is located along Stoney Battery Road just outside Troutville. The land has been in his family since before the Civil War, supporting the family’s farming and orchard business. Kinzie, who is 65 and retired, lives there with his wife, Teresa.
In the 1990s, Kinzie and his friends from the Roanoke Valley Bird Club began improving bird habitat and blazing trails throughout the property. They eventually added feeding stations, butterfly gardens, parking areas, and a hawk-watching platform. For his efforts, Kinzie has received conservation awards from the Virginia Society of Ornithology and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Today, Woodpecker Ridge is open to the public free of charge and featured on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, attracting about 1,000 visitors annually.
Explaining why he protected the land with an easement, Kinzie said, “I have respect for what my father and grandfather did to keep this farm. I want to keep it in undeveloped condition for many in the future to use, view, enjoy, and learn from.”
Kinzie was encouraged to do the easement by Genevieve Goss, a longtime volunteer at Woodpecker Ridge and the Botetourt conservation steward for Valley Conservation Council, a nonprofit land trust. After keeping Kinzie updated over the years on conservation easements and other voluntary tools for land conservation, Goss was delighted when he was able to move forward with the easement.
“Since Woodpecker Ridge is such a treasured spot both for the Kinzie family and the nature lovers of the area, it was my privilege to work with Barry to protect the land permanently,” she said.
The easement protects the property’s natural resources by restricting future development. The land can never be divided, there are limits on the number and size of new structures, and there is a special no-build area that protects scenic views of the property from the Appalachian Trail as well as a public drinking water supply at the base of the ridge. The easement allows for managed expansion of facilities related to public use of the property, such as trail markers, benches, and a public restroom.
“This part of Botetourt is experiencing a great deal of large-lot development pressure, and Mr. Kinzie could have easily sold the property for housing,” said VOF’s Laura Thurman, who managed the project. “Instead, he has shown tremendous generosity by not only opening his land to the public for bird-watching, but also by donating an easement that ensures the land will remain open for generations to come.”
VOF now manages 39 easements in Botetourt County, protecting close to 15,000 acres. Statewide, VOF protects about 600,000 acres — three times more land than in Shenandoah National Park.
Since 2000, VOF has preserved open space in Virginia at a rate of about five acres every hour.