VOF establishes committee to engage community in House Mountain management

At its June 25 meeting in Warrenton, Va., the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to establish a House Mountain Committee to provide a continuing forum for community input in the management of VOF’s 876-acre House Mountain Reserve in Rockbridge County.

VOF acquired the property on behalf of the Commonwealth in 1989. A grassroots effort spearheaded by the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC) contributed almost $150,000 toward the total acquisition cost of $375,000. From 1989 until 2013, RACC, Washington and Lee University, and the Virginia Military Institute provided input and management assistance to VOF through a joint advisory committee defined within a management agreement.

The new committee continues to provide a forum for input from RACC, W&L, and VMI, but also expands that forum to include other partners, including the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors, landowners who live in House Mountain’s vicinity, and people whose scientific expertise, practical skills, or knowledge of House Mountain would be of value to the committee’s work. The resolution establishing the committee also clarifies goals and responsibilities, and sets the stage for VOF to produce a formal management plan for the property that seeks to continue traditional uses and provide more opportunity for the public to utilize the property as a recreational and natural resource.

“We are grateful to the volunteers in Rockbridge who have served as the boots on the ground in helping to manage this important natural treasure,” said Stephanie Ridder, chair of VOF’s Board of Trustees. “It is critical that VOF continue engaging the local community in the future management of House Mountain, and this committee provides a direct and meaningful way to accomplish that. We look forward to working with neighbors, community members, stakeholders, and users who are committed to the protection of House Mountain.”

The committee will meet at least semi-annually to review the current use of the reserve and to review any proposals brought to the committee by any member of the public. In addition, the committee will hold an annual meeting on or about February 1 to receive public input and provide a summary of the past year’s activities.

All members on the committee will have equal weight in the decision-making process. Among other things, they will:

  • Provide recommendations on the creation and implementation of the House Mountain Reserve Management Plan.
  • Provide input on proposals for research projects, improvements to the Reserve, and requests for events.
  • Review materials relating to the Reserve, including, but not limited to, its history, visitor rules, maps, and interpretive signage.
  • Maintain a network of organizations and individuals having the skills and interests necessary for active volunteer management of the Reserve.
  • Identify grants and other funding sources available for Reserve management.
  • Report to the VOF Trustees any recommendations made by the committee and provide an annual report of activities.

The House Mountain Committee will operate for a two-year period, after which modifications may be proposed to the VOF Trustees by the committee or any of its members.

At their June meeting, VOF’s Trustees also instructed staff to draft a Deed of Dedication that reaffirms VOF’s long-term commitment to the protection of the property. The board expects to consider the Deed of Dedication at its next meeting in September.

“The overarching goals of this committee are transparency, accountability, and a commitment to the permanent protection of House Mountain,” added VOF Executive Director Brett Christina Glymph. “While we work on a Deed of Dedication we will continue addressing the day-to-day needs of the property with help from our dedicated and growing group of local volunteers.”

Anyone with questions about the committee or an interest in volunteering at House Mountain Reserve may contact Amanda Scheps, manager of VOF’s land reserves, at ascheps@vofonline.org or (540) 347-7727 ext. 227.

Jason McGarvey is VOF's communications and outreach manager. He is based in the Richmond office.