VOF announces spring opening, new ranger, new hours at Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is re-opening the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve on Saturday, April 15, for hiking and educational programs. The preserve hours of operation for the season are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The High Point cliff area, which is private property and has been closed since January 2015, will remain closed for a restoration process overseen by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

After studying the level of visitation to the preserve, VOF closed the preserve over this past winter to address needs that have arisen as visitor numbers have grown. The necessity for more active management of the preserve has increased in recent years with the increase of visitors. Although the preserve offers hiking trails, its primary purpose as a state-designated Natural Area Preserve is for the protection of rare plants, animals and natural communities. Active management aims to prevent recreational use of the property from damaging these sensitive ecological resources.

During the winter closure, VOF hired additional staff, improved wayfinding and interpretive signage, and initiated an internship program geared to students interested in natural resource management.

Visitors to the preserve will be welcomed at the new Ranger Station by the new Preserve Ranger, Joe Villari. Villari is a graduate of the Conservation Biology and Environmental Science & Policy programs at George Mason University. He will be on hand to answer questions about the natural and cultural resources being conserved on the property. Villari will also be working with students and recent grads from George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, and Lord Fairfax Community College, who will be learning about the management of a natural area while assisting preserve visitors as part of a new internship program.

“The Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is an invaluable asset to the region. This land has, not only, a rich and dynamic natural history, but it also conserves many sites of cultural importance,” said Villari. “Public preserves provide a permanent, living snapshot of Virginia’s natural beauty and underscore the intrinsic value of land conservation efforts within the state. I am honored to play my small part as a steward in this continued endeavor.”

Virginia Outdoors Foundation is grateful to the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club for their assistance during closure and their continuing support of the preserve’s management needs which is invaluable. The Bull Run Mountains Conservancy has led environmental education programs on the VOF property since 1995. Many area youngsters have participated in guided hikes and summer camps focused on local ecology. VOF has partnered with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to improve more than 10 miles of trails on the preserve since 2010. PATC’s all-volunteer trail crews have been helping to maintain public trails for 90 years.

More information about the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve can be found at bullrunmountains.org or virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org.

Questions about coordinating a group program on the preserve or preserve management activities may be directed to Amanda Scheps, (540) 347-6232, ascheps@vofonline.org.

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