Board of Trustees

Eleanor Weston Brown (Chair)
City of Hampton

Viola O. Baskerville
City of Richmond

Raul Garcia
Arlington County

Elizabeth Obenshain
Montgomery County

Stephanie Ridder
Rappahannock County

Thomas G. Slater, Jr.
Henrico County

Brent Thompson
Rappahannock County

Senior Management

Brett Christina Glymph Executive Director

Anna Chisholm Director of Administration

Leslie Grayson Deputy Director of Policy and Acquisitions

Martha Little Deputy Director of Stewardship

Tamara Vance Deputy Director of Easements

About the Virginia Outdoors Foundation

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is Virginia’s leader in land conservation, protecting nearly 850,000 acres in 109 counties and cities. VOF was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1966. Today, we receive both public and private support for our work. VOF protects a wide variety of open spaces, from farms and forests to parks and historic landscapes. We work with federal, state, local, and private conservation organizations to achieve our mission.

Mission

The Code of Virginia defines VOF’s mission under § 10.1-1800, which states:

“The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is established to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is a body politic and shall be governed and administered by a board of trustees composed of seven trustees from the Commonwealth at large to be appointed by the Governor for four-year terms.”

History

In 1965, the Virginia Outdoor Recreation Study Commission produced Virginia’s Common Wealth, “an analysis of the present and future outdoor recreation demands on the Commonwealth, an inventory of the State’s recreation resources and facilities … [and] a long-range comprehensive plan of action, The Virginia Outdoors Plan, to meet these demands.”

The commission was chaired by Senator FitzGerald Bemiss, who wrote in the introduction, “The rich and varied resources of the Virginia Outdoors are indeed our Common Wealth, and every Virginian justly expects to enjoy its benefits…. The opportunities for enjoyment are severely limited by inadequate facilities and by a threatened and diminishing supply of enjoyable lands and waters.”

The report included 21 recommendations that became the basis for the Virginia Outdoors Plan, which remains the state’s comprehensive plan for land conservation, outdoor recreation and open-space planning. It called for expansion of the State Park system, formation of the Scenic Byways system, creation of the Historic Landmarks Commission, and adoption of a legal framework for expanded protection of open space and recreational opportunities.

The report’s authors also recognized the potential of citizens to contribute to these efforts through private philanthropy. To facilitate such philanthropy, the commissioners recommended—and the General Assembly approved in 1966—establishment of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

Five decades later, the commission’s work has yielded amazing results. The number of State Parks has more than doubled, nearly 3,000 miles of scenic byways have been designated, and nearly 3,000 historic landmarks have been registered. For its part, VOF has preserved close to 800,000 acres of open space—nearly two acres every hour. Today, VOF’s portfolio is among the largest and most diverse in the nation, protecting everything from working farms to urban parks to historic battlefields to critical habitat. We now work in 109 of Virginia’s 133 localities. Approximately 95 percent of all Virginians live within 10 miles of VOF-conserved land.

Timeline

March 1964
Virginia’s General Assembly establishes the Virginia Outdoor Recreation Study Commission to inventory public outdoor recreation resources and create a strategy for meeting future needs of Virginia’s growing population.
November 1965
The 18-member Commission, chaired by Senator FitzGerald Bemiss, publishes Virginia’s Common Wealth, a report on the Commission’s two-year study and plan for conserving and developing outdoor recreation resources “for the lasting public benefit.” Among the recommendations is the creation of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
July 1966
10.1-1800 establishes VOF “to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth.”
June 1968
VOF protects its first property under the Open Space Lands Act—a 102-acre easement in Goochland County on land that was gifted to the University of Richmond for use in its ecology, geology and other natural science programs. A month later it records four more easements on nearly 300 acres at historic Oatlands in Loudoun County.
July 1973

VOF receives an appropriation from the General Assembly to hire its first Executive Director, William T. Bolger, a 38-year-old planner with the State Commission on Outdoor Recreation.

December 1974

VOF experiences it first real surge of easement donations, quadrupling its portfolio and finishing the year with 2,729 acres under its stewardship.

August 1979

VOF completes acquisition of roughly 2,500 acres from the Natural Area Council in the Bull Run Mountains, becoming the crown jewel in VOF’s portfolio of conserved lands.

December 1979

VOF accepts a bargain sale of roughly 600 acres in Prince William County from the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, which it later transfers to the Division of State Parks to become Leesylvania State Park.

October 1981
VOF accepts title to Aldie Mill, a rundown historic gristmill in Loudoun County, with the intention of restoring it and opening it to the public.
May 1987
Philanthropist Paul Mellon gives $2.2 million to VOF for the acquisition of land in Fauquier County that will eventually be added to Sky Meadows State Park.
June 1992

VOF acquires an option to purchase land in Lancaster County that eventually becomes Belle Isle State Park.

October 1994

VOF transfers 257 acres in New Kent County to the Virginia Department of Forestry to become Crawfords State Forest.

October 1996

After a 15-year, $1.5-million restoration effort driven largely by private contributions, VOF begins offering public access to historic Aldie Mill in Loudoun.

December 1996

VOF protects its 100,000th easement acre.

March 1997

The General Assembly establishes the Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund to help with the costs of conveying an open-space or conservation easement. VOF is charged with administering the fund.

March 1999

The Virginia Land Conservation Incentives Act of 1999 is adopted, making gifts of “land or interest in land located in Virginia” eligible for a state income tax credit after January 1, 2000.

December 2000
Fueled by a surge in easement donations following the creation of the Land Preservation Tax Credit, VOF protects 28,000 new acres on 189 projects—more than double its previous largest year.
December 2001
VOF records its 1,000th easement.
April 2002
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation designates Bull Run Mountains a state natural area preserve.
September 2002
VOF designates its first Special Project Area on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
August 2006
VOF experiences its biggest year ever, protecting 71,000 new acres on 358 projects. It now protects about 400,000 acres in 96 localities.
December 2007
James City County becomes the 100th locality to contain VOF-protected land with the recordation of an easement on historic Carter’s Grove Plantation, donated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
December 2008
VOF protects its 500,000th easement acre.
September 2009
VOF completes its largest conservation project ever—an 11,000-acre easement on Carvins Cove, donated by the City of Roanoke to protect its main drinking water source in perpetuity.
January 2016
Its portfolio now at nearly 800,000 acres, VOF begins a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, hosting several events for partners and landowners across the Commonwealth.
April 2016
Governor Terry McAuliffe presents VOF with the Gold Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for its five decades of achievement.
December 2017
VOF acquires three large parcels of open space, including Hayfields Farm in Highland County and a tract along the Rockfish River in Nelson County, as substitute land for incursions on 11 easements by two proposed interstate natural gas pipeline projects.
July 2018
VOF establishes the Targeted Environmental Remediation and Restoration Accounts grant program using mitigation funding negotiated by the Commonwealth of Virginia related to the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. It awards the first round of grants, totaling about $3.6 million, in December.