45 Acres Added to York River State Park (VA)

Williamsburg, Virginia, 10/24/02Friends of York River State Park and partners in the park’s resource protection effort today celebrated the addition of 45 acres to the park, along its entrance. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL), an organization that specializes in conservation real estate, purchased the property in March of this year from local landowner Virginia Gateway Harrison and expects to convey the land to the state later this year.

The newly protected property adjoins the 2,500-acre York River State Park and is located on Taskinas Creek, a tributary to the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to expanding the park’s resources, the protection effort supports research at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia (CB-NERR). Managed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) at the College of William & Mary, and overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 4,400-acre reserve includes four research centers along the York River. Through research at these sites, CB-NERR strives to be a national leader in demonstrating how science, education and coastal resource stewardship can solve coastal management problems and improve the awareness and understanding of estuaries.

Funds for the purchase were provided by Congress though the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) newly-created Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, and was strongly supported by members of the Virginia Congressional delegation, particularly Representative Jo Ann Davis.

“We applaud the vision at the federal level to create and appropriate funds through the new Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program to protect resources such as this and provide additional opportunities for research and public access to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers,” said Debi Osborne of the Trust for Public Land. “If we had not taken action now, the land, which was already approved for development, would have certainly been lost forever.”

“I am pleased that this new federal funding source will be used to support York River State Park and conserve this important property along Taskinas Creek,” said Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-VA. “This project goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to protect the Chesapeake Bay and provide for the recreational needs of all Virginians.”

“Acquisition of this property will help conserve a critical piece of land within the Taskinas Creek watershed. Preservation of this land is important to the Reserve in order to maintain Taskinas Creek as a relatively pristine reference research site,” said Dr. Willy Rea, Director of NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “In addition, acquisition of this land will also enhance our public education activities.”

The protection effort at York River State Park brings Virginia another step closer to its commitment to protect 20% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2010, as set out in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. A report by TPL and the Chesapeake Bay Commission documents the need to protect an additional 1.1 million acres of the bay watershed and calls for $1.8 billion in new local, state and federal funding to meet the Chesapeake 2000 goal.

On Election Day, November 5, Virginians will be given the opportunity to provide resources to help meet that goal when they are asked to vote on a $119 million Virginia Parks and Natural Areas bond referendum. If approved, bond funds will be used to help conserve Virginia’s natural resources and provide more recreational offerings such as were announced today. Passage of the $119 million bond referendum would provide $30 million to purchase new park and natural area land, $6.5 million for additional land to existing parks, and $4.5 million to protect parkland from severe shoreline erosion. The remaining $78 million would be for much-needed construction, improvement and repair projects such as cabins, campgrounds and other offerings throughout Virginia’s 34 state parks. Bond funds will be used for specific projects, not operating costs.

“Without the partnership of the Congressional delegation, the state, the Harrison family, the Trust for Public Land, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the permanent protection of this property may have remained just a dream,” said Joseph H. Maroon, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the state parks system. “We are hopeful that the bond measure that will be put before Virginia voters on November 5 will result in state funds that can be used to make similar dreams reality.”

“This is land that my father, Dr. William Lawrence Gatewood, purchased nearly 100 years ago. He always loved the land and I just wanted to make it available for other people to enjoy,” said Virginia Gatewood Harrison, who sold the land to TPL.

For more information on the York River State Park, visit their website at http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/yorkrive.htm.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. To date, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres of land nationwide valued at $2.4 billion. Working with private landowners, communities, and government agencies, TPL has helped preserve nearly 2,000 special places in 45 states including historic and natural landmarks, wilderness areas, parks, playgrounds, community gardens, and recreation areas.