VA Passes Parks & Natural Areas Bond

Richmond, VA, 11/08/02:Representatives from Virginia conservation groups celebrated the passage of the Parks and Natural Areas Bond Act of 2002 this evening.

Because of the favorable vote, the state will issue $119 million in general obligation bonds for parks and natural areas. These bonds will create 10 new natural area preserves and expand eight existing preserves to protect critical habitat. Virginia will also be able to acquire three new state parks, while increasing the size of 11 existing parks, to meet growing demands for recreational opportunities.

Conservation groups supporting the parks and natural areas bond include the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. These groups activated email networks, sent direct mail to environmentally concerned voters, helped to produce television and radio advertisements and worked the polls on election day in support of the bond.

“New sources of dedicated funding for land conservation are essential if we are to keep the commitment to protect the Bay. The value of this new bond is much greater than $119 million because these funds will also be able to match other funding sources and have a greater impact,” said Debi Osborne, director of the Chesapeake field office of the Trust for Public Land.

“This bond represents a wise investment that will maximize the benefits from every dollar available for land conservation in Virginia,” said Michael Lipford, Virginia executive director of The Nature Conservancy. “I applaud the voters for their commitment to enhance our state parks and protect important natural areas for future generations.”

“This positive vote clearly demonstrates that Virginians care about preserving open space, and they understand that protecting the natural landscape also protects the Chesapeake Bay,” said Roy A. Hoagland, Virginia executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “We hope this is just the first installment on a long-term investment in Virginia’s natural resources.”

Since more than half of Virginia lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, increasing the land base of state parks and natural areas represents an important step toward implementing the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement (C2K). Signed by all of the Bay states, C2K calls for having 20 percent of the Bay watershed under permanent protection by 2010. In the 2001 report “Keeping the Commitment: Preserving Land in the Chesapeake Watershed,” the Trust for Public Land and the Chesapeake Bay Commission identified a need for $1.8 billion in new funding to meet C2K’s land conservation goals.

“Voters from across the state sent a clear message today that Virginians support and expect our natural resources to be preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy,” said Helen Tansey-Lang, Virginia state director of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

In all, more than $36 million of the bonds will be allocated towards land conservation. The remaining $83 million will pay for improvements at nearly all of Virginia’s 34 state parks. Projects include the construction of trails, cabins, campgrounds and other visitor amenities, as well as efforts to repair damages from severe shoreline erosion.

One of the parks designated for funding for additions is Kiptopeke Beach State Park. At the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, TPL assisted the Commonwealth in acquiring a 375-acre Kiptopeke Beach property in 1992 to establish the first new state park in twenty years. In July 1999, TPL purchased a 170-acre addition to the natural resource park.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) 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. Founded in 1972, and based in San Francisco, TPL specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, conservation finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment.