A 280-acre parcel of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship preserve in Loudoun County will form the backbone of a new Virginia state park.
BRCES, a nonprofit organization, has been offering recreational and educational programs and managing the preserve owned by the Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation for 22 years. The organization will continue to manage the property on behalf of the state.
In 2016, the state agency acquired 604 acres of the preserve. Two years later, Loudoun County provided funding for the second parcel, which the foundation transferred to Old Dominion Land Conservancy, a local land trust, intending for it being donated to the state. The acceptance of the 280-acre addition was finalized yesterday.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages Virginia State Parks, will continue to develop a master plan for the new park known as Sweet Run. The process will include opportunity for public input.
Virginia State Parks Director Dr. Melissa Baker said, “It’s exciting to be able to begin developing long-term plans for this new state park in Loudoun County. As we move forward, we will seek to engage stakeholders in our planning processes as we move those plans toward implementation.”
Frank Stovall, acting director of DCR, said, “As the property transitions into a new state park, we are grateful that the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship will continue with the conservation and education efforts they have steadfastly participated in for the last 20 years. We thank all the partners involved, including Loudoun County and the Old Dominion Land Conservancy, for ensuring that this special place is preserved for future generations.”
“Since shortly after the foundation acquired the 884 acres in 1999, the land has been cared for and open to the public for research and appropriate recreation,” said Bob Leggett, president of the Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation. “This transition to becoming a state park will ensure the land will remain protected and available to the public in perpetuity.”
Dr. Gregory Miller, president of the board of directors for BRCES, said, “We look forward to continuing our management of the land using best practices of biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage and outdoor recreation. Since there is no funding yet in the state budget for the site, the board will continue to depend on our visitors and friends for their generous donations to keep the trails open and the natural and historical resources protected.”
Caleb A. Kershner, Loudoun County Catoctin District Supervisor, in whose district the park is located, said, “Loudoun County is proud to have provided the $2.9 million to purchase the property and donate it to the state to expand the acreage of the future park, which connects to the Appalachian Trail, complements the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park system and preserves western Loudoun. I also want to recognize former Supervisor Geary Higgins for his unceasing commitment to making this park a reality, and Bob and Dee Leggett for generously donating the other 600 acres of the park.”
Phyllis J. Randall, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, said, “We are grateful that the various partners on this project worked collaboratively to develop a plan that will offer the residents of Loudoun additional recreational resources embedded in a preserved, natural environment.”
“The Old Dominion Land Conservancy is thrilled to have played a key role in bringing a new state park to western Loudoun County,” said Henry Stribling, executive director of ODLC. “We worked closely with our private and local public partners to protect both parcels of this site to ensure the public can enjoy this part of Virginia’s heritage.”