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Saving Land FALL 2017 | Vol. 21 Issue 2

Conservation Celebration and Auction

Fundraiser honors trail-builders and land-savers

Pretty as a Painting

Christiansburg couple saves land along Roanoke River retreat

New Faces at BRLC

Community leaders bring talent and new perspectives

blueridgelandconser vancy.org


Blue Ridge Land Conservancy Promoting the conservation of western Virginia’s natural resources- farms, forests, waterways, and rural landscapes BOARD OF TRUSTEES William M. Hackworth, President Diana K. Christopulos, President-Elect Ruth T. Dickerson, Treasurer M. Rupert Cutler, Secretary Dominic M. Basile Thomas M. Dunkenberger, Jr Broaddus C. Fitzpatrick Joshua C. Gibson William Hunley Lowell F. Inhorn, MD Anne M. Jennings George A. Kegley Betty Lesko Stuart Lynde Timothy J. Rowe, Sr Isabel R. Thornton Fiona M. Tower

ADVISORY COUNCIL Lucy R. Ellett Liza T. Field Talfourd H. Kemper Robert B. Lambeth, Jr.

STAFF David C. Perry, Executive Director Meagan R. Cupka, Assistant Director Tina L. Badger, Office Manager Erica Reed, Outdoor Educator 722 First Street SW, Suite L Roanoke, VA 24016 540-985-0000 blueridgelandconservancy.org

COVER PHOTO: Conservancy supporters enjoy the view atop Sinking Creek Mountain. Photo by Meagan Cupka

FROM THE DIRECTOR A recent movie starring Brad Pitt featured the unforgettable line, “Cousin, business is a boomin’.” That’s certainly how it feels here at the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy these days. Saving land is a booming business right now. Thanks to your support, we’ve already conserved two beautiful farms in Pittsylvania County this year. And you can read all about the wild Roanoke River bottomland that we protected in December with Montgomery County landowners Ray Kass and Jerri Pike on page 4 of this issue of Saving Land.

Dave Perry

We have plenty of projects in the works to be completed later on this year. Being superstitious, I won’t share them with you right now, but please know that your land conservancy staff and our dedicated board are working at a feverish pace to conserve the special places around our region—while we still can. While they’re still there. It’s been a long, hot summer, and one that has been both challenging and rewarding. The Mountain Valley Pipeline project has taken a lot of mental energy away from other projects, as we prod and cajole the federal and state governments and our elected officials to keep their promise to protect Virginia’s land and water from devastation—a promise that is so sacred, it’s embedded in Virginia’s constitution. On happier notes, we were delighted to have two incredibly talented interns work with us this summer, Alex Hoen, a James Madison University student from Hampton, and Sophia Tailor, a Roanoker and Patrick Henry High School graduate who attends the University of Richmond. Our assistant director, Meagan Cupka, and I enjoyed sharing our knowledge with these two budding conservationists, just as they buoyed our souls with promise for the future of saving land. And I’d be remiss not to mention our involvement in the second annual Deschutes Street Pub, held in July in downtown Roanoke. The event raised more than $67,000 for four local non-profits, including the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. When Deschutes builds its brewery in northwest Roanoke in a few years, its water source for its beer will come from Carvins Cove, which is forever protected with a conservation agreement held by the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. Thanks to everyone who volunteered or “bought a brew to save a view.” Lastly, we’re just a few weeks away from our annual Conservation Celebration and Auction. The hardest-working 80-something this side of George Kegley, Dr. Bill Gordge, will receive our Vic Thomas Environmental Stewardship award, along with his team of trail builders on the Wednesday Crew. And I’m so proud to honor my friend and longtime board member Whitney Feldmann of Roanoke with our Land Saver award. Whitney helped place her family farm in Botetourt County in a conservation agreement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation several years ago, and she’s advocated tirelessly for conservation at the local and state level with the Mill Mountain Garden Club and Garden Club of Virginia. Please read more about these folks and this great event on page 6, and plan to join us on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 4 pm at Sundara in Franklin County. On behalf of these Blue Ridge Mountains we call home,

Dave


BRLC Welcomes New Faces

By Meagan Cupka

The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy has named its officers and new members of its board of trustees for the 2017-2018 year. These members of our communities are volunteering their talents and time to make us a better organization. We look forward to working with them in the coming years. Mr. William “Bill” Hackworth of Roanoke has been named president. Hackworth had served for two years as the organization’s Stewardship Chair, and was a former attorney for the City of Roanoke. During that tenure, he assisted in placing conservation easements on Carvins Cove, Mill Mountain, and the slopes of Tinker Mountain.

Ms. Diana Christopulos of Salem was named president-elect. Christopulos co-founded the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition and is also the president of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. She has also tirelessly worked on fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Newcomers to the board of trustees include Dominic M. Basile, of Roanoke, a development associate with Conservation International; William “Bill” Hunley, of Roanoke, a naturalist and science and math teacher at the Community School in Roanoke; and Dr. Lowell Inhorn, of Roanoke, a recentlyretired doctor. Also joining the board is Stuart Lynde of Blacksburg, founder of Environmental Services & Counseling; Isabel Thornton, of Botetourt County, the executive director of Restoration Housing; and Fiona Tower, a former attorney in Roanoke.

Dominic M. Basile

William Bill Hunley

Dr. Lowell Inhorn

Stuart Lynde

Isabel Thornton

Fiona Tower

TA BLE OF CON T E N T S • FA LL 2 0 1 7

Landowner Story: Pretty as a Painting........4 Conservation Celebration & Auction..........6 Vic Thomas Awardees: Bill Gordge & the Wednesday Crew.............8 Landsaver Award: Whitney Feldmann........10 A Word from Our Sponsors........................... 12

Photo by Dave Perry


Lpretty AND as a painting

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Couple in Christiansburg works to protect the North Fork of the Roanoke River

By Alex Hoen

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t is easy to tell that you have entered the home of an artist as soon as you step foot into Ray Kass and Jerrie Pike’s house. The house itself is a work of art, with windows extending up from the floor that showcase the remarkable view of the forest that makes up their backyard. The home sits along the north fork of the Roanoke River, its access uninterrupted by houses or the train that can be heard as it crosses the side of Paris Mountain. The couple built their home in the fall of 1991 after purchasing their 57-acre property in 1989.

Originally the property was wooded, and some paths and clearings were made for the home. One clearing was made specifically for wildlife habitat, with milkweed and other native plants grown to support birds, insects, and more. Jerrie recalled a huge “frog-fest” during the spring, and said they’ve seen bears exploring the landscape. Jerrie has planted various gardens decorating the property, one being the bonsai garden that she uses for her Ray Kass shows his wife’s collection of bonsai trees to BRLC interns business, Higo Garden Bonsai. Jerrie Sophia and Alex. explained that growing the bonsai plants originally started as a hobby, why they chose a conservation agreement, and she proceeded to start selling the couple said that they didn’t want them. “Some people get the blues in the their land to become overdeveloped, wintertime, but I actually become a real and wanted to make sure it would be winter gardener, because with bonsai there’s used for agricultural purposes. Ray says something to do year-round,” said Jerrie. that when they bought they land, it could have supported ten houses, but he Ray is an accomplished artist, having knew he didn’t want that. Aware of how been an art historian in New York and rapidly Blacksburg was developing, Jerrie professor emeritus of art at Virginia Tech. says, “You get scared when you see the He says that his favorite part of living on development and you have to ask yourself the property is the river. Since most of at some point, what is this all for?” his work is based in nature, he uses the property as inspiration in his paintings, some being landscapes but most of which are abstractions. There is a sun porch by the downstairs studio where he can work and see the river, so instead of dragging all of his art materials with him to his sites out in nature, he can now simply go downstairs to create his scenic artwork.

“It’s almost a guilty extravagance to want to live like this, because it’s beautiful and quiet,” Jerrie explains. Meagan and BRLC intern Alex walk When through the protected meadow along the asked North Fork of the Roanoke River

Photo by Sophia Tailor

The couple owns an intimate half-mile of the Roanoke River, where a lot of wildlife currently resides. Ray wanted to protect his “River Walk” path alongside the trees that line the river. Their agreement with the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, signed in December of 2016, will protect the river and wooded hillside that overlooks Ray and Jerrie’s home, and respect Ray’s wish to donate a piece of the property, such as the storage building which houses his art collection, to a local college or university that will best utilize it. “Protecting the river valley is a really important thing to me,” says Jerrie, and with the help of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, she and Ray will continue to do just that. Fall 2017

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CONSERVATION CELEBRATION& AUCTION New views, new grooves for old friends saving land!

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HIS is a celebration you won’t want to miss! The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy would like to invite you to our 2017 Conservation Celebration & Auction on September 24th. We’ve changed up the venue to Sundara at the foot of scenic Cahas Mountain, which is partially protected by the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. We have invited back Mark Baldwin with Blue Ridge Catering, and we’re also welcoming the Appalachian Dixieland band, the Dharma Bombs, as our live entertainment this year. They recently featured at the Deschutes Street Pub event in downtown Roanoke. But don’t worry, we’re not changing everything. We’ll have beer from Deschutes, wines from Virginia Mountain Vineyards and Webster C. Hall, and a fantastic live and silent auction that benefits the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.

Most importantly, we’re keeping the A. Victor Thomas Environmental Stewardship Award, and the Land Saver Award. We’re proud to honor Dr. Bill Gordge & the Wednesday Crew with the Vic ThomasAward, for over two decades of physical labor and dedication to making the outdoors more accessible and enjoyable to the public.

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We’ll also be recognizing the work of Whitney Feldmann. Whitney recently completed several years on the board of trustees of BRLC, where she volunteered many hours to land conservation. She also is extremely active in other conservation groups, including the Mill Mountain Garden Club. She was the driving force behind conserving her historic family farm in Botetourt County. To learn more about these fine individuals, turn to pages eight and ten in this issue of Saving Land. All Friends of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy received save-the-date postcards earlier this year as well as personal invitations. Tickets are $95 per person and can be purchased over the phone, by mail, or online until September 15th. Tickets will be $100 after that date. All food and beverages are included in the ticket price, and children ages 12 and under attend for free. For more information and to make your payment online, please visit brlcva.org/celebration. We look forward to spending a fantastic evening with you, filled with delicious food, good music, and great people!

View from Sundara of Cahas Mountain, part of which is forever protected by the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy

Fall 2017

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Photo by Meagan Cupka

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Enjoy the sweet serenades of American Dixieland band, the Dharma Bombs throughout the evening! Keep an ear out for some of their most popular tunes, like Old Time Romance and Moonlight Mama. This six-man band based out of Richmond has roots here in Roanoke. They’re sure to keep you dancing during the celebration! Fall 2016

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Leaving a Beaten Path By: Meagan Cupka

Dr. Gordge, retired Roanoke pediatrician, has led the Wednesday Crew for 25 years

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n September 24th, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy will be honored to present their highest environmental stewardship award to the group and individual who have helped transform our region into a top hiking and biking spot in Virginia. Dr. Bill Gordge and The Wednesday Crew will receive the A. Victor Thomas Environmental Stewardship Award in recognition of their tireless work to plan, build, and maintain recreational trails for the public.

The Wednesday Crew, also known as the Mid-Week Crew, is the dedicated group of men and women who spend their Wednesdays in the woods with all types of hand tools, chainsaws, and a motorized wheel barrow. The backgrounds of these crew members are just as varied as their tools: there’s an astronomer, a dentist, and a bridge engineer just to name a few. Most are retired, and the average age is 75. Working closely with parks and recreation departments to plan the routes, they create long-lasting trails by hand, often removing trees and 8

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moving boulders that weigh hundreds of pounds. Over the past year alone, this group has worked over 5,400 hours in all kinds of weather to keep public trails in tip-top shape. Their service area extends from Rocky Mount, to Catawba, to Carvins Cove and beyond, meaning there’s no short list of things to be done. When I met with the crew in July, it was a 90+ degree day. Even under the shade of trees, the air felt like hot soup. On that day, 12 members of the crew were working on creating a new trail in Waide Park in Franklin County. One crew member shared how deep that commitment is: “When you’re on the crew, it becomes part of who you are. You know that if you’re in town on a Wednesday, you’re here.” But this group and this mountain of work would not exist without one person: Dr. Bill Gordge. Born and raised in Australia, Dr. Gordge’s love of

Photo by Meagan Cupka

hiking started early, with this first longdistance backpacking trip at the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair national park in Tazmania. He started his medical studies in Australia, and in 1954 participated in an exchange program with a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. It was there that he met his future wife Eunice, whom he fondly refers to as “Buz,” in an elevator. In 1958 the young family moved to Roanoke where Dr. Gordge began working at Le Bon Heur, a Roanoke children’s hospital, where he was the first pediatrician. After moving to Canada for a short while, the Gordges found themselves back in Roanoke. There Dr. Gordge started Physicians to Children with another physician. Mrs. Gordge was active in the church leadership at Roanoke’s First Prebyterian, and was involved with the Virginia medical auxiliary leadership. Even with their busy schedules combined with raising

Frank Simms, Bud LaRoche, and Jim Lewis stand next to a section of trail they just completed at Waid Park in Rocky Mount.


h The Wednesday Crew poses for a photo on a bridge they created.

Photo by Dr. Bill Gordge

five children, Bill still found time to enjoy the outdoors. He became a member of The Nature Conservancy shortly after it was founded. He credited his wife Boz for supporting him when he’d “run off in the mountains” on Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club outings or worked with the National Park Service or the Appalachian Trail Club as a land manager. In the 1990’s Bill semi-retired, taking Wednesdays off. He’d go hiking with a small group, alternating between doing work

on trails for the U.S. Forest Service and simply hiking for pleasure. After a while Bill became the lead organizer for jobs and in 1997, the group also began partnering with the Roanoke Valley Greenways. The group has been working for 20 years as the Wednesday Crew. Bill gives a lot of credit to Liz Belcher, the Greenways Coordinator and past recipient of the Vic Thomas Award, for her help in lining up the trail work jobs, helping with the trail design, and being a partner with Bill and the Wednesday Crew on major projects.

These days, Dr. Gordge spends most of his Wednesday workdays planning the route and design of the trail while the crew comes in behind him to create it. They already have their fall projects picked out: rebuilding the Enchanted Forest Trail at Carvins Cove as well as creating a new trail at that location. As ever, it is thanks to Dr. Gordge and the Wednesday Crew that the rest of us have safe and long-lasting ways to enjoy the outdoor places we love. Fall 2017

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Conserving and Preserving What Yo

N I N E Y E A R S ST RO N G W I T H W H I T N E Y F

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Blue Ridge Land Conservancy board member for nine years, Roanoke’s Whitney Feldmann has made conservation a keystone of her work in the Roanoke Valley. Whitney has lived in the Blue Ridge area for over 60 years, where she has taught history at the high school level and been a part of multiple different environmental organizations. This year, Whitney will be our annual Land Saver Award winner at the Conservation Celebration on

September 24th. She was the leading force behind conserving her family’s farm near Fincastle, Virginia. In addition to serving the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy board of trustees as secretary and events committee chair, Whitney is also a part of several different environmental organizations, including the Preservation Foundation, the Mill Mountain Garden Club, the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee, and board of the Garden Club of Virginia’s conservation committee. She is truly a person who takes to

heart a mission of “conserving and preserving” the land and its history. One of the requirements for the Land Saver Award is not only to conserve one’s own land, but to advocate for land conservation as well. “Throughout the years, Whitney would frequently call and pick my brain on statewide conservation issues,” says Blue Ridge Land Conservancy Executive Director David Perry. “We’ll see her in Richmond during the General Assembly sessions, lobbying her

The original barn and home sit nestled amongst trees at the Pleasant Grove farm

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Photo by Meagan Cupka


at You Have

EY FELDMANN

By: Meagan Cupka

elected officials. She really wants to understand what’s going on and make certain the groups she’s involved with have their place at the table.” Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Whitney moved with her parents as a girl to the Roanoke Valley. During the summers she’d visit her grandparents who had purchased a 200-acre family farm in the 1950s. She has fond memories of playing in the creek and walking the land with her grandfather, a lawyer and noted poet-laureate who found inspiration from the land. She also remembers the grape jellies her grandmother would make, only using wild grapes found on the farm. She laughs as she remembers the red bull her grandfather named “Reddy”: “ ‘There are smart cows and there are dumb cows,’ he’d say, ‘and that’s a smart one’” she recalls her grandfather saying. Whitney’s father, she shares, was the one who really worked the land, spending hours on the old John Deer tractor making hay and managing cattle. “There is a lot of satisfaction managing a place where you’ve grown up,” she says, being a true nature lover at heart. “By putting in best management practices, it has really improved the water quality of the creek, and kept the cows out of the creek.”

Whitney Feldmann and her grandsons pose in a field at the family farm

Whitney’s father had originally looked into doing a conservation easement for their 200 acres, but was afraid that it would simply become “a park in the middle of a subdivision.” It was Whitney who went through with the easement, yet she worries about her father’s prediction coming to pass. She said that one of her greatest regrets in life was not ‘questioning him extensively about how to run this place’. Things like running the tractor she had to learn by trial and error.

She hopes to see her land, affectionately called Pleasant Grove, going to her children in the future, where it will continue to be conserved, but says that there is a lot of pressure for development in Botetourt County, and unless people make a plan to conserve it, it will be gone. When it comes to land, “They are not making any more of it,” she says, “so preserve and conserve what you have.”

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C O N S E R VAT I O N C E L E B R AT I O N S P O N S O R R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R VAT I O N C E L E B R AT I O N S P O N S O R


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R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R V AT I O N C E L E B R AT I O N S P O N S O R R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R V AT I O N C E L E

Our products contribute directly to the environmental movement, as they are produced from 100 percent recycled materials.

Steel Dynamics Roanoke Bar Division P.O. Box 13948 Roanoke, VA 24038-3948

All Natural

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No Preservatives

Forest

Rest

NATURAL CEMETERY

If you want to go simply, when you go, call or click today.

(540) 334-5410 5970 Grassy Hill Road, Boones Mill, VA 24065 ForestRestNaturalCemetery.com A Member of the Evergreen Memorial Trust

B R AT I O N S P O N S O R R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R VAT I O N C E L E B R AT I O N S P O N S O R R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R VAT I O N C E L E B R AT I O N

Committed to the Environment.

8/17/16 12:51 PM

S P O N S O R R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R VAT I O N C E L E B R AT I O N S P O N S O R R E C O G N I T I O N S | C O N S E R VAT I O N

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The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, a mark of distinction in land conservation. BRLC is also a proud member of the Land Trust Alliance, the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Conservation Network. 722 First Street, SW, Suite L Roanoke, Virginia 24016-4120 Phone/Fax 540-985-0000 www.blueridgeconservancy.org Member of:

Don’t miss the last Outdoor Adventure of 2017! October 14 build a bat box! October is the perfect time to think about bats! Give them a cool place to live by making your own bat box! Bats are often considered a “keystone species” and without their pollination and seed-dispersing services, some ecosystems could gradually collapse. They also help humans by eating irritating insects! Land conservancy staff will guide you as you build your own bat home. WHERE: Picnic shelter at Mill Mountain, Roanoke WHEN: 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM REGISTRATION: $10 per bat box

Fall 2017 Saving Land Newsletter  
Fall 2017 Saving Land Newsletter  
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