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Saving Land

Outdoor Adventures Kick-Off Earth Environmental & Civil Supports BRLC Saving Cahas Mountain blueridgelandconser

spring 2015

Blue Ridge Land Conservancy Promoting the conservation of western Virginia’s natural resources- farms, forests, waterways, and rural landscapes Board of Trustees M. Rupert Cutler, President Linda W. Pharis, Vice President F. Fulton Galer, Treasurer Whitney H. Feldmann, Secretary C. Whitney Brown Stephen M. Claytor Thomas M. Dunkenberger, Jr Peter M. Fellers Broaddus C. Fitzpatrick Quinn F. Graeff William M. Hackworth Anne M. Jennings George A. Kegley Betty H. Lesko Janet Scheid

Outdoor Adventures with BRLC

This May through October: BRLC will be offering monthly outdoor programs featuring guided hikes, hands-on education events, and fun for the whole family! “BRLC’s outdoor series will be open to both Friends AND the general public.

For more information, directions, or to register for an event, contact Erica Reed at: or 540-985-0000

Advisory Council Liza T. Field Talfourd H. Kemper Robert B. Lambeth, Jr. Jeanne M. Martin

Staff David C. Perry, Executive Director Meagan R. Cupka, Project Manager Crystal P. Pait, Office Assistant Erica Reed, Outdoor Educator 722 First Street SW, Suite L Roanoke, VA 24016 540-985-0000


Late Bloomer Credit: Meagan Cupka

What is a “Friend” of the Land Conservancy? A Friend of the Land Conservancy is an individual (and their immediate family—spouse and children) or business that is an annual financial donor to the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. And no, you don’t need to own any land—nearly all of our Friends are simply folks who want to make a difference by supporting BRLC. Benefits of being a Friend include discounts to Outdoor Adventures, our quarterly magazine, a membership card and sticker, invitations to special events like the Conservation Celebration, and more.



May 3

Feathered Friends in the Blue Ridge

June 6

Cahas Mountain Hike

July 12

August 29

Sept. 19

October 4

Water Bug Walk

Goodnight, Full Moon!

Critters and Tall Trees

Go BATTY with Bat-houses!

Coming to a conserved place near you! description





Take an expert bird walk with noted local birders Rupert Cutler and Bill Hunley along Roanoke’s Lick Run Greenway, a local birding hotspot. Bring your binoculars, bird guides and checklists!

Lick Run Greenway, Roanoke

7:00AM – 10:00AM

$3 for Friends, $6 for general public

Meet at the Washington Park pool parking lot off of Orange Ave. in northwest Roanoke.

Hike one of the largest private mountains in Franklin County. Given permission by the Garst family, BRLC staff will guide intermediate hikers to House Rock where they can enjoy stunning views and their packed lunch.

Cahas Mountain, Franklin County

10:00AM – 1:00PM, bring lunch to eat at summit!

$3 for Friends, $6 for general public

Meet in the parking lot of Clearbrook Elementary School across from the WalMart on US 220 south of Roanoke. We will caravan from there to the trailhead.

Explore what lives at the bottom of a creek! Kids will find water wildlife, decide how clean the water is, and learn why clean water is important. Families will also be able to tour historic McDonald’s Mill and speak with the current owner.

McDonald’s Mill, Montgomery County

1:00PM – 4:00PM

$5 for Friends, $10 for general public

Meet at McDonald’s Mill, 3875 Catawba Rd. near Blacksburg. Look for the big white millhouse.

Love to hike but hate hot weather? Beat the summer heat with this guided nighttime hike along Carvins Cove. BRLC staff will lead a hike to the shore to view the full moon- make sure to bring a flashlight!

Carvins Cove, Roanoke and Botetourt County

8:00PM – 10:00PM

$3 for Friends, $6 for general public

Meet in the boat launch parking lot at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, 9644 Reservoir Rd., Roanoke.

Caldwell Fields, Montgomery County

9:00 AM, bring lunch to eat during walk

$3 for Friends, $6 for general public

Meet in the parking lot at Caldwell Fields. From Blacksburg (junction of North Main Street and US 460), follow US 460 west for 2.8 miles. Turn right on Craig Creek Road (SR 621), go 8.8 miles. Road turns to gravel after 4 miles. Caldwell Fields are on the right.

Mill Mountain Picnic Shelter, Roanoke

1:00PM – 2:30PM; 2:30PM – 4:00PM if interest great enough

$30 for each bat house (covers materials for bat box)

Meet under the shelter atop Mill Mountain, just off Fishburn Parkway in Roanoke.

Jesse Overcash from the U.S. Forest Service will lead an exciting trail walk through Caldwell Fields, showing what kinds of critters in the forest depend on old-growth trees.

Make a bat house and save a bat! In the past several years, bats have struggled against fungi. Give them a cool place to live by making your own bat box! Materials are provided, but bring safety goggles and a hammer.


SPONSOR SPO T LIG H T : E a r th E n v i r o n m e n t a l & C i v i l

on Walnut Knob by George Kegley


hen Jeanne and Robert Martin settled into their rustic home on Walnut Knob in Franklin County, it was quite the adjustment. Jeanne, a Massachusetts native, had met Robert when they worked at Boston Harbor Island Park. He grew up in Richmond. When Robert brought Jeanne south to Virginia, “it was love at first sight,” she said of seeing Walnut Knob. Jeanne’s Rocky Mount firm, Earth Environmental and Civil, is a longtime sponsor of the annual Conservation Celebration of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy because “it’s a great event, a public tells the story of conservation.” She does it because she’s a strong supporter of “conserving land for future generations.” Truly being a land saver, Jeanne also served on the Board of Trustees on the then-named Western Virginia Land Trust. The Martins have enjoyed their rambling log home near the Blue Ridge Parkway for more than 15 years. They’ve installed windows, floors, and electric as well as plumbing work into the rustic house. Huge pine beams rest overhead, while hemlock wood from British Columbia lines the walls.

Jeanne Martin

Jeanne and her husband protected the surrounding 240-acre forest on Walnut Knob with conservation agreements with the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. They wanted the land to stay as it is. Along with rare Hemlocks recovering from the adelgids, the property features a view of Raven Rocks and two waterfalls which come together.

Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s • s p r i n g 2 0 1 5

Outdoor Adventures Series: 2 Fun Run in the Sun: 5 Potluck Picnic: 5 Saving Cahas Mountain: 6-7



Spring 2015

We would like to apologize for mistakenly omitting Mr. and Mrs. Al Hammond from the 20132014 Giving List. The Hammonds have generously provided their facility at Braeloch for the annual Conservation Celebration, enabling the Conservancy to put more of its resources towards conserving land. We regret the omission.

Join us for our first Fun Run at Green Hill Park! On Saturday, June 13th, come out for a day of sunshine and fun as you and your family zoom around Green Hill Park, completing activity stations and learning about the outdoors!



Kids will rocket from station to station, crossing the finish line and jumping into the river with Clean Valley Council to cool off and learn about clean water and the wiggly animal friends that need it. You can also sit in the shade and enjoy fresh, locally-made ice cream donated from Homestead Creamery. The race will begin at 9:00 AM. The cost is $3 for Friends of the Land Conservancy (and their immediate family)and $5 for the general public. To register, visit -

Potluck Picnic Returns! Peak Bird Migration and Wildflower Walk

Please join us for our annual Spring Potluck on Sunday, May 3rd at the Mill Mountain picnic shelter in Roanoke! You supply a dish and a serving utensil while BRLC will supply plates, cutlery, water, and soft drinks! The picnic will begin at 6 p.m. after the guided walk. The event is open to all Friends of the Land Conservancy as well as the general public. We will again have a special FREE guided bird walk starting at 5 p.m. around Mill Mountain with birding experts Dr. Rupert Cutler and Mr. Bill Hunley.This year will include the wildflower garden and Mr. Hunley will share his knowledge about both birds and blossoms! The walk is open to all levels of folks interested in birds—from those who’ve never looked through binoculars to those who keep their own sighting logs. With a feast waiting for you and two excellent guides, we know this picnic will be a blast!

Friends of BRLC flock together! Spring 2015





Came for the trees, stayed for apples By George Kegley


erina Garst looks out a picture window of the home which she and her late husband, Fred Garst, built in the 1970s. She enjoys the views of turkeys, deer, hawks, a couple of bears, and other wildlife which cross the wooded ridges and orchards. She can see the Peaks of Otter in the distance on a clear day.

An old copper plaque from an apple barrel in Serina Garst’s hallway advertises “Virginia grown apples, grown and packed by Jack Garst, Boone Mill, USA, U.S. Standard Barrel.” Boone Mill was the original name, and these Franklin County apples were once shipped all the way to England. Occanneechi apples are still a Franklin County product.

Four generations of Garsts have had a connection with the hollow at the base of Cahas Mountain (pronounced KaHAYS), a short distance from the Franklin-Roanoke County line. At 3,570 feet, Cahas is the tallest mountain in Franklin County, and even has its own overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Serina and Fred purchased much of the land on Cahas Mountain when the former owners, the Bernard family, placed it up for auction in 2001.

After more than a century in a family apple orchard business, the Garst family is up in arms over the threat of a natural gas pipeline crossing their mountain land. In 2014, Mountain Valley Pipeline announced its plan to run the pipeline along the ridge of Cahas and through the Garsts’ protected property on top of the mountain. BRLC and the Cahas Mountain Preservation Society have been in touch with the company. While that contact has resulted in an alternate route, Serina still sees it as a threat. “It would destroy the land for something that has a 50-year life span,” she adds. With one daughter and two sons who live nearby, the family plans to stay whatever may come their way.

Prior to selling the land, Jeanne and John Bernard placed 25 acres on the lower peak of the mountain under a conservation agreement with the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy and the Friends of the Rivers of Virginia. Serina and her children now own about 2,700 acres up and over the ridge of the mountain, and hope to conserve more of those acres. Jack Garst, at 83, is the senior member of the family and is Serina’s brother-in-law. He recalls that his grandfather, the first Jack Garst, moved south from Roanoke in the late 1890s to harvest valuable chestnut trees on Cahas. He had planned a railroad spur to haul the wood out. But as chestnuts died from a major blight, he turned to apple production. The first Jack Garst never drove a car, but every day he would saddle up his horse and ride out from Boones Mill to check on the orchard. While his son, Arthur Garst, continued working the orchards and had four sons and a daughter. Two of Arthur’s sons, the late Fred and the younger Jack, grew apples at Occanneechi Orchard. Named for a North Carolina Indian tribe, an Occanneechi chief even came by once to visit, says Jack. 6


Spring 2015

Serina Garst

mountain P i p ecoming l i to ntown e W

hen Philip Bernard learned about the Mountain Valley Pipeline from his brother, he felt he had to do something. Philip had grown up under the shadow of Cahas Mountain, spending his summers gathering hay at the family farm. Years later when the farm was auctioned off, 25 acres were placed under a Philip Bernard conservation agreement, and the original homestead was included in the Cahas Mountain Rural Historic District. The rest was potentially vulnerable to development.

When Mountain Valley Pipeline announced its alternate routes, the feeling from CMPS was “bittersweet.” While the alternate route #210 will potentially move the pipeline off the ridge, he says “we felt bad about the people whose land was now impacted.” One of those people is in fact Beth, a founding member of CMPS and childhood friend of Philip. The pipeline would potentially cross her back yard.

After the receiving the news about a pipeline potentially running along the ridge of Cahas, he reached out to childhood friend Beth Garst in Franklin County. Prompted by her connection to Linda Pharis, a BRLC board member, the two organized a meeting with local landowners. Philip says he “instigated” the meeting which brought together the land conservancy, local landowners and those who appreciate Cahas Mountain in its current state. These stakeholders made up the informal Cahas Mountain Preservation Society (CMPS).

Years later, one of those cousins would contact her telling her about the survey letter he had received.

According to Philip, the goal of the group is to provide information about the pipeline and its proposed route over Cahas Mountain. It also serves to encourage people who are interested to write to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and to Mountain Valley Pipeline about removing the route from the mountain. Philip says the group strives to provide reliable, accurate information about the pipeline, including what one may expect in the future and articles about the project.

For Beth, either route is a punch in the gut. Borne in Boones Mill, she moved at ten with her family to where her father Jack Garst lives to this day, at the foot of Cahas Mountain. Fond memories include going camping on Cahas with her five sisters, three cousins, and her Uncle Fred in October where “he would scare us terribly.” That same uncle, Serina Garst’s late husband, would find the strongest wild grape vines in the forest and cut them so the kids could swing from them.

“At first I didn’t even understand what it was that was going on,” Beth recalls. She attended several meetings with Mountain Valley Pipeline and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission representatives, and felt quite lost before being contacted by Philip Bernard. The two had grown up together, and Beth credits his experience with preserving and revitalizing communities in Raleigh, NC, to getting the group going. Beth set up the Facebook page for CMPS and now helps with the posts. Beth’s highest hope is that the pipeline comes to nothing. “For now I’m putting my trust in the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and other non-profits to make FERC see the nonsense of putting pipelines through this area.” Spring 2015



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.

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BRLC Saving Land Magazine Spring 2015  
BRLC Saving Land Magazine Spring 2015