RD472 - Natural Area Preserve and State Park Acquisition and Improvements Report – November 2018

Executive Summary:

The Board of Conservation and Recreation, in accordance with Item 363 in Chapter 2 of the 2018 Virginia Acts of Assembly, seeks to develop a strategy and recommendations to guide future park and natural area land acquisitions and development. To that end, and in keeping with the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s mission to “conserve, protect, and enjoy Virginia’s natural and cultural treasures," the report contained herein provides a snapshot of those parks and natural area preserves identified as most suitable for land acquisition and development. This report recommends targeted capital improvements and operational support for “land banked" parks and natural area preserves in keeping with the priorities outlined by the General Assembly. The proposed acquisitions and improvements would enhance access to outdoor recreational facilities for citizens throughout the Commonwealth. Proposed property acquisitions reflect parcels identified as immediately beneficial for acquisition, subject to the stated priorities of the General Assembly and additional relevant criteria identified by the Board of Conservation and Recreation.

As a matter of practice, directed by the Code of Virginia § 10.1-200.1, the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s construction of parks is governed by a master planning process that is used to develop properties in a manner consistent with public demand while also blending the system’s needs with the natural landscape of the property. Due to the “land banked" status of many of the properties identified in this report, several of the properties identified do not have a current master plan in place. In those instances, the Board of Conservation and Recreation and Department of Conservation and Recreation staff have worked collaboratively to identify necessary infrastructure to open these properties to the public. The cost estimates provided in this report would ensure public access as well as allowing for proper management of sensitive natural and cultural resources on the identified properties.

The state park and natural area preserve acquisitions and improvements contained in this report represent a prioritized list of under-developed properties, evaluated based on the following guiding principles:

1. Priority on development of parks and natural area preserves in areas with limited access to state and regional outdoor recreation facilities, and enhancement of public access opportunities on existing properties in such areas.

2. Relative operational costs and staffing needs for any new areas compared to operating and staffing needs at existing state parks and natural area preserves.

3. Acquisitions of in-holdings and critical parcels that are adjacent to existing state parks and natural area preserves and enhance the resilience of the existing property.

4. The value of land acquisitions in protecting significant natural, cultural, recreational, and historical resources.

5. Potential revenue generation stemming from land acquisition and capital improvements.

6. Local and regional demand, as determined by the Virginia Outdoors Demand Survey.