RD160 - Virginia Outdoors Foundation Annual Report Fiscal Year 2018
During most of VOF’s history, we worked primarily in the countryside, protecting Virginia’s farms and forests at a rate of nearly two acres every hour. By 2013, VOF had protected open space in all but two counties: Buchanan and Dickenson. However, VOF was underrepresented in Virginia’s independent cities, where we protected open space in just 13 of 38 jurisdictions.
One reason for this gap is that open space is a scarce commodity in urban areas. Another reason is that Virginia law requires open-space easements to comply with local comprehensive plans. Since these plans tend to emphasize development and growth in cities, open-space preservation has been largely viewed as a rural priority.
However, cities need green space, too. Parks, gardens, waterfronts, and other natural areas play a vital role in shaping the quality of life in communities. They offer people a respite from urban life. They serve as playgrounds and classrooms for children, improving health while fostering an appreciation for the natural world. For many people who will never own land and don’t have the means to travel far, urban green spaces may be the only opportunity to grow their own food, see wildlife in its natural habitat, or dip their toes in a stream.
Over the last few years, our board has expressed a desire to balance our work, to engage more communities, and to provide more direct benefits to more people. To get us there, the board has earmarked most of our Preservation Trust Fund money in recent years for projects that expand public access for recreation and education, especially in cities where we have not worked before.
This year we completed projects in two new cities, Richmond and Alexandria. We have also been working more in Norfolk, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Radford, Roanoke, Suffolk, and areas where opportunities to increase public open space exist. Our goal is to connect more people to open space.
The response to this work has been amazing. New communities have embraced our mission. We are building new relationships and finding new allies. People who didn’t know what VOF was 10 years ago now see us as a key partner in their communities. The more success we have, the more we hear from other communities that want to explore ways to work together, too.
It has been deeply gratifying to be part of this effort. We are achieving more than land conservation; we are preserving the connections that make people want to conserve land. Whether our work is preserving the farms of the Shenandoah Valley or the playgrounds of Northern Virginia, we are committed to making sure that all Virginians benefit from the preservation of our natural treasures.
/s/ Brett Glymph