By Daniel White
I’m staring over Sam Lindblom’s right shoulder at a white Billy goat perched atop a pedestal rising high into the sky. But it’s a bird, not the sky-walking goat, that makes Sam suddenly break off in mid sentence.
“There’s a bald eagle right there,” he says, pointing away from the goat toward the Rappahannock River. Sure enough, a distinctive white-headed raptor soars just over the treetops.
Before we all paused to take in the eagle airshow, Sam had been explaining how The Nature Conservancy’s Voorhees Nature Preserve is all about connections.
We’re here in mid-April because a critical connection has been restored. Sam Lindblom and Sam Truslow, Conservancy land managers, are readying the preserve to welcome visitors for the first time since 2011.
The goats are a popular attraction for families enjoying Westmoreland Berry Farm, the starting point for visiting Voorhees. The animals walk a bridge that rises from their pasture, crosses over a farm road and ends at a platform where kids use a pulley system to send up feed.
No doubt both Sam Lindblom and Sam Truslow can relate to the watchful goat. In 2011, they stood at a similar dead end at the edge of the farm, looking at the shattered remains of the bridge that previously spanned Owl Hollow marsh and provided access to the heart of our wooded preserve.
Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene had scoured the marsh. Downed trees and assorted debris stacked up and ultimately washed into and through the bridge on the way to the Rappahannock.
“Imagine someone driving a tank right through the middle of the bridge,” says Sam Truslow, describing the damage.
With no safe passage across the marsh for visitors and lacking funds to enact costly repairs, the Conservancy was forced to close the preserve.
Thanks to generous support from the adult children of the late Alan and Nathalie Voorhees (the original preserve donors), a new and improved bridge now spans Owl Hollow. Portions of the main access trail also have been repaired or relocated.
Dominion Virginia Power contributed additional financial support and some 20 volunteers. A seasoned trail crew from the Student Conservation Association provided their expertise and additional hands-on labor to finish the trail reconstruction in time for a spring 2013 reopening.
“The Voorhees Nature Preserve is an opportunity for us to showcase the work that we do in the state, and you can spend a beautiful day here at the farm and on the preserve enjoying nature with your family,” says Sam Truslow. “We’re excited to show people the new trails and new bridge and to get families out here to connect with nature,” he adds.
Voorhees Nature Preserve is open spring though fall during Westmoreland Berry Farm’s regular operating hours. Visitors should park in the main lot by the farm store and check in at the office. A kiosk with a large trail map and other preserve information is located near the entrance to the farm store.
School and other groups may also arrange to visit during other times. Contact the Virginia Chapter office in Charlottesville for information at (434) 295-6106.
Voorhees is located near Colonial Beach on Virginia's Northern Neck. Visit the Voorhees Nature Preserve page for driving directions and other information.May 01, 2013
Daniel White is a Conservancy senior writer based in Charlottesville and a correspondent for Passport to Nature.