The Nature Conservancy announced today that construction is complete on the new pavilion at Flag Rock. The pavilion was built in part as a safety precaution to replace the previously existing structure, but also to honor former Gov. Mark R. Warner and former first lady of Virginia Lisa Collis for their $1.5 million gift to help advance The Nature Conservancy’s work in the Allegheny Highlands of western Virginia.
“Warm Springs Mountain and Bath County are favorite retreats for our family,” said Lisa Collis, who has served on the Conservancy’s volunteer board of trustees in Virginia since 2002. “Mark and I have a deep appreciation for the lands, waters and open spaces of Virginia. We’re proud to support the Conservancy’s work in preserving this beautiful corner of Virginia for future generations.”
The Conservancy purchased Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, which overlooks the historic Homestead resort, in March of 2002 for $6.2 million. The acquisition remains the Conservancy’s single largest land purchase in Virginia. Through diverse conservation partnerships, the Conservancy continues to conduct research, protect additional land and restore native habitat.
“Gov. Warner and Lisa Collis are greatly enhancing our efforts to conserve a landscape that is deeply intertwined with our commonwealth’s history and natural heritage,” said Michael Lipford, the Conservancy’s Virginia executive director. “Their generous gift will not only help pay off our mortgage on the preserve, but also will free up resources to advance our conservation work at Warm Springs Mountain and across the state.”
Warm Springs Mountain and the pristine Cowpasture River cutting along its foot open windows to this region’s remarkable natural world. Swift streams thread across the mountain, and unusual plants such as bunchberry still flourish here. In places, the thriving hardwood forest suddenly gives way to a globally rare montane pine barren—arid terrain blanketed with stunted pitch pine and shrubs.
This extraordinary diversity of habitats and species led the Conservancy to target Warm Springs Mountain as the focal point of its work in the Allegheny Highlands. More recently, conservation planners have identified the entirety of the surrounding Central Appalachians — running from Virginia north to Pennsylvania — as one of the Conservancy’s top global priorities.
The Central Appalachians have produced one of the world’s richest temperate broadleaf forests. Wildlife such as the barred owl, bobcat, black bear and fisher, along with unusual plants, thrive within this rich mosaic of woods and rivers. Many species are endemic—they occur nowhere else on Earth. These forests also shelter cool headwater streams that deliver clean water to larger rivers—the Rappahannock, Potomac and James — and thus to millions of people in the East.
“Our lands and waters are being changed at unprecedented rates,” said Lipford. “So the Nature Conservancy is indeed fortunate to have Gov. Warner and Lisa Collis among our dedicated supporters who are helping to conserve critical places.”
The overlook and new pavilion were dedicated at a ceremony for Lisa Collis and Mark Warner on June 26. Marek Smith, the Conservancy’s Allegheny Highlands Program director, will lead a hike to the Collis-Warner Overlook at Flag Rock for local residents and visitors on July 18, 2009. Call (504) 839-3599 for more details or to register.
The Nature Conservancy 2009 Summer Hike Schedule
Local History Hike
Date: July 18 Time: 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Cherished by Native Americans, visited by presidents, and traversed by pioneers, the Allegheny Highlands has a rich history of exploration and settlement. Discussion will include mineral baths, Thomas Jefferson, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and more as we hike to Flag Rock and take in breathtaking views of the Warm Springs valley.
Fire Ecology Hike
Date: August 15 Time: 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Fire, whether ignited by lightning or Native Americans, has been a component of the Central Appalachians for millennia. On Warm Springs Mountain, a number of species and natural communities are dependent on fire for their survival. This hike will explore an area where fire is being restored to its natural role in the ecosystem.
Hike Information & Registration
Hikes depart from The Nature Conservancy office at 12181-A Courthouse Hill Road in Warm Springs. Participants should dress for the weather and be able to hike up to two miles over uneven terrain. No restroom facilities are available at hike locations. There is no charge for participation, but space is limited and pre-registration is required. Call 540-839-3599 for more information or to register.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.