The Nature Conservancy’s Voorhees Nature Preserve will re-open to the public May 1, just in time for families to start making their summer day-trip plans. The hiking trails on the 730-acre preserve have been closed since August of 2011 because of damage from Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene. The Nature Conservancy repaired the bridge leading to the trail and sections of the damaged trail itself thanks to generous support from the Voorhees family and grant from Dominion Virginia Power. Volunteers from Dominion and an experienced trail crew from the Student Conservation Association helped with the repairs and reconstruction.
“We are so grateful to everyone who made it possible for us to re-open the Voorhees Nature Preserve,” said Michael Lipford, Virginia executive director of The Nature Conservancy. “From re-constructing a badly damaged trail to helping cover the bills, our volunteers and supporters demonstrated their commitment to preserving what we hope will again be a very popular destination for Virginia families. We look forward to once again sharing its beauty and inspiring visitors to help us care for lands like it everywhere.”
The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia chapter held a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, April 29, to mark the preserve’s re-opening. The Voorhees Nature Preserve, which includes both forest and freshwater tidal marsh, was given as a gift from the Voorhees family to The Nature Conservancy in 1994. The preserve is about 45 minutes southeast of Fredericksburg, Va., and has more than a mile of frontage along the Rappahannock River. It is adjacent to the Westmoreland Berry Farm, where families can pick produce, take hay rides and feed goats.
Many species of neotropical and migratory songbirds use the Voorhees Nature Preserve as a layover during their spring and fall migrations. It is also a well-known nesting and roosting site for bald eagles, which perch in old pine trees in the area.
“If you’re a birder, Voorhees is a terrific site because of its location along the Atlantic flyway and the diversity of habitat here,” said Sam Truslow, land steward for The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia chapter. “But for many, the main draw is a big, charismatic species—the bald eagle. I almost always spot at least a few on my visits, especially from the two overlooks along the trail. It’s incredible to watch them soar over the river.”
During the storms of 2011, parts of the four-mile trail network through the Voorhees Nature Preserve washed away. More significantly, the bridge at the start of the trail, which is above a creek that feeds into the Rappahannock River, was rendered unusable after flood waters carrying heavy debris blew out much of its supporting structure. Trail workers from the Student Conservation Association re-routed a quarter-mile of the trail and volunteers from Dominion Electric Power helped remove debris from the trail and demolish damaged sections of the bridge. Through these efforts, a second overlook was also added to the new trail.
“By re-opening this preserve, we’re continuing our commitment to get people out to beautiful places and to showing them natural diversity,” Truslow said. “Protecting this land means we’re providing people with recreation and open space and we’re improving the water quality along the Rappahannock River. I think this will be a big hit with families this summer as they’re looking for opportunities to get out and explore the outdoors.”
The Voorhees Nature Preserve will be open daily between May and November from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays. It is one of more than 60 preserves The Nature Conservancy manages in Virginia.
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.
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