Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is growing. It comes courtesy of sizeable payout from one of the largest environmental damage settlements in Virginia’s history.
After a disastrous release of mercury in Waynesboro a decade ago, by what is now DuPont, the company agreed it would pay $50 million, compensating the public for the loss. Now, some of that money will go to acquire the additional acreage and upkeep for the park.
Greg Yates is volunteer chair for the Shenandoah National Park Trust. “It’s been a real passion for me.” His work at the park is all volunteer. “I love to hike in the park.”
Yates, and volunteers like him from all over the state, have been working on the project they call “The EDGE Fund,” to grow the park.
“And that means we will purchase properties on the edge of the park that are contiguous to the park. We will donate them to the park, if they are parcels that look like they’re good for conservation, and to add to the park.”
Yates is a real estate developer who loves the outdoors. “One of my favorite places in the park is a hike that starts at the base of the mountain in Rappahannock County called "Little Devil's Stairsteps.”
It’s about a 6-mile loop.
“And it's a beautiful hike that starts across the stream. Actually, you cross the stream multiple times back and forth. And then it, as the hike progresses in elevation, you're almost in an enclosed canyon with stone walls going upon both sides.”
The Trust, worked with Virginia’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the restoration project. The DuPont Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Settlement fund is paying some $40 -million dollars towards the forest conservation project to purchase trees from willing nearby landowners.
This is the Shenandoah’s largest acquisition, so far; 9-hundred acres of rolling woodlands in Page County.
They’ll join the nearly 2-hundred thousand already part of the protected wilderness.