Obey parking rules, respect nature at Virginia natural area preserves

By: Contributed Report | Twitter: @SSDispatch
Posted: May 20, 2020 | 10:45 a.m.

VIRGINIA – Many Virginia natural area preserves have experienced high numbers of visitors over the last several weeks.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program manages these special lands to protect habitat for rare plants and animals, as well as unique, often delicate natural communities. About one-third of the 64 natural area preserves have public-access facilities such as hiking trails. A few have hand-carry canoe and kayak launches.

Natural area preserves differ from Virginia State Parks and have very small parking areas for 10 or so vehicles.

Because of overuse, these natural area preserves are now closed to public access:

–    The Channels Natural Area Preserve in Washington and Russell counties (closed through at least June 10)

–    Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve in Roanoke County (closed through at least June 10)

–    Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve in Fauquier and Prince William counties, owned by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (closed until further notice)

“During these challenging times, we want to keep natural area preserves open to the public,” Natural Heritage Program Director Jason Bulluck said. “We greatly need the help of our visitors to use these special places appropriately, so they remain available for the public to respect, appreciate and enjoy.”

Anyone planning to visit a natural area preserve should:

–    Check www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/nap-covid-19 before leaving home for the latest information on closures.

–    Have alternate plans in case the small parking area is full upon arrival. Parking areas hold only 10 or so vehicles. If it’s full, visitors should wait for a space to open, act on their alternate plan or come back later. Do not park elsewhere.

–    Stay on marked trails. Going off trails causes erosion and damages fragile and rare plants DCR works to protect.

–    Leave no trace. Dogs must be on leash. Take your trash and pet waste with you when you leave. Use the restroom before leaving home. Preserves are not equipped with restrooms and do not have trash receptacles.

–    Continue practicing social distancing. No groups greater than 10 are permitted. If you’re sick, stay home. All preserves are routinely monitored by staff and local law enforcement.

Copyright 2020 Womack Publishing

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