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Saving river's splendor
Plans for conservation easement along the Rappahannock River are moving ahead

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Date published: 3/12/2004


City still working to preserve land

A conservation easement on thousands of acres of city-owned land along the Rappahannock River could be in place by early summer.

That's the assessment of Fredericksburg officials and representatives from conservation groups working on the agreement that would protect the riverfront land in perpetuity.

"We're working to finalize a draft, hopefully within the next few weeks," said Leslie Trew, a conservation easement specialist with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which has 247,125 acres under easements across the state.

VOF is working with the Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Rappahannock, and the city staff on the easement first proposed last fall.

"I'm very encouraged. We've made a lot of progress and answered some difficult questions," Trew said.

The plan is to present a draft easement to the VOF board at its next meeting June 16. Before that can happen, though, City Council must iron out any wrinkles, and hold a public hearing. The VOF board meets three times a year, in March, June and September.

A draft agreement was to have been ready for this month's meeting, but the process has taken a little longer than expected. In June, VOF could either approve the easement, suggest changes or defer it to the next meeting. It would not go into effect until it is recorded in court.

"I'm very optimistic that most of the questions have gotten resolved and that the easement will be recorded, and summer is not unrealistic," she said.

About 135 parcels, ranging in size from less than an acre to 266 acres, make up the 4,945 acres owned by the city along the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers. Fredericksburg acquired the land from Virginia Electric and Power Co. in the 1960s. The property runs for miles upstream into Stafford, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Orange and Fauquier counties.

The city would receive $1.2 million in return for restricting development of the land.

Development pressures

Though the city has had a management plan for the land since 1994, it has lacked the staff or the money to keep tabs on it.

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