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Crow's Nest opens to the public briefly
Treasures of Crow's Nest open for a day

 Crow's Nest expert Hal Wiggins (left) shows visitors how to identify a leaf from a chinquapin oak. The natural area in Stafford, which was open to visitors on Saturday, is one of the few places in Virginia where the trees grow.
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Date published: 11/9/2009


On Saturday, the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve in Stafford County was officially open to the public for the first time.

Under the supervision and direction of officials from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, approximately 120 people hiked the forested peninsula that has been recognized nationally as a unique and important ecosystem.

The roughly 2,900-acre peninsula is Virginia's 54th natural area preserve.

"I don't know where else I'd rather be today," announced Rick Myers, the natural heritage stewardship manager for DCR.

Hikers saw firsthand how beautiful the property can be as they crunched leaves underfoot and caught splinters of sunshine through the canopies of enormous oak and beech trees.

Even though visitors tramped through the woods on Saturday--listening for hawks and carefully maneuvering down steep ravines--Crow's Nest is technically still closed.

"This is what we'll be able to do for the foreseeable future," Myers said of the one-day visit. He explained that the state simply does not have the resources to properly staff Crow's Nest to keep it open on a regular basis. Until funds materialize, the gate will remain locked.

Threatened by development, the property was purchased with local, state and federal dollars in two phases over the past two years. Supporters would still like to see a third-phase purchase of property on the western end of the peninsula.

One of those supporters is Hal Wiggins. Wiggins, an environmental scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is often cited as the leading expert on Crow's Nest.

Wiggins led one of the hikes on Saturday, though he said, "I think the best way to see the property is from the water."

"Crow's Nest just goes right up. It's very, very steep," unlike other peninsulas in the area, Wiggins explained.

Once funding materializes, the DCR plans to install a canoe launch on Brooke Road to allow people to see the peninsula from the Potomac and Accokeek Creeks.

Stuck to walking the old hunting trails on Crow's Nest, Wiggins was still able to bring attention to some of the impressive features of the land and some inspiring views of Potomac Creek.

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