Friends of the Blue Ridge Honors Rural Land Stewardship

Leaders of Loudoun’s rural preservation movement put the spotlight on the importance of conservation easements during a program Sunday night at Bluemont Vineyards.

The Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains fundraiser provided an opportunity to recognize the support of political leaders, the important role of the region’s land trusts, and the efforts of those who have voluntarily limited development of their property. The event also served to pass the leadership of the 11-year-old organization from Carole Napolitano, who served as president for the past five years, to incoming president Peter Weeks.

“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done. I’m very grateful for the support from the board, from the community and from all of you,” said Napolitano, who is a founding member of the organization.

Weeks said he had been prepared for the leadership post by Napolitano and Al Van Huyck, also a co-founder and past president, and looked forward to continuing the work to protect the mountain, starting with pressing for stronger policies in the county’s new comprehensive plan.

“People make a difference. I’ve seen that again and again. If we band together then we can achieve whatever we want to achieve,” Weeks said.

The organization presented awards to former state delegate Randy Minchew and to Blue Ridge District Supervisor Tony Buffington. Minchew highlighted his efforts over his years in the House to fight for full funding of the state’s land preservation tax credit, which he said was among the commonwealth’s most effective conservation tools. Buffington was recognized for his work to secure funding for a new local program that would help landowners pay the cost of placing land under easement.

“I’m pretty sure we have enough votes to pass it. It will show that the board understands the importance of conservation and that the Board of Supervisors understands the importance of western Loudoun County and that we have to have a sufficient mass of open space to ensure that the rural economy and our tourism continue to do as well as they have been doing and that people still want to come out here and visit our wineries and visit our bed and breakfasts and our other strong rural economy businesses,” Buffington said. “Because if something were to happen and these open spaces were to be housing—if you were at a winery and all you saw was housing—I don’t think our wineries would be doing very well for much longer.”

Awards also were presented to representatives of land trusts that are active holding and enforcing easements in the region, as well as to individuals who granted easements during the past year.

Among the organization’s next projects is leading efforts to implement the landscape and public spaces plan for Round Hill’s Sleeter Lake Park. Some of the money raised at the event will be used to purchase native trees that will be planted in the park.

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