Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Morning Hike ...

The weather was so wonderfully cool last week I decided to go to one of my favorite places for a hike. This is Ivy Creek which feeds into the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir on whose banks I live. The Ivy Creek Natural Area which borders on the creek, is about two minutes from my doorstep. Many years ago, in another lifetime, I was a naturalist/guide here and spent many glorious mornings guiding elementary school kids, teens and adults through the more than 200 acres of woodlands and fields.

This is a special place. Long ago the farm belonged to freed slave, Hugh Carr, who turned it into a show place for the Virginia Extension Service. Much later, after he died and his children and grandchildren moved on, the property was put on the market. When a developer seemed to be interested in the land, local environmentalists banded together getting the Nature Conservancy interested in buying the property. The Conservancy turned around and deeded it to the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle to be used as an undisturbed natural area where people from the region could hike and become aware of the value of wild green spaces. It is managed by the Ivy Creek Foundation, which keeps up this wonderful outdoor classroom.

Today, Ivy Creek Natural Area sits in the middle of a booming population intent on building huge homes and having all of life's commercial assets at their finger tips. I've lived in the area for well over 20 years and the changes are phenomenal. The South Fork Rivanna River is silting in at an incredible rate and the future of the drinking water supply is in jeopardy. Government approved plans for rebuilding and expanding another area reservoir puts the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir in question. Neighbors and friends often find themselves with differing views as to whether the the river should be dredged to save it as the sole drinking water supply and as the pleasurable recreational facility that it is.

During the 1950s, the South Fork Rivanna River was dammed, drowning the village of Hydraulic, where a mill ground grains from local farms into flour. It became "the reservoir" from which water was treated and piped in to the city of Charlottesville. Beyond the city's supplier of drinking water, it serves daily as a special fishing spot for many area residents as well as the place where the University of Virginia rowing teams practice and race.

The reservoir has never been dredged to maintain its flow and like the arteries of many human bodies walking the planet today, is at risk of clogging up ... becoming unusable as a water supply or a recreational playground. I believe that it should be dredged and maintained as both. It does not need to be the only source of water to fill the needs of the people who may live here in 50 years, but it was built at the expense of those people who lost their land and livelihoods to it. Like the Ivy Creek Natural Area, it is an important and special place,
reminding every one that beyond the asphalt and concrete cityscape around us, there is a quiet undisturbed place where people can find the peace and the quiet of the natural world.


Harley D. Nomes said...

While this was a very worthy groud for preservation, when you say "The Nature Conservancy turned around and deeded it to the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle" you mean that they sold the land back to local taxpayers at a substantial profit. Many people do not realize that The Nature Conservancy is the nation's most profitable real estae broker because of their track record in accessing public funding. See for other examples.

jzr said...

Thanks for your comment, Harley. Although I know the Conservancy has been accused of such I don't think that was the case here. I could be wrong of course.

The point still remains that without the Nature Conservancy, this natural area would not be as it is today, but would most likely be another development of pricey homes. Ivy Creek and the river may well have been completely silted in by now because of that kind of activity.

That the local governing bodies have never seen fit to maintain the present South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir, is the problem at this moment. To let this usable and beautiful body of water go down the tubes, would be criminal in my mind.

marja-leena said...

What a beautiful area, good that it's been saved, hope it will be revived even more. You are lucky to live so close to it and I can understand your passion for it.

Lucy said...

Wildness and wet.

Looks a lovely place, these things are often thorny. You do this kind of post very well.