Each year the Natural Resources subcommittee of Senate Finance holds a retreat to look in depth at topics that come before the subcommittee in the regular session. In recent years the meetings have been held at state parks and just a couple of weeks ago we met at Andy Guest State Park on the Shenandoah River.
Virginia’s state parks are amazing. This was yet another experience at a beautiful park with many opportunities for interesting, relaxing activities. Before the meeting began, we enjoyed a canoe float trip on the river, walked a trail, and met the small brown bats that live in a display case at a kiosk.
The cottages are very nice, though not fancy, very well-equipped with bed linens, towels, as well as kitchen and dining needs. Bring your own food and a book to read or games to play as you sit in a rocker on the porch or around the living room fireplace when you aren’t engaging in hiking, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding or birding.
I know people who have systematically visited each of Virginia’s parks, and some who are in the process. I spoke to someone recently who goes to a Virginia state park every New Year’s weekend and loves the winter getaways.
Well, we did settle down to work and had a number of presentations that relate to the work of the subcommittee.
To continue the theme of state parks that come under our jurisdiction in the budget, Director Joe Elton gave a talk on the history of the state park system that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The first parks were built by the Youth Conservation Corps during the Depression.
Dave Johnson, Director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, explained a recent reorganization of the department as well as the upcoming stormwater regulations.
The next topic was agricultural stewardship, farmland preservation and international marketing of Virginia’s agricultural products followed by a presentation on forestry best management practices and “Firewise Virginia.” Agriculture and forestry is Virginia’s biggest business. About 16 million acres in Virginia are forested, but that number decreases each year as new development takes place, losing an estimated 16,000 acres each year.
We had an update on the Watershed Implementation Plan so essential to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and a report on the health of the Shenandoah River. (It’s what you don’t see that counts!) After extensive study of the causes for fish kills in recent years, there is no certain conclusion, but the good news is that the fish population is rebounding.
Then we had a great report from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation about conservation easements and the Shenandoah Valley Riparian Buffer Compilation Project. In this region alone VOF permanently protects over 112, 000 acres and more than 600,000 acres statewide.
There’s not time in this article to tell you about visiting farms to see agricultural best management practices in the field. More next time!
Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]