View of wetlands and trees at Chickahominy Crossings.

1.5 miles of Chickahominy River Protected for Wildlife

170 acres of vital wildlife habitat along the Chickahominy River are now permanently protected under a conservation easement by CRLC and HSWCD in Henrico.

Henrico County, VA – From near the Goochland County line at Wyndham, the Chickahominy River meanders for 40 miles creating a natural and legal border between Hanover and Henrico Counties, becoming the Charles City County and New Kent County boundary for another 40 miles, and emptying into the James River. The river flows through forests, wetlands, and swamps and expands across a broad floodplain that is as much as a mile across in some areas. It’s a vast ecosystem that contains some of the regions greatest biodiversity.

This week, the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) and the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) recorded a conservation easement on 1.5 miles of frontage along the Chickahominy River and 170 acres of forests and wetlands in Henrico County. Located below the falls of the river and east of Interstate 95, this conservation easement permanently protects 124 acres of freshwater wetlands and two streams. These swampy areas offer vital habitat for frogs, salamanders, turtles, water-loving birds, and countless plant species. It’s a needed refuge from nearby development at Virginia Center Commons shopping mall that is being revitalized as a mixed-use area.

Substantial portions of the property are ranked C3 for “high ecological core” by the Virginia Natural Landscape Assessment (VaNLA) analysis. This Ecological Integrity score rates the relative contribution of the area to ecosystem services including wildlife and plant habitat, biodiversity conservation, water resources protection, sediment retention, and protection from storm and flood damage. Such ecological core ranking considers size and connections to important lands that form natural land networks like the Chickahominy River.

While most of the property is within the Chesapeake Bay Resource Area as mapped in Henrico County’s local comprehensive plan, the conservation easement preserves this area as a no harvest zone that restricts commercial timbering of the property. Along with a 100-foot forested riparian buffer along the Chickahominy River, such protections work to slow down and absorb stormwater runoff, reducing stream bank erosion, and serving as a natural filter to reduce pollutants. Trees also shade the waters, cooling temperatures for fish and aquatic life.

“The Chickahominy River is an essential resource for a healthy environment and is vital to the life of plants and animals” said Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director of CRLC. “It’s been providing for the local community since prehistoric times and will continue to do so thanks to projects like this that help its resiliency.”

“The Chickahominy Crossing easement is another example of private citizens of Henrico County doing their part to protect our quality of life,” said Nicole Anderson Ellis, an elected director on the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District Board and chair of their Land Preservation Committee.  “Travelers along this stretch of I-95 may not realize the forest they see is protected, but through the vision and hard work of everyone involved in this easement, Henrico’s waters will stay cleaner, our summers will stay that much cooler, and our wild neighbors will retain a place to raise their families too.”

“Most of the land in the surrounding area has already been developed. We wanted this tract of land to stay just the way it is so that it can be enjoyed by future generations the same way we enjoy it today” said co-owner Randy Cosby.

“Henrico County has been blessed with an abundance of waterways, including the Chickahominy, and is committed to conserving these vital natural resources,” said Henrico County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Fairfield District Supervisor Frank J. Thornton. “The county applauds the altruism and forward thinking of Mr. Cosby for preserving this property in its natural state, and thanks the Capital Region Land Conservancy and the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District for their efforts with the conservation easement. This generous act emphasizes the imperative need for many hands to be involved in the stewardship of our environment — the nonprofit sector, government, private businesses and private individuals. It will take the combined efforts and shared responsibility of all of us to ensure that we can pass on a livable Henrico community to the generations that will follow us.”

Drone view of Chickahominy River surrounded by wetlands and forests.

The benefits of protecting this property are cumulative when assessing the Chickahominy River watershed. A collective 800 acres in Henrico County along the river are set aside for parks and open space – including Glover Park, Glen Lea Park, and Meadowview Park – as well as another 1,200 acres of private land protected by conservation easements held by Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, HSWCD and CRLC. This protection is important to the water quality of a 1,230-acre reservoir, known as Chickahominy Lake, located further downstream that supplies drinking water to the City of Newport News.

This conservation easement also protects historic resources. As with many tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, the Chickahominy River was an important corridor for prehistoric people to hunt, gather, and ultimately cultivate crops within its floodplain. The name Chickahominy means “People of the Coarse Pounded Corn” and the river was thus named for the area which they had settled prior to the English colonization in 1607.

CRLC is a partner of the Lower Chickahominy Watershed Collaborative that is coordinating work to conserve natural resources in Charles City, New Kent, and James City Counties with federal and state agencies, tribal governments, and non-profit organizations.

#                                  #                                  #

About Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC): Incorporated in March 2005 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, CRLC seeks to conserve and protect the natural and historic land and water resources of Virginia’s Capital Region for the benefit of current and future generations. Visit www.capitalregionland.org to learn more about CRLC’s land conservation programs.

About Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation District (HSWCD): One of 47 Soil & Water Districts across Virginia – HSWCD uses education, cost-sharing, and other tools to encourage best conservation practices by farmers, homeowners, businesses and more. While the Henricopolis District shares boundaries with the county of Henrico, it is an autonomous government body guided by a board of five voting members, including three elected directors representing the citizens of the district.

For more information, contact Parker C. Agelasto, CRLC Executive Director at parker@capitalregionland.org or 202-302-0153.