The pristine mountain headwaters of Naked Creek, along with nearly 1,000 acres of woodland in the Shenandoah River watershed in Page County, are now officially protected as part of Shenandoah National Park.
In 2021, the Shenandoah National Park Trust worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR), and local partners and landowners to purchase three contiguous properties with funds from the DuPont NRDAR settlement, which were to be used for “land protection, property acquisition, and recreational and wildlife enhancements – riparian habitat along the South River or South Fork Shenandoah River.”
“We are thrilled that the settlement funds enabled the addition of these lands to Shenandoah National Park,” said Cindy Schulz, field office supervisor at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s Virginia Ecological Services Field Office. “Conserving this area meets the goals of the settlement by protecting tributaries to the South Fork Shenandoah River and providing and improving habitat for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife.”
In 2022, the Trust officially donated the acreage to the Park.
In a mountainside dedication ceremony on May 18th, 2023, the Trust officially commemorated their 2022 donation. This historic donation is the result of a collaboration with partners from local, state, and national levels. Due to the united effort of landowners, nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies, these lands and headwaters of Naked Creek are protected and preserved as public lands for current and future generations.
“The Shenandoah National Park Trust is proud of the strong collaborations that have led to this momentous addition to the Park,” said Jessica Cocciolone, the Trust’s Executive Director. “These partnerships have ensured that this majestic property will be preserved and protected for generations to come.”
The donated land is rich with family histories and natural wonders, from generations of explorations and stories to waterfalls and sweeping views of the Shenandoah Valley. The Trust would like to publicly thank Camille Bradford, Carol Dean Campbell, the Graves family, and Connie Dean Kerlin for making their properties available for purchase and prioritizing the restoration and protection of Naked Creek in the face of environmental challenges.
The Trust would also like to thank the Valley Conservation Council for its assistance in transferring the land and Phillip Paschall for volunteering his time and expertise to act as Project Coordinator for this acquisition.
Land donations along Park boundaries protect Shenandoah – and its flora and fauna – from the effects of rising temperatures and the encroachment of both human development and low-elevation wildlife. Protected forests provide safe habitats and a tree canopy that keeps temperatures cool at the base of the mountains, allowing low-elevation species to survive where they are instead of moving into limited high-elevation territories.
The impact of this donation has inspired other Park neighbors to protect Shenandoah’s borders through land donations. The Trust is currently negotiating the donation of 225 acres in Warren County and 24 acres in Sperryville, further building Virginia’s climate resiliency and protecting wild lands for the education and enjoyment of future generations.