More on Newton Neck:

 

This project was a part of the Living River Trust’s (LRT) work to conserve the “last 10%” of undeveloped land in the environmentally sensitive Elizabeth River Watershed. This now-protected, 90.48-acre parcel is commonly referred to as “Newton Neck” and is nestled along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, among established neighborhoods, a marina, and industrial uses. LTR facilitated the purchase and donation of this land for future park usage, while ensuring the beautiful and environmentally important woodlands and wetlands are preserved for the future.

“This land is special; it has never been developed and is in its natural state with wetlands, mature woodlands, and a gorgeous waterfront. Conservation is the ultimate protector of the environment and water quality, especially in these largely developed areas,” says Liz Friel, the Executive Director of the Living River Trust.

A unique partnership and foresight made not only the conservation of this land possible, but also the dedication of the land for public use in the form of potential passive recreation and trails. The protection of this parcel began with LRT reaching out and gaging interest from the longtime owners of the property, the Vann family (Southport Land Corporation), in 2020. The Vann’s agreed to consider the sale of the property to the Living River Trust with the requirement that their family’s property be dedicated as permanent open space for public use by the City of Chesapeake. LRT’s mission was then to facilitate the conservation and public use of the land, and to secure funding.

Members of Chesapeake City Council, including Mayor Dr. Richard W. West, and several members of Chesapeake’s legislative delegation toured the property and immediately recognized its pristine condition, outstanding ecological significance, and possible open space value as a park. A General Assembly appropriation followed, led by Delegate C.E. “Cliff” Hayes submitting the budget amendment, strategic counsel of Delegate Barry Knight, and full support of Chesapeake’s entire legislative delegation. The appropriation secured the property’s selling price, which was funded through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and transferred to the City of Chesapeake for the property’s closing.

Additionally, the Living River Trust secured an Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund Public Access grant from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to cover technical assistance costs to allow the property to be sold and dedicated to public use. Funds from that grant are also being used by the City of Chesapeake for initial park infrastructure.

A year of work and research by all partners came to fruition earlier this year as the City of Chesapeake completed the purchase of the property and formalized its acceptance of the property as a park. As the Chair of the Living River Trust, Mary Ann Saunders, put it; “This is a huge win for conservation and the community.” LRT is grateful to have led and facilitated the partnership and plans to use this model elsewhere to protect these rare and environmentally important lands in the region.