Dragon Run Special Area Management Plan

Advisory Group – Education & Access Working Group

July 17, 2002



- Topics -

  1. Welcome


  1. Goals Review


  1. Brainstorm to Develop Action Plans


  1. Adjourn






Davis Rhodes (Friends of Dragon Run); Kay Bradley (MP-NN Public Education Consortium); Jerry Horner (RCC); Willy Reay (VIMS/CBNERR-VA); David Fuss (MPPDC)


Goals Review


David asked the group to review the goals and objectives for the Dragon Run SAMP and consider possible action plans to achieve those goals and objectives.


Brainstorm to Develop Action Plans


Initially, the question of the state parks bond referendum arose. David explained that the bill had passed the House and the Senate and been signed by the Governor. It would go to voters in the November general election. If passed, $119 million would be available. Most of this is for projects at existing parks and natural area preserves, but $30 million is for acquisition of new parks and preserves ($10M to preserves; $20M to parks). One park is expected to be located along the Chesapeake Bay or a major tributary in the Middle Peninsula (i.e. Mathews or Gloucester). It is to be from 600-1000 acres and would be designed to provide public access to the Bay. The search pattern is not in the Dragon Run Watershed.


Water and groundwater concerns were raised. The concern is that industrial users could have a major effect on groundwater supplies in the spring-fed Dragon Run (e.g. Smurfit-Stone in West Point). This could spark water wars. Dr. Reay indicated that his research shows that most wells are drawing from deep aquifers and would not greatly impact the spring water that feeds the Dragon Run. It was suggested that education of community and landowners might be needed to communicate the importance of water resources in the Dragon Run Watershed. It was also suggested that a regional plan be developed to protect against over-utilization.


The discussion shifted to real estate tax breaks for traditional uses (e.g. farming, forestry, hunting) in the watershed or along the streamfront. This tax break should be tied to the continuation of these traditional uses. This led to a discussion of the concept of agricultural/forestal districts, where landowners voluntarily enter into a zoning district that allows tax breaks in return for a commitment to keep the land in agriculture or forestry. This concept is probably not palatable to the Boards of Supervisors right now, considering the budget climate. Another suggestion was that tax rates could be different for undeveloped land with potential for development vs. developed lands.


The concept of conservation easements was discussed. The idea was raised about using the state’s Neighborhood Assistance Program to gain a certificate that can be used any time during the tax year.


This led to the idea of using conservation easements as a way to attract ecotourism to the area. Ecotourism, in turn, might be a revenue generator for the local economy. The question was raised as to whether the PDC might be able to perform some modeling to provide some persuasive figures for the benefits of ecotourism on the local economy. Also, the idea of showing examples of successful efforts by other communities was discussed. Mr. Rhodes mentioned an area in the Western U.S. that had been utilized during the Friends’ presentation about conservation easements. The Texas Birding Trail was offered as a successful ecotourism venture. Also, The Conservation Fund’s Palmetto-Peartree Preserve in Tyrrell County, NC has undertaken a local ecotourism implementation plan, with great support from the local communities.


The focus then shifted to education of accountants, attorneys, and estate planners. Dr. Reay indicated that CBNERR-VA could host professional development workshops for professional estate planners.


Mr. Rhodes referred to a comment made by Andy Lacatell (TNC) at an earlier meeting that TNC has documented that education does not have a significant positive impact on conservation. He expressed concern that if this was true then maybe our efforts are not going to be as effective as we would hope.


Dr. Reay referred to Dr. Garman’s giddiness at an earlier meeting about the Dragon Run being such a special place and that he called it a “time capsule from 100 years ago.” He used the example of the diversity of mussels found in the Dragon Run and the research from a VCU student many years ago who had investigated the relationship of mussels and native fish. Dr. Reay was enthusiastic about education as a promoter of protection of unique natural resources.


Dr. Reay went on to talk about learning more about shoreline erosion and sediment loads in the Dragon Run. He raised the idea of a nutrient credit that would be transferable to other areas that cannot meet their nutrient load cap. He thought he had read about this in the Bay Journal magazine. The group was not sure whether the state allowed this type of nutrient credit transfer program and, in a Dillon Rule state like Virginia, localities would not be able to participate in such a program without authority from the state.


Ms. Bradley suggested that we invite Del. Albert Pollard to a future meeting as a potential co-sponsor of a bill at the state level to over come the Dillon Rule problem by introducing legislation for a nutrient credit transfer program.


David spoke briefly about his effort to informally survey the number of canoe trips and number of people per trip that are using the Dragon Run. Dr. Reay indicated that they had one trip this year sponsored by a Rotary club, where children stayed at Christ Church.


Groundwater withdrawal concerns were raised again and it was acknowledged that not that much study had been done on near surface water. Terry Wagner has mostly done work on deep aquifers.


An idea was proposed to get the counties to acknowledge the watershed as an area of uniformity among the counties. The idea of signs recognizing the watershed’s boundaries also was raised. David mentioned that the Local Government work group has come up with the idea of an overlay district within which rezoning requests, special exceptions, and conditional uses would automatically trigger a request for a formal response from the Dragon Run Steering Committee.




The group agreed to meet again on Aug. 28 at 7:30 PM. This night is a PDC Commission meeting, so an alternative site will be necessary. Dr. Reay suggested the possibility of VIMS as a meeting site. The meeting was adjourned.