The last portion of Patrickswell, situated picturesquely on Atoka Road in Rectortown, has been placed in easement with the Land Trust of Virginia, protecting 297 acres, which includes 285 of important farmland soils, 7.6 acres of recognized wetlands, and 77 acres of forest.

This easement takes on even more significance due its location: the property is adjacent to four others already held in easement by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. All five are part of the Cromwell’s Run Rural Historic District, listed in 2008 on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This is an exciting and important easement,” said Leslie VanSant, Executive Director of the Land Trust of Virginia. “The beauty of this property is not lost on people who drive or ride bicycles past. Locals ride their horses through this farm, and Orange County hunts through there — by permission, of course — and holds meets there every season.”

Located in the northwestern corner of Orange County Hunt’s “country,” the easement includes an allowance for foxhunting and sport. In the creation of the easement, LTV spent time documenting every aspect of the property with photographs and mapping — buildings, water, fields, forests, wetlands, etc — in order to build their baseline report. The report serves as a critical reference tool for LTV’s annual stewardship visits to the property.

“Our job at Land Trust of Virginia is to continue making sure that the terms of the easement are honored forever,” said VanSant. “Every year, once a year, we visit and we check everything to make sure that it matches the terms of the easement. The photos are a valuable resource and we continue to take photos to show how the land changes over time.”

For many years, Patrickswell provided local horsemen with a reliable source of several kinds of quality hay in both square and round bales, but ceased its huge hay operation after the demise of owner Thomas Carroll in September 2008. Farming continued under the next owner with rotating crops of corn and soybeans. The new owners, who closed on the property of their dreams in early December, intend to continue farming. Plans include returning part of the property to hay production, and they have agreed to preserve structures with historic significance.

Land Trust of Virginia, a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 1992 to receive voluntary donations of conservation easements, was one of the first land trusts to become accredited by the Land Trust Alliance. In August 2014, LTV was awarded renewal of accreditation, a notable achievement enhanced by being one of the first two in Virginia to achieve this milestone. While more than 1,700 member land trusts are affiliated with the Land Trust Alliance, 280 have been accredited, only 43 have achieved re-accreditation.     

LTV currently holds easements on 144 Virginia properties that conserve nearly 15,000 acres in Fauquier, Loudoun, Clarke, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, Greene, King George, Stafford, and Hanover Counties, and in the City of Fredericksburg.

“Last year, two important scientific research studies were released that substantiated how proximity to open space, even just driving through it, improves your health,” said VanDant. “Another easement LTV recorded in 2015 is a community green space, 2.78 acres next to an apartment building in a high density urban neighborhood in Fredericksburg. That green place is now permanently protected with an easement that people can reach out and touch every day.”

With the recent epic blizzard, that urban easement probably hosted kids of all ages, making snow angels and snowmen and holding snowball fights. Come spring and summer, they’ll be out there, enjoying fresh air after a day at school or work.

Best of all, no matter how big or small the piece of land might be, being put into easement protects it in perpetuity, regardless of who ends up owning it. Changes and modifications can be made to how the land is used, but easements never give back the right to develop.

Landowners can choose to ease part or all of their property. Benefits include the protection and improvement of water quality – wells and springs, streams, ponds and rivers; protection of flora and fauna, and preservation of working landscapes and natural areas. The landowner is often entitled to substantial tax benefits, resulting from the donation of a conservation easement. If you think you would like to donate an easement, LTV has the personnel to help you decide the terms that are in your and your land’s best interests. It’s always a good idea to consult with your own tax and legal advisors about the financial and estate benefits of a conservation easement, and to hire a qualified conservation easement appraiser.

“Conservation easements benefit everybody,” said VanSant. “They preserve culture, history, wildlife habitats, agriculture, and clean water. We worked on the Patrickswell easement from September to December 2015. The new owners love this land. They spoke about how they loved driving past it and that they were thrilled to buy it when the stars aligned. We were equally thrilled to accept the easement on their land.”

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