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Chesapeake Bay News

Jun
20
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Bull Run Mountains Conservancy (Broad Run, Va.)

In the 1930s, Smithsonian botanist Harry A. Allard walked 3,000 miles and collected 15,000 plant specimens in the Bull Run Mountains of Virginia's Eastern Piedmont region.

Eighty years later, Smithsonian scientists collect beetle specimens in the same mountains. A few miles away, volunteer naturalists explain to children and adults why beetles are central to all life; different beetle species pollinate plants (helps plants reproduce), and assist with decomposition (eats dead organisms).

A group of young campers and their parents pose at Bull Run Mountains Conservancy.
(Image courtesy Bull Run Mountains Conservancy)

Such a combination of research and education is rare, says Michael Kieffer, Executive Director of the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy, a nonprofit headquartered in the southern 800 acres of the 2,500 acre Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, about 15 miles from Manassas, Middleburg, and Warrenton, Virginia.

"We have the unique opportunity to conduct both youth and adult education programs and to tie those programs to research on the mountains," says Michael.

While the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy leads research, stewardship, and education programs in the natural area, the land itself is owned by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

With plenty of places to search for the region's rare plants and insects, the conservancy's nine miles of trails see 10,000 visitors per year.

"It is wonderful to have public access to this state natural area, but people management is always an issue," states Michael.

Stewardship goes hand in hand with the conservancy's education programs.

A group of environmental education program participants peak into a culvert at Bull Run Mountains Conservancy.
(Image courtesy Bull Run Mountains Conservancy)

Programs such as "nature preschool," "herpetology camp," and even teachers' workshops, allow participants to study the ecosystem through experience, just the way Allard did eighty years ago.

When asked to elaborate on the conservancy's immersion education philosophy, Michael explained, "Just keep them outside. They need to be outside. Yes, it’s based on the research, but no we don’t have camp counselors. It's about getting kids outside with other kids. This is vital to your life."

But as any parent knows, kids learn by example. If adults are not prone to spend time outdoors, neither will their children.

"At BRMC our education programs are equally weighed between adults and children.  If adults do not learn alongside their children, then the child’s experience on the mountains is diminished.”

The Bull Run Mountains Conservancy's summer camps begin in June. But nature lovers of all ages are invited to join their naturalist-led walks, trail clean up days, rattle snake surveys, and watershed workshops throughout the year.

A bald eagle soars near Bull Run Mountains Conservancy.
(Image courtesy Bull Run Mountains Conservancy)

More from the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy:

author
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.


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