Published Jan 5, 2015
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has announced the closure of the High Point Cliffs area of the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve starting January 15, 2015, for an indefinite period, to allow for the recovery and restoration of the area.
The Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve occupies a series of rocky ridges and steep valleys on Virginia's northern piedmont. Straddling Fauquier and Prince William Counties, the preserve's 2,486 acres are owned by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a state-supported organization dedicated to protecting open space across the Commonwealth.
The cliff area at High Point is a particularly fragile and significant natural community known as a Pine-Oak / Heath Woodland. Both the vegetation and the geological formation that supports it represent important natural resources in Virginia that have been damaged by trampling. Sensitive species such as the eastern timber rattlesnake and the Table Mountain pine have been disturbed by high numbers of visitors. Six miles of public access trails in the preserve will remain open for hiking.
The cliff area is part of the 2,500-acre preserve, but is privately owned. Access is managed under a license agreement that enables the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) to provide natural resource protection for the habitat while permitting the public to visit the cliffs.
The closure will be implemented by VOF in accordance with a recovery plan designed in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Natural Heritage, whose staff will monitor the effects of closure on the damaged habitat.
The site was dedicated as a Natural Area Preserve in 2002. It harbors outstanding examples of several forest and woodland community types, including some that are rare in Virginia. Other interesting communities occupy white quartzite cliffs and the boulder fields beneath them on High Point Mountain near the southern end of the preserve.
The duration of the closure will depend on the rate of recovery and the public's adherence to current and future use guidelines. Visitors to the preserve must respect the closure of the High Point cliff area. At the time of closure, the Bull Run Ridge Trail beyond its juncture with Fern Hollow Trail and the Hickory Trail beyond its juncture with Quarry Trail will be closed.
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation maintains public access facilities at the southern end of the preserve, including hiking trails and parking. Trail management assistance is provided by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). Volunteer opportunities to assist with trail upkeep are available through PATC.
Tags: Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, News, Closings, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Closures, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
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