With approximately 2,000 acres dedicated to open space, Willowsford’s founders believed it was important to establish an entity that would administer, maintain, and operate open space, trails, and other amenity areas within or otherwise serving the Willowsford community. Relieving the HOA of this responsibility and expense was viewed as essential for the Conservancy’s long-term viability and success. It is important to note, however, that both the HOA and the Conservancy share a commitment to making Willowsford a special place that people invest themselves in and become a part of a true “community” where people not only live and play, but put down roots and build relationships and get involved in a way that creates a better quality of life for themselves, their neighbors, and the community at large.
The founders intended for the Conservancy to be a catalyst for a wide variety of programs, services and activities to appeal to the diverse interests of those who live in Willowsford.
Active management and conservation of Willowsford’s natural resources is a vital part of the Conservancy’s mission. Conservation practices may include reforesting farmland, creating edible landscapes, wildlife management (including hunting programs), the harvesting of trees, eradication of invasive plants, meadow restoration or naturalization, as well as other active land management activities.
During development, the Conservancy is run by a Board of Trustees, appointed by the founders. The Board meets bi-monthly, on the 3rd Thursday of the month beginning in January, at 5:00 pm at Sycamore House. For more information, contact [email protected]
To be effective, the Conservancy must have a reliable source of funding as well as options for developing additional funding to expand its programs and services. Today, the Conservancy is funded in a variety of ways, including Community Enhancement Fees and assessments. The Community Enhancement Fee is charged to the purchaser upon the transfer of property ownership. The amount of the fee is set by the Board of Trustees, but may not exceed 0.25% of the gross selling price. Builders also contribute an initial fee. Revenue derived from the Farm’s products and services as well as fees from events organized by the Conservancy help support the mission and work of the Conservancy.
While it is true that the mission of the Conservancy extends to individuals beyond Willowsford’s borders, only activities sanctioned or organized by the Conservancy allow the use of its amenities by non-residents strictly during authorized times. One of the benefits of being a Willowsford resident is that the Conservancy amenities that have been activated for safe use are right in your backyard and available from dawn to dusk. Please note that due to ongoing development, certain trails or areas may be temporarily closed until deemed safe for resident use.
No, all Willowsford trails are intended for pedestrian use and bicyclists. Motorbikes and all-terrain type vehicles are not permitted due to safety concerns, environmental impacts and trail maintenance costs. Only our trail maintenance crews are permitted to use these types of vehicles to access trails for cleanup and repair. Please report any suspected violations to a Conservancy Ranger.
Only a small fraction of the ultimate open space area has currently been transferred out of private ownership. Until a section of the property is fully planned and the engineered plans are approved by the County, it is not possible to determine the exact size and shape of the open spaces. As Willowsford prepares to sell a section of lots to a community builder, the staff creates a Subdivision Record Plat, (aka Plat) depicting the exact configuration of roads, lots and open space parcels. Many factors are considered in designating which entity will own and maintain the community’s open spaces.
Generally, the areas with resident-only amenities, (e.g. pools) and higher maintenance areas (e.g. entry features) are deeded to the HOA. Parcels of open space that are to be utilized by the Farm or maintained as natural habitat, including fields, forests and wetlands, are deeded to the Conservancy. The Plat is recorded in the County land records along with a deed of dedication that subjects each open space parcel to either the HOA Charter or the Conservancy Covenant. Either form of dedication provides protection from further development and qualifies as Open Space. Upon recordation of such a Plat and deed the newly created parcel(s) come under the Conservancy’s governance and maintenance responsibility. Thereafter, the Conservancy Trustees direct maintenance of the land, such as agricultural practices, game management, programs, trail repairs, etc., in accordance with the Conservancy’s Mission statement and guiding principles.
In the eastern United States, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are spread through the bites of infected blacklegged ticks, primarily those in the nymph stage. Spread of Lyme disease bacteria from an infected tick to a person generally occurs after the tick has been attached to the person’s body for at least 36 hours. Blacklegged ticks are found mainly in densely wooded areas and in transitional habitats between woodlands and open areas. Trails and campsites are often located in these areas.
One of the most effective methods for preventing Lyme disease is to check for ticks during or immediately after outdoor activity, and to promptly remove attached ticks. Wearing light-colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants with tucked-in pant legs, is another effective method for preventing tick bites and Lyme disease. DEET-based repellents that contain 20% to 30% DEET have also been shown to be effective. Perfume and cologne can attract ticks and should be avoided when outdoors.
Willowsford Conservancy’s general policy is to avoid pesticides that kill beneficial insects and pose hazards to humans and wildlife. We recognize that ticks and tick-borne disease have become prevalent in Loudoun County. We recommend the commonly prescribed protocols of wearing light colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants with tucked-in pant legs, and shoes that cover the foot, and checking and changing clothing after outdoor activity. The best prevention is to frequently check yourself and your clothing, check your children and your pets. DEET-based repellents that contain 20% to 30% DEET have also been shown to be effective.
To reduce exposure to ticks, we mow established Conservancy trails bi-weekly, mowing at a wider width to remove overhanging grass. Wooded trails are monitored to keep vegetation from encroaching. Conservancy grassland areas are generally mowed twice per year. Additional buffer strips are mowed biweekly by the HOA in all grassland areas that adjoin resident property. Please report any overgrown trail segments to the HOA or Conservancy.
There have recently been black bear sightings in the Grove and Grange villages. Black bears are the only native bears in Virginia and for the most part are rarely seen. Bears live shy and secretive lives and it’s a real treat to see one. We share their habitat and it is our responsibility to be good neighbors. Black bears lead solitary lives and travel through the wetlands and forests that surround Willowsford. We need to make sure that we don’t unnecessarily attract bears to our homes and gardens. The website of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has an excellent pamphlet on “Living with Black Bears in Virginia.”
Most residential bear problems arise from people attracting them with food. Policing your trashcans, outdoor grills, pet food and bird feeders will deter them from your property. Young bears, only a year or two old, are frequently left to roam on their own by their mothers during the summer months. Food found in back yards may make an easy meal for a young, hungry bear. Unfortunately, bears that associate humans with food and become nuisance bears are not relocated. It is the policy of VDGIF to kill nuisance bears.
We love all our wildlife, especially those bears that call this neck of the woods home; you can help by reading the VDGIF pamphlet and telling your neighbors.
Deer populations can nearly double in size annually and hunting is a necessary tool to control population. Over-population of deer causes damage to residential and agricultural landscapes, leads to more frequent vehicle collisions and has a negative ecological impact on forests and other wildlife. During hunting season, the Conservancy permits hunting on Conservancy-managed land where safe and appropriate, within the guidelines set forth by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Participation in the deer management program is limited to Willowsford residents, employees and volunteers. The program is designed to be safe, sportsmanlike and ethical, with program regulations meeting or exceeding applicable laws and regulations. Program information is available in the “Wildlife Management” section of the website.
Residents may hear gunfire from adjacent properties. Target practice and hunting are part of rural living, and not unusual. The activities on adjacent properties are beyond our jurisdiction.
There are many opportunities to get involved with Conservancy and Farm activities, from helping during events, to volunteering at the Farm, assisting with trail maintenance, monitoring wildlife, researching and writing, photography, leading tours and programs, and supporting our conservation work. To learn more and get involved, check out the Volunteer section or e-mail [email protected] .
Trees in various stages of decline are part of a natural woodland environment, and dead wood is a great resource for animal species in the forest. If there is no danger to persons, structures or trails, leaving standing dead trees (called “snags”) or uprooted trees provides habitat and food to many kinds of wildlife.
Snags are used by many species of birds and mammals for shelter and nesting, and are a source of insects and other invertebrates. This food source is particularly important for overwintering birds. Uprooted trees provide habitat for many animals, plants and microorganisms and, occasionally, create vernal pools that support amphibian breeding.
Snags are also important launch sites for birds to catch insects. A snag that borders a field or orchard may be used by hawks and owls to catch mice. Similarly, kingfishers, ospreys and bald eagles perch on or fish from dead trees standing in or near water. At least 30 kinds of birds commonly use snags for foraging perches. In addition, certain bird species regularly use snags for singing perches.
The Conservancy will remove trees that impact established trails or buildings, or otherwise present a safety hazard.
Coyotes have been in Virginia for at least 60 years. They generally avoid humans, even when living in urban or suburban areas, and should be left alone. However, the presence of pet food, compost, dirty BBQ grills or trashcans lure coyotes into yards, and a coyote who finds food in one yard may learn to search for food in others. Don’t make your yard a food source to coyotes!
Coyotes typically try to avoid people whenever possible. However, as you and your pets spend more time outdoors, the possibility of a coyote encounter increases. In the spring, when coyotes raise litters, they may be territorial and challenge dogs that come close to the pups. Or they may try to escort you out of an area to protect their pups when you encounter them on a trail. It is important to recognize such incidents for what they are: defense of space, not an attempt to stalk or attack.
If you encounter a coyote, do not run away. Haze the coyote by clapping, shouting, and waving your arms, or throwing sticks and small rocks to persuade the coyote to move on. Noisemakers, such as whistles, can help scare coyotes away.
If you spot a coyote in or around Willowsford, do not panic. Unless an animal is a nuisance or a threat, wildlife should be left alone and precautions should be taken not to attract wildlife to the home or yard.
Invasive plants are non-native plants that cause ecological harm to forests, native grasslands, wetlands and waterways as well as economic damage. They can rapidly invade and overtake a site, forming dense layers that interfere with or completely displace native plants. Invasive plants alter habitats by decreasing light availability and depleting soil moisture and nutrients. Some invasive plants release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants.
Unfortunately, many plants that are invasive in Virginia are still sold through the nursery trade and recommended by landscapers and garden designers. These include Winged Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), various non-native honeysuckles including Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Akebia (Akebia quintata), Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and English Ivy (Hedera helix).
Plants often escape gardens when seed is carried away by birds and deer that feed on seeds and plants. Seeds can also disperse through wind and water, or by attaching to shoes and clothing, or to animals that carry seed back into forests and open space.
Controlling invasive plants is difficult once they have become established. Therefore, not using the plant, and removing highly invasive plants from gardens, are the most important steps toward control.
Poison ivy is extremely common in our area, growing along roadways and in fields, forests, yards and gardens. Although well known for causing an itching, painful rash in most people who touch it, the plant is eaten by many animals and the seeds are consumed and spread by birds. Knowing how to identify it is one of the best defenses against accidental contact. If you believe you have come into contact with poison ivy, wash the affected skin area with soap and cold water, or with a skin cleanser made to remove poison ivy oils. Always use cold water.
A good way to identify poison ivy is by its leaf that consists of three pointed leaflets. The middle leaflet generally has a longer stalk than the two side ones. Each group of three leaflets grows on its own stem, which connects to the main vine. The leaflets are 2-4” long; leaflet edges can be smooth, toothed, or lobed. The leaves are usually glossy and can be reddish when they emerge in the spring. They turn green in the summer, and become various shades of yellow, orange, or red in the fall. Yellowish-green flowers appear in June or July followed by light colored berries. Poison ivy can be found in one of three forms: an erect woody shrub, a trailing ground vine with many shoots, or a woody vine. The vine usually grows on trees or other objects for support. It has aerial roots along the stem that give it the appearance of a fuzzy rope. Poison ivy has no thorns and is commonly confused with the boxelder tree and Virginia creeper vine. Good images of eastern poison ivy in its various stages can be found here.