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$843,750 grant goes to county conservation project / February 25, 2021

The Virginia Land and Conservation Foundation Board has awarded the first round of funding for land conservation projects in the 2021 fiscal year, distributing $3,406,250 in state grants for protection of open spaces and park lands, lands of historical or cultural significance, farmlands and forests, and natural areas.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation received $843,750 for the Southside Virginia Recreation and Conservation Complex in Halifax County, home to Staunton River State Park and adjoining Difficult Creek Natural Area Preserve.

It is not immediately clear if the funds also apply to Falkland Farms, which DCR is in negotiations to purchase from current landowner Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, the company behind gaming sensation Fortnite.

The funds to the Halifax County natural reserve project are divided into four grant categories: $843,750 for farmlands and forest preservation, $875,000 for historic area preservation (including $31,250 of unrewarded funds from the prior grant round), $843,750 for natural area protection, and $843,750 for open spaces and parks.

“In the proposal these funds are for acreage that is adjacent to Staunton River State Park in the Natural Areas category of the VLCF,” said Public Communications and Marketing Director Dave Neudeck with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The grant and associated funds may be used to support the acquisition of the acres associated with the expansion of the existing Difficult Creek Natural Area Preserve. The VLCF award was in the Natural Areas category, so the funds are limited specifically to the expansion of that natural area preserve.

“With any real estate transaction, I am not able to go into much detail,” said Neudeck of the possibility of the money being used to assist with the purchase of Falkland Farms, which Sweeney bought in late 2019 for $11.5 million.

A virtual workshop will be held on March 2 from 2-4 p.m. to review the submitted request for the second round of VLCF FY21 grants. DCR expects decisions to be made on these grants in June. The agency is awaiting confirmation on additional grants administered by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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