The Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve in Rockingham County expanded by 62 acres after the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club purchased and donated land to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Nov. 1 that the PATC, with grant funding from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and the DuPont Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement, purchased close to 125 acres in Rockingham County, donating land to DCR and dedicating two open-space easements on the remaining 63 acres.

Tyler Urgo, Shenandoah Valley region steward for DCR, said the deal closed last week.

Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve supports one of the largest remaining systems of Shenandoah Valley sinkhole ponds in Virginia, according to DCR. The natural ponds along the Blue Ridge Mountains are identified by fluctuating water levels throughout the year. It is located in the eastern part of the county.

The preserve protects eight sinkhole ponds, with two supporting a globally rare plant, the Virginia Sneezeweed. The preserve also is home to the black-fruited spikerush, the Northern St. John’s-wort, the brown bog sedge and the Northern bog clubmoss — all of which are rare species.

To maintain the area, the preserve does not have any public access facilities and can be closed periodically for resource protection or prescribed burning activities. Those wanting to visit must call Urgo at (540) 487-9939.

The donation was part of several additions during October as the DCR was able to add 242 acres to the Natural Area Preserve System and conserve 63 acres through PATC. The expansion impacts four natural area preserves that work to protect natural communities, supply vital habitat, protect rare species, improve water quality and provide viewshed and development buffers, according to a press release.

Northam said in a press release that Virginia is home to unique natural lands and cultural treasures that need to be preserved for current and future generations to enjoy.

“I’m pleased that Virginia is taking a significant step forward to conserve these areas for all Virginians and strengthen the resilience of our Commonwealth,” Northam said in the release.

In a press release, DCR Director Clyde Cristman said to close on four properties in one month was a huge accomplishment for DCR and the commonwealth.

“Protecting these rare, special lands benefits all Virginians and is made possible by the hard work of the DCR team, our dedicated partners in conservation such as PATC and VLCF, and our private supporters and volunteers,” he said in the release.

Contact Jessica Wetzler at 574-6279 or jwetzler@dnronline.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @wetzler_jessica

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