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DHR Easement Projects Receive 2024 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards

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Every year, the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards recognize innovative efforts to improve Virginia’s environment. Managed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the program issues awards for five categories: Environmental & Sustainability Program; Environmental & Sustainability Project; Land Conservation; Commonwealth Greening of Government; and implementation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan.

By Wendy Musumeci | DHR Easement Program Coordinator

Two Department of Historic Resources (DHR) Easement Program projects—the Haskins Tract in Henrico County and the Drexel-Morrell Center in Powhatan County—each received a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in the Land Conservation category at the 2024 Environment Virginia Symposium. Coordinated by the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Conservation and Recreation, this award program annually recognizes successful and innovative efforts that improve Virginia’s environment.

DHR partnered with the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) to place a historic preservation and open-space easement on the Haskins Tract, a property that played an integral role in the 1864 Civil War Battle of Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights. The easement, held by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources and administered by DHR, resulted in the perpetual conservation of 49.09 acres of land. This contributes to a larger effort to preserve the New Market Heights Battlefield, which Preservation Virginia identified among Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2021. The property includes a well preserved 650-foot segment of the “New Market Line” system of earthen fortifications and is associated with a successful breakthrough made during the battle by the 22nd United States Colored Troops. The project received grant funding from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and the American Battlefield Protection Program. CRLC intends to highlight the property’s historic significance by installing publicly accessible pedestrian trails and interpretive signs to complement related educational programming.

2024 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards
HASKINS TRACT-SILVER MEDAL WINNER: Pictured from left to right: Mike Rolband (DEQ Director), Karri Richardson (DHR), Travis Voyles, Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, Wendy Musumeci (DHR), Parker Agelasto, (CRLC Executive Director), Matt Wells (DCR Director), Su Bulbulkaya (DCR), Heather Barrar (CRLC Board Member), Patrick Fanning (CRLC Board Member), Larry Mikkelson (DCR), Demetrius Venable (CRLC Board Member).

The Drexel-Morrell Center (DMC) comprises 56.4 acres of land conserved through a partnership between Belmead on the James, Inc. and DHR. As a result of the project, an easement permanently protects this historically significant property, which is listed on the state and federal historic registers and includes a circa 1898 dwelling known as Rosemont, a 19th-century stable, and a historic cemetery. The dwelling was built as a residence for Charles Lewis (C.L.) Dodd, who designed the St. Francis de Sales Institute, a nearby Catholic boarding school established by Catherine M. Drexel (later canonized as Saint Katharine Drexel by the Catholic Church) for African American and Native American girls. A skilled Black artisan and Powhatan County resident name William Sturdivent Taylor completed much of the work on the dwelling. Taylor was also employed by Drexel to assist with construction of the school.

The Drexel-Morrell Center, which currently operates from the dwelling, is a community gathering place that houses an archive, museum, and spaces for ancestry research and related activities. The center highlights the vision and commitment of St. Katharine Drexel to educate Black students during the Jim Crow period of American history. This project received grant funding from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. DMC plans to use the property for environmental education, eco-social justice awareness, and passive recreation. The property will also be accessible to the public through a trail system that traverses the streams, forested areas, and meadows on the property.

2024 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards
DREXEL-MORRELL CENTER-BRONZE MEDAL WINNER: Back row (pictured from left to right): Wendy Musumeci (DHR), Mike Rolband (DEQ Director), Travis Voyles, Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, Curtis Jackson (DMC Board Member), Matt Wells (DCR Director), Su Bulbulkaya (DCR).
Front row: Karri Richardson (DHR), Amy Wood (DMC), Sister Maureen T. Carroll (DMC Executive Director), Sister Beulah Martin (DMC Chaplain), Dr. Demetrius Venable (DMC President), Geri Venable (DMC Board Member), Larry Mikkelson (DCR).

Several DHR Easement Program staff members were able to attend the Environmental Excellence awards ceremony in April and celebrate these successful land conservation efforts. Congratulations to all our partners! It truly is a group effort and DHR’s Easement Program team is thankful for the landowners, agencies, organizations, programs, and individuals that make these important projects for all Virginians possible!

For a description of the 2024 award winning projects, use the following link: 2024 GEEA Program.

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