City of Newport News Receives Award in Land Conservation for Grafton Ponds Easement
By Brad McDonald
At the invitation of the City of Newport News, the author, a DHR staff archaeologist, and his colleague Joanna Wilson Green attended the presentation ceremony for the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award at the 2023 Environment Virginia Symposium. The event was held at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.
The City of Newport News was honored this year with the Bronze Award in the category of Land Conservation for their 2021 donation of a preservation easement to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources over the Grafton Ponds property in York County. The annual awards recognize outstanding examples of successful and innovative efforts or projects that improve the overall health of Virginia’s environment. The award program is administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
The Grafton Ponds property, which is owned and maintained by the staff of Newport News Waterworks, comprises of five separate tracts totaling almost 550 acres located in southeastern York County. During the negotiation process, DHR staff worked closely with Andrew Rich of Newport News Waterworks to develop language within the deed of easement that will ensure the perpetual protection of the numerous cultural and natural resources located within the various parcels that make up the larger property. The property contains at least 22 known archaeological sites, including the remains of 18th- and 19th-century domestic occupations as well as an extremely well-preserved network of Civil War-era military earthworks and fortifications. In addition to the known cultural resources, the easement conservation area also protects a fragile coastal plain pond complex, known as the Grafton Ponds, that serves as habitat for several rare and endangered plant and animal species. DHR congratulates the City on their award and looks forward to continuing this relationship to steward this significant resource in the years to come!