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March 1 2007
Aug. 25 2005
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Youth Education Program
    Saving Merrimac Farm: A Unique Opportunity
    14710 Deepwood Lane, Nokesville, Virginia

Click here for info about the April 14, 2007 tour!

The spectacular Merrimac Farm covers more than 300 acres, including more than one mile of shoreline along Cedar Run, a 7-acre island and one of the largest single patches of bluebells in Northern Virginia.

Merrimac Farm has more than 100 acres of contiguous nontidal wetlands, the fastest dwindling category of wetlands Nationwide. Vernal pools, which are particularly important to amphibians and migrating waterfowl, can be found throughout the site.

Merrimac Farm connects Quantico Marine Corps forests and wetlands with the 300-acre Cedar Run wetland mitigation bank.  This connectivity increases the conservation values of all parcels and makes Merrimac Farm particularly important from an ecological standpoint. Conservation of this ecologically significant property would also protect Quantico Marine Corps Base capacity to complete their military mission.

Merrimac Farm lies along Cedar Run, at the headwaters of the Occoquan Reservoir. Both these waterways are included on Virginia's dirty water list. Protecting Merrimac Farm also means that we are protecting our water supply by preserving the natural space that filters pollutants before they enter our rivers, streams and reservoir.

Col. Dean McDowell purchased this property nearly fifty years ago. He managed the land for wildlife diversity and operated Merrimac Farm Hunting Preserve until his unexpected death in February 2001. Col. McDowell was a lifelong hunter and conservationist. He supported numerous conservation organizations in addition to campaigning against uncontrolled suburban sprawl in the Cedar Run watershed bordering the Quantico Marine Corps Base.

The objectives of the Prince William Conservation Alliance efforts to preserve Merrimac Farm are to (1) protect more than 100 acres of contiguous, nontidal forested wetlands and associated vernal pool system from development, (2) preserve this property in perpetuity as a watershed management area in a manner that allows public uses for youth education, passive recreation, hunting education and outreach programs aimed at increasing support for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

Conservation of this ecologically significant property would open a beautiful and ecologically valuable Northern Virginia natural area for public use, directly support Virginia's commitments to restore the Chesapeake Bay tand help preserve a buffer around Quantico Marine Corps Base, an important part of economic development in Prince William.

Merrimac Farm’s conservation values are significant from watershed, wildlife, economic and community perspectives. Conservation of this parcel for public use would directly support Virginia’s commitments to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

 Superior Site for Outdoor Recreation and Nature Exploration  
Wetlands and vernal pools, upland fields and hardwood forests come together at Merrimac Farm, creating diverse habitats that support a variety of wildlife and make this an ideal spot for birders, butterfly watchers and other nature enthusiasts. This site also provides critical habitat for migrating ducks. In early spring, Merrimac Farm's one mile of shoreline along Cedar Run is blanketed with bluebells, a display that rivals Bull Run Regional Park. Merrimac Farm provides access to Cedar Run for paddlers and fishermen.
   Protect Water Quality
Merrimac Farm’s more than 100 acres of high quality wetlands, protected by 200 acres of hardwood forest and upland meadows, provide critical protection for Cedar Run and the Occoquan Reservoir, both included on Virginia’s dirty waters list. In addition, Merrimac Farm connects Quantico Marine Corps forests and wetlands with the 300 acre Cedar Run wetland mitigation bank. This connectivity protects the integrity of wetland functions and a diversity of critical habitats, maximizing the conservation values of all parcels.

    Preserve and Protect Wetlands
According to the National Wetlands Inventory, the greatest decline in wetlands is associated with forested wetlands. The 1997 Inventory reported that less than 50 million acres of forested wetlands now remain in the lower 48 states. Conservation of Merrimac Farm would preserve more than 100 acres of nontidal, forested wetlands. This directly supports Virginia’s goals to ensure no net loss of existing wetlands, conserve riparian forests and promote opportunities to connect forested lands.

    Protect Farms and Forests from Development
Conservation of Merrimac Farm directly supports Virginia’s goal to achieve a 30% reduction in the development of forests and farms. Colonel McDowell, owner of the property until his death several years ago, managed Merrimac Farm for wildlife and opened the land for hunting and fishing. Conservation of Merrimac Farm could continue this public service by providing a site for suitable for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching activities in Northern Virginia.

    Increase Public Access and Awareness
Everyone’s support is needed to save the Bay. Merrimac Farm’s significant watershed values, high quality habitats and location within Northern Virginia create superior opportunities for public education and outreach programs focused on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay goals. Conservation of Merrimac Farm responds to Northern Virginia citizens’ needs for public open space: places for nature exploration, photography, birding, hunting and fishing.

    Provide every student with a quality outdoor experience
Protecting Merrimac Farm would strongly support Virginia’s commitment to ensure that every student participate in an outdoor bay or stream experience before they graduate from high school. More than 12,000 students, teachers and parents have participated in the Prince William Conservation Alliance Chesapeake Bay Field Study Program since 1998. Northern Virginia has a shortage of high quality natural areas where youth can explore local watersheds. Merrimac Farm landscape conditions are ideal for this and other high quality field programs aimed at increasing understanding and cultivating a sense of stewardship which is needed to conserve, preserve and restore valuable natural resources in Northern Virginia.

    A Unique Opportunity
Northern Virginia citizens are overwhelmed by the impacts of development on their quality of life and many are concerned about the future of their communities and environment. 

Saving Merrimac Farm would preserve natural areas for future generations, a major step towards ensuring the sustainability of our communities.  Merrimac Farm also protects the integrity of Quantico Marine Corps boundaries and visibly supports the Marine Corps mission at a time when this is a priority for Virginia's citizens.

Conservation of this ecologically significant property would open a beautiful and ecologically valuable Northern Virginia natural area for public use and support Virginia's commitments to restore the Chesapeake Bay through a unique partnership between multiple government agencies and local organizations.

Letters of Support
for Prince William Conservation Alliance's Application to the Virginia Land Conservation Fund for the Conservation of Merrimac Farm