It all started when...
In the late 1960’s, the Rappahannock Garden Club presented a National Audubon Wildlife film series, which was very well attended. Evelyn Thurston was president of the garden club. The interest and enthusiasm exhibited led Evelyn to push for establishing an Audubon chapter.
The first meeting was in September of 1970. Dr. Jack T. Thurston (Evelyn’s husband) chaired the early meetings and was elected as the first president of the chapter. The group petitioned National Audubon for certification as a chapter, since they had the necessary 35 people. A provisional charter was received December 16, 1970. At that time, National Audubon considered NNAS the first chapter in the state of Virginia.
The first Board served for many years. Replacements were made as deaths and resignations occurred. No bylaws existed to limit time of service. Proposed bylaws were first written in June 1973. Subsequently, a constitution and bylaws were adopted April 25, 1977.
In January 1975, the “Bring Back Bluebirds to Virginia” campaign was introduced by then president, Mary Marlar. Fifty bluebird houses were built and sold for $3 each. They were immediately sold out and additional boxes had to be constructed. For about the last ten years, we have built around 1,000 nesting boxes a year.
The 22-acre James tract on Antipoison Creek was deeded to the chapter on July 1, 1977. Official name: “Charles Hedges James Wildlife Refuge of the Northern Neck of Virginia Audubon Society”.
There was an oil spill near Smith Point in February 1978. NNAS and other organizations provided volunteers to rescue and treat oil-covered birds. A “Lessons Learned” report was written by NNAS volunteers and sent to 60 State agencies.
NNAS was named one of the beneficiaries of the James Faye estate in October 1978. There were six beneficiaries in all. NNAS ultimately received about $600,000 from the estate. The Fayes were charter members of the chapter. By the end of 2002, almost $630,000 has been distributed for environmental causes in the Northern Neck and state-wide. This has been made possible from earnings on the Faye investment portfolio.
The Northern Neck Audubon Foundation was established in June of 1993. The Foundation was formed to provide continuous financial support for programs meeting the objectives of NNAS. The Foundation manages the Faye investment portfolio to provide the financial support. NNAS appoints the Board of Directors of the Foundation.
Over the years, NNAS has played a role in establishing Natural Area Preserves (NAP) in the Northern Neck. One of our members and past Director, Henry Bashore, coordinated efforts to create Bushmill Stream NAP in 1989. NNAS contributed $15,000 toward the purchase of Bushmill Stream. In the mid-90’s, NNAS contributed $10,000 towards the purchase of Hughlett Point NAP. NNAS contributed $18,000 toward the purchase of Dameron Marsh NAP in 1998. In addition, Belle Isle State Park, Westmoreland State Park and Caledon NAP have been supported financially for several special projects.
NNAS holds six conservation easements. The first easement is a 70-acre tract at the headwaters of Chinn’s Mill Pond at the Lancaster/Richmond county line. The easement protects a blue heron rookery. The second easement is an eleven-acre tract at the headwaters of Tiper’s Creek. The third easement is a 152-acre farm in Westmoreland County. The fourth easement is a 1.2-acre tract in Westmoreland County, which may lead to a larger easement in the future. The fifth easement is for 1.2 acres of a property on Rt. 200, off of Carter’s Creek, just east of Irvington. The sixth easement is an additional 161.13 acres at Western Branch Preserve in Lancaster County owned by Bragg INC.
Lancaster County announced, in the summer of 1999, that Hickory Hollow Nature Trail was to be developed as an industrial park. NNAS members formed the core of a group called “Friends of Hickory Hollow” which led the fight against the industrial park. The citizen protest was enough to cause Lancaster County to scrap the industrial park idea. However, it was feared that future supervisors would promote similar ideas. In September of 1999, NNAS learned of a state fund that provided matching funds for land conservation efforts. October was spent developing a grant request for funds to save Hickory Hollow, permanently. In December, NNAS got the award (from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation) of $179,012 for the purchase of Hickory Hollow. There were some matching funds from the county and some contributed attorney fees with the effect that NNAS added about $140,000 to purchase the property for $320,000 from the county. Since funds were provided by the state, Hickory Hollow had to be dedicated as a natural area preserve. The dedication ceremony took place on July 12, 2000. Hickory Hollow NAP is a 254-acre preserve.