DAVIS, W.Va. -- A five-square-mile chunk of wilderness at the north end of Canaan Valley will soon become the newest Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Area.
The 3,070-acre tract, now owned by the Canaan Valley Institute, includes more than three miles of the Blackwater River, a popular trout stream. It is bordered on the east and south by Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, on the west by W.Va. 32, and lies just south of W.Va. 93 at its northern end. From the nearby town of Davis, state-owned Camp 70 Road follows the Blackwater River through the tract, dead-ending at its border with the refuge.
"We're so glad to get this property -- the clean air, clean water and vastness of this country needs to be conserved," said DNR Director Frank Jezioro, who toured the tract earlier this week. "We have an obligation to see that our kids and their kids have the opportunity to experience our state's wildlife heritage."
The property encompasses terrain ranging from red spruce forest remnants and limestone outcrops at higher elevations to sphagnum bogs, heath barrens and shrub swamps. Its highest point is 3,853-foot Bearden Knob near the southern boundary of the property.
Canaan Valley Institute acquired the property in 2002 from Allegheny Energy, which at one time considered using part of the tract for a pumped-storage hydroelectric facility. A grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency enabled CVI to buy the land, which is used for a variety of scientific projects, including air, precipitation and mercury deposition monitoring stations, and an upland wetland research station.
Under CVI ownership, the tract remained open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, biking and in designated areas, camping. With the help of volunteers, a network of eight hiking and biking trails took shape on the property.
"The property has had long, valued use by local residents and visitors as a place to hike, fish, hunt and bike," said Jennifer Newland, CVI's executive director.
Those activities will remain open to the public under DNR management. A covenant in the sale agreement allows the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association to continue using the CVI trails for a stop on its annual race series. Competitive events and groups larger than 25 are not normally allowed on state wildlife management areas.
The sale of the CVI land will be made in three stages. In July, the DNR will make a second and final payment for a 700-acre section of the property located on the north side of the Blackwater. When that payment is made, the CVI will transfer the remaining 2,370 acres on the south side of the Blackwater to the DNR as a gift.
Purchase price for the 700-acre tract is $2 million, half of which will come from DNR conservation stamp funds produced through a $1 fee paid by purchasers of state hunting and fishing licenses.
The other half will come from the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund, which receives its income from a fee on real estate deed recordings. Assistance with the CVI purchase marks the first major property acquisition by the Fund, created by the Legislature in 2008.