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Legislators pledge $1.6 million to preserve 'Channels of Virginia'

KEVIN CASTLE • Mar 15, 2007 at 12:03 PM

ABINGDON - Preservation efforts for unique rock formations atop Brumley Mountain entered the chambers of state government in Richmond this winter.

State Sen. William Wampler Jr., R-Bristol, and Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, announced Wednesday the success of a line item included in Virginia's next budget that secures $1.6 million to help in a land purchase that aims to protect a formation of channels millions of years old located in Washington County, Va.

A press conference held at The Nature Conservancy's office on East Main Street in Abingdon spotlighted the government assistance, which joins a previous investment made by The Nature Conservancy in 2004 when it purchased close to 5,000 acres outside of Meadowview.

Included in that purchase was a 33-acre structure known as "The Great Channels of Virginia," a sandstone formation carved out by 400 million years of evolution that gives a canyon-like experience within the boundaries of major tourist attractions like the Creeper and Appalachian trails.

"You take this attraction and mix it with our other natural beauty wonders, and you have the potential of a new market," said Kilgore, who recently hiked the channels along with son Kyle.

"Our first mission in getting the money during the Virginia General Assembly was to make sure this area is preserved so that our children and grandchildren can experience such a grand attraction. There just aren't many places like those channels here on earth, and we have to take care of them and make sure they stay in the right hands," said Kilgore.

Wampler added that the foresight of The Nature Conservancy to make the initial investment into making sure the land stayed in the public trust set the stage for state involvement.

"Sometimes if you wait on the government to provide funds, you may have to wait a long while. But we're glad that The Nature Conservancy looked ahead, and now we were able to hold up our end of the bargain," said Wampler.

While 4,836 acres were purchased in the original transaction in 2004, additional acres surrounding that tract will be purchased with this infusion of state funds, which still fall "a bit short" of retiring the note, according to Wampler, but he added that Gov. Tim Kaine is aware of the situation.

"I feel confident that the governor will couple his resources to help this agency with the final purchases," said the senator.

The channels are available for touring on selected dates with arrangements made with The Nature Conservancy.

Mountain Heritage official Frank Kilgore said Wednesday the visits should increase if future plans come to fruition.

"Our goal is to establish a new state park for this region using this property, and provide accessible hiking to the channels. This is a landmark that is just too beautiful not to be viewed by the human eye," he said.

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