On July 28, 2000, the Trust completed the permanent protection of North River Retreat, a 437-acre hunting haven owned by John Gavitt of Winchester, Virginia. This prized land near Delray, West Virginia, with nearly a half mile of riverfront along the North River, the major tributary of the Cacapon, was saved simply because John loves his land.
North River Retreat is prized for many reasons by the Trust. As the Trust protects more land in the Cacapon Legacy Project area, this parcel will help connect the public lands of the George Washington National Forest to the Short Mountain Wildlife Management Area. The Retreat is within close proximity to a 4,750-acre Conservation Hub that the Trust is growing, and John’s property will help eventually complete this connection. The Trust holds a perpetual conservation easement on the land and will monitor to be sure that the land stays protected. The property will be owned and managed by John as a recreational, fishing and hunting retreat.
North River Retreat has significant conservation values because of the mix of habitat including farm fields, wildlife plots, river frontage and mixed deciduous forests. The opportunity to link large protected tracts and create wildlife corridors only enhances the conservation value of this property.
The success of this effort would not have been possible without John’s love for his land and his desire to permanently protect it for wildlife habitat. John describes this love in a document he attached to his conservation easement. A quote from this document helps us understand how John feels:
“This thing called ‘sense of place’, I suppose that’s what it’s all about for me and for others who believe so strongly in a particular chunk of this earth. It becomes so much a part of us that we will do everything possible to ensure that it will not be harmed when we’re not around to care for it.”
John’s love is contagious. He talked with his neighbor Jim Jones about protecting his land and on August 2, 2006 Jim signed a conservation easement agreement protecting his 152-acre parcel immediately adjacent to John’s. The Trust firmly believes that land protection is more likely to happen when passionate landowners who have already protected their land tell their neighbors about their passion and their conservation easement agreements.
John served on the Trust’s board from 1999 through 2007. He is a great inspiration to us all and a major financial donor to the organization. We enjoyed his leadership, deeply appreciate his contributions, and look forward to a continued friendship with this special person.
These stories — humorous or infamous — bond these folks to the land and to each other, conserving friendship and a piece of paradise forever.