The Capital Region Land Conservancy announced yesterday that 81 acres, including nearly a mile of stream frontage on Four Mile Creek, in eastern Henrico County are now permanently protected from development. The CRLC facilitated the review and recordation of the conservation easement on the historically significant property in the Varina District. The Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District co-holds the conservation easement with CRLC. This initiative represents Phase I of a multi-phase, multi-year conservation easement project that ultimately will protect 341 acres including nearly one and a quarter miles of Four Mile Creek frontage, over half a mile along Roundabout Creek, and one-tenth of a mile of land adjacent to the James River.
The combined acreage is adjacent to Henrico’s Deep Bottom Park where two boat launches provide public access for canoes/kayaks at Four Mile Creek and motorized boats at the James River. The Virginia Capital Trail and Four Mile Creek Trailhead are within a mile of the properties. The land’s permanent protection from residential and commercial development provides a buffer for adjacent natural resources, recreational uses, and scenic views from the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail within the James River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
Although parts of this property are managed for timber, the portions of the property adjacent to Four Mile Creek protect a large area of high-quality bottomland hardwood forest and non-tidal marshes and wetlands providing vital protection of stream ecosystems from non-point source pollution, sedimentation, stream bank erosion, and increased temperatures.
“We’re thrilled by the opportunity to protect these 81 acres of the James River watershed,” said Nicole Anderson Ellis, Vice-Chair of the Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation District. “This easement advances our mission — to protect clean water and healthy soils – in numerous ways, including the preservation of a broad forest buffer along Four Mile Creek.”
Portions of the property are said to have been part of “Claymount,” owned by Stephen B. Sweeney (1799-1863) and included in his earthenware pottery operation with several kilns and a hotel along today’s Route 5, a Virginia scenic-byway. Other portions of the property were owned in the 1850s by Titus C. Rice and operated as Deep Bottom Landing with a ferry crossing the James River to Chesterfield County.
The property displays evidence of three Civil War battles — First Deep Bottom (Jul 27-29, 1864), Second Deep Bottom (Aug 13-20, 1864), and Chaffin’s Farm (Sep 29-30, 1864), when Union troops advanced on Richmond using pontoon bridges connecting to Jones Neck. The 4th United States Colored Infantry Regiment along with the Union X Corps advanced across the property to victory at New Market Heights. Terms of the conservation easement include protection of historic resources, including no ground disturbance areas around identified rifle pits and remnants of a winter hut and a strict prohibition on relic hunting. A cemetery on the property, which includes the gravesite of WWI African American veteran Paul Morris, Jr., also will be protected in perpetuity.
Planned trails connecting the property’s historic features and scenic views will accommodate visitor access. Future educational and environmental interpretation will allow visitors of all ages to enjoy an enriching outdoor experience.