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The Maury River flows through Lexington along part of the 7-mile Chessie Nature Trail, which runs through the heart of Rockbridge County and connects to Lexington and Buena Vista.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation will receive state funding to go toward a conservation project in Lexington as part of $5.89 million in grants aimed at protecting more than 17,000 acres of land in Virginia, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

The foundation received $180,000 from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation for a project in Lexington to allow public access along a trail to the Maury River.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation wants to purchase an easement on 39 acres to provide public access to the trail. The property fronts the Maury for more than 5,700 feet, or slightly more than one mile, and has a natural beach-like area at the foot of the trail. It is across the river from the Chessie Trail, which is heavily used by the community and links Lexington to the Buena Vista area.

The river at this location is a designated blueway and provides habitat for several endangered mollusk species. The entire property lies within the Lexington Barrens and Bluffs conservation site because of the limestone cliffs, sinkholes and barrens, and it also contains areas where a rare plant, the three-flower melic grass, has been found.

Grant applications were reviewed and scored by an interagency workgroup that recommended projects to the board.

“These grants will help protect biodiversity, farms and forests, open space, and cultural and historic resources,” Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler said in a statement.

Eighteen other conservation projects received funding to protect farmland, historic resources, parks and open space. They include:

  • $500,000 to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to acquire a 242-acre addition to the Wilderness Road State Park to enhance environmental education, outdoor recreation, wildlife viewing, hiking and natural and cultural history opportunities for visitors to the park in Lee County.

$201,134 to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to Camp Kum-Ba-Yah Inc. to purchase the 44 acres in Lynchburg where its summer nature day camp is located and to place it in an open space easement. The camp played a role in civil rights history in Lynchburg when city pools were closed to African Americans in the 1960s, the church-affiliated camp continued to welcome both black and white swimmers to its pools.

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