Environment and Outdoors

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The cold weather is here and that means there are special winter activities to enjoy in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Local restaurants have been adapting to the winter weather by implementing heated outdoor patios so that people can still enjoy eating outside when it’s cold. WFIR’s Rachel Meell has more on what you can do in the area during the winter months:

For more information on restaurants with heated outdoor seating, click here. For winter outdoor adventures to find in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, click here.

Photo; WVWA

If you like to use the recreation areas at Carvins Cove, you can now purchase your pass in advance – and in many cases, do it for less money than before. The Western Virginia Water Authority used to charge entry by the person, but now, it’s by the vehicle. Passes are now available both at the gate or on line. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

Click here for full Carvins Cove pass  information from the Western Virginia Water Authority.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service released a decision today permitting construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline through 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest. Approval is contingent, however, on pipeline builders obtaining all necessary federal and state authorizations for the entire project. The U.S.D.A. oversees the national forest system.

NEWS RELEASE: ROANOKE, VA.—January 11, 2021— The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released its decision that updates its environmental analysis that address new information and allows the construction of Mountain Valley pipeline on 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest. No construction, however, can occur on forest lands until the company has obtained all federal and state authorizations. The USDA Forest Service issued a final Record of Decision that amends the Jefferson National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline project to move forward. The decision follows review of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that addressed new information and changed circumstances. It redeems the Forest Service’s commitment to ensure the pipeline minimizes impacts and meets standards for sustainability and conservation of natural resources on the national forests. The Record of Decision modifies certain standards in the Forest Plan to accommodate the pipeline construction and requires measures to minimize environmental impacts. The Forest Service will also provide a letter of concurrence for the MVP Project to the Bureau of Land Management. Mountain Valley, however, is not authorized to undertake activities related to construction on national forest lands until the company has obtained all Federal and State authorizations outstanding for the entire project. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for approving pipelines that cross federal lands under the jurisdiction of two or more federal agencies but must have the concurrence of the involved agencies. These actions are necessary steps for the MVP project to be built on national forest and grasslands. The Forest Service published the Final SEIS on Dec. 11, 2020. The Final SEIS addresses new information and changed circumstances, such as new federally listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat designations, as well as the Fourth Circuit Court’s 2018 ruling vacating the BLM’s Right-of-Way and the Forest Service’s Forest Plan amendment. In addition, the Final SEIS considers erosion, sedimentation, and water quality effects, and applies the Planning Rule requirements for soil, riparian resources, and threatened and endangered species to the Forest Plan amendments.

Photo: visitroanokeva.com

The city of Roanoke and owners of Walker Machine & Foundry have reached an agreement to allow the paved trail to pass through riverfront property currently owned by the foundry, which would complete the riverfront greenway within the city limits and end a five-year dispute between the city and the foundry.

The Roanoke Times reports that in a proposed land swap expected to be finalized this month, the city will get two parcels of foundry property along the Roanoke River in exchange for an abandoned city-owned railroad line that bisects the now-defunct foundry’s property. The riverfront property would allow the city to complete the greenway, which will include a bridge across the Roanoke River.

The Roanoke City Council is expected to schedule a public hearing for Dec. 21 to consider the deal, which if approved would fill in the 1-mile gap in the Norwich neighborhood that would complete the popular greenway within the city, establishing 10 uninterrupted miles from southeast Roanoke to Salem.

The Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission has a new website up and running, one designed to provide plenty of information to visitors and locals seeking to learn more about the area’s greenways and trails. Thanks to a $30,000 grant from the AEP Foundation, the site has not only a newer look but much more information on the valley’s greenway and trail network. The goal is to attract first-time users and help long time ones discover more parts of the network. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

Click here to see the Roanoke Valley Greenways website.

File photo: Appalachians Against Pipelines

A Montgomery County judge today found  the  tree-sitters protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline in  contempt  of  court, and he ordered fines of $500 a day for each day they remain in the trees. The tree-sitters had been ordered to come down by last Monday. Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin says his department will “continue  to  plan  and  coordinate – so the situation can be resolved quickly and in a safe manner  for  all  parties  involved”.  He did not indicate enforcement was imminent, but he did say he will ensure the court order is enforced in what he called “due time”.

SHERIFF’S STATEMENT: “Last week the Montgomery County Circuit Court issued a temporary injunction ordering three persons to vacate trees located on Yellow Finch Lane, by Monday. Some of the individuals who were not in the trees chose to do the right thing and leave. Today, Circuit Court Judge Turk found the tree-sitters in contempt of court and are being fined $500 a day for each day they remain in the trees.We have been and continue to plan and coordinate, to ensure we have all the necessary resources available, so the situation can be resolved quickly and in a safe manner for all parties involved. It was our hope the tree-sitters would choose to leave on their own to avoid unnecessary confrontations. However, we will ensure the court order is enforced in due time.”

The readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine have once again chosen Roanoke as the Top Adventure Town in the large town category – besting such well known outdoor destinations as Chattanooga and Asheville. 2020 is the 5th time in 9 years that Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine readers have voted Roanoke a Top Adventure Town. Floyd won in the Tiny Town category, Bedford took home the Small Adventure Town honors. Catherine Fox is Vice President of Public Affairs and Destination Development for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. She says having outdoor amenities is perhaps more important this year than ever as people seek safe spaces to recreate.

(VVBR news release) ROANOKE, VA – Thanks to the support of so many who cast their vote over four rounds of competition, Roanoke is the winner of the Large Top Adventure Town category, defeating Chattanooga, TN and Asheville, NC in the finals. The 2020 victory marks back-to-back Top Adventure Town titles for Roanoke in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. It’s the 5th Top Town title in the past 9 years of the competition for Roanoke as established by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine!

With over 1,000 miles of trails and greenways, the Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge has established itself as a premier destination for outdoor recreation and adventure. Roanoke is the largest city on the iconic Appalachian Trail, one of the best hiking trails in the world, and the only IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) Silver-Level Ride Center on the East Coast, establishing Virginia’s Blue Ridge as America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital. Many visitors from around the country plan trips to Roanoke for experiences like hiking or mountain biking.

In addition to the trails for hiking and biking, you can get on the water in Virginia’s Blue Ridge with paddling trips along the Roanoke River Blueway and Upper James River Water Trail, two amazing local blueways, or boating and fishing at Smith Mountain Lake and Philpott Lake in Franklin County.  You’ll also find multiple access points for the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most visited units in the National Park System and “America’s Favorite Drive,” and thousands of acres to explore in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests.Check out this Top Adventure Town Highlight Video –https://youtu.be/cBSiuSqfEhc

“Roanoke in Virginia’s Blue Ridge is the perfect location to be a Trailsetter and find all kinds of unique outdoor adventures, said Landon Howard, President of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “We’re thrilled to be named a Top Adventure Town byBlue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and appreciate everyone who cast their vote in support of Roanoke!”

Congratulations to nearby Virginia destinations that won their respective categories – Floyd, VA (Tiny Town), Bedford, VA (Small Town), and Charlottesville, VA (Medium Town).

Due to COVID-19 precautions, only advance tickets will be sold for this years “Illuminights” event at Explorer Park which means no walk-ups. Volunteers are needed as well. WFIR’s Rob Ruthenberg has more.

Over the past several months, local outdoor recreation areas have seen up to a 200 percent increase in usage. Roanoke County’s Explore Park will host a full day of expanded activities on Saturday while also raising money for Roanoke Outside Foundation’s Project Outside, which will work to maintain popular outdoor areas. WFIR’s Rachel Meell has the story:

For more information about Explore Park or Adventure Saturday, click here.

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