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Site Survey

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Image by Michael Gaige

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Image by Michael Gaige

Land Management at Oak Spring

OSGF recently began work on a comprehensive site survey that will ultimately lead to a landscape management plan for the 263-acre estate. The survey will unfold over several months, to gather information on the land and its wildlife over the changing seasons. The goal is that the estate, already protected by Paul Mellon as part of a conservation easement, will exemplify sustainable land management practices and provide ample opportunities for horticulture, arboriculture and sustainable agriculture.

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Stage 1: September 2016

The first stage of the site survey focused on Oak Spring’s “natural” (unmowed) areas. This initial overview revealed an extraordinary array of wildlife and plant life, as well as an exciting history on the grounds – and we have only scratched the surface. 

Over 45 species of native trees were identified thus far, including white oaks, black walnut, black gum, and bitternut hickory. These multi-century trees have been on the property for hundreds of years, and we look forward to verifying their ages in the coming months.

Oak Spring is also home to a multitude of small mammals, butterflies, insects and many species of birds, including bald eagles. A central consideration of our programming and development planning is minimizing the impact of our activities on these creatures who share our land. 

Our initial survey also revealed a number of threats – both from the Emerald Ash Borer and from exotic species, including Japanese stilt grass, multi-flora rose and the Ailanthus tree.  Under the guidance of a conservation biologist, we will be taking steps to control and eliminate these threats so our native flora can flourish.

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In many ways, the site survey is a historical project as much as an ecological one.  In addition to studying the current landscape, we are researching the region's Holocene and pre-settlement vegetation history, and geological records from Oak Spring and Loudon County. The area also has a rich Native American and European settlement history, which we plan to explore.  

The potential for wildlife habitat improvements, restoration, and recreation for Oak Spring scholars and guests is considerable, and we look forward to sharing our progress in November.