The Green Pastures Recreation Area in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests will reopen. Gov. Ralph Northam said Virginia will work with the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service to restore and manage Green Pastures as a satellite of nearby Douthat State Park.
This area was one of the few federal outdoor recreational areas throughout the country that was set aside exclusively for African Americans during the segregation era in the 20th century.
Northam and federal officials signed a Shared Stewardship agreement between Virginia and the United States Department of Agriculture to coordinate a response to the increasing ecological challenges and natural resource concerns throughout Virginia. The memorandum of understanding establishes a framework for state and federal agencies to improve collaboration as they strive toward their mutual goals of reducing wildfire risk and acting against threats to forest and ecosystem health.
The Civilian Conservation Corps began building Green Pastures in the Alleghany Highlands in 1938. From 1940 to 1950, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service operated the area as a segregated site for African Americans. Virginia and West Virginia opened segregated state parks in 1950. In 1963, the Forest Service changed the park’s name to Longdale Recreation Area. Under the new Historic Property Lease between the Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Green Pastures will now be known by its historic name.
“Restoring and reopening Green Pastures has long been a priority under Governor Northam’s Historic Justice initiative,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “I am pleased that we have been able to work with state and federal partners to pay appropriate tribute to this place, and ensure it is accessible and properly remembered to all Virginians.”
“Through Shared Stewardship, we have an unprecedented opportunity to work together to set landscape-scale priorities, implement projects at the appropriate scale, co-manage risks, share resources, learn from each other, and build capacity to improve forest conditions,” said United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Associate Chief Angela Coleman. “This collaborative approach will have direct and positive effects on land management practices for Virginians.”
“The Department of Conservation and Recreation will be responsible for restoring, operating and maintaining this as part of the Virginia State Parks system,” said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman. “It’s critical to acknowledge that Green Pastures was originally built because African American families were excluded from taking advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities at Douthat State Park—only 11 miles away—and other public places in the central Appalachian region.”
State and federal agencies will align their priorities for the surrounding George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, as well as other Virginia forests, under this Shared Stewardship Agreement. They will work to improve forest conditions in the face of urgent challenges, such as fire, flooding, insect and disease outbreaks, and invasive species.