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Newly Protected Natural Area in Alexandria is the Future of Conservation in Urban Northern Virginia

The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) has permanently safeguarded a small natural area on Russell Road in Alexandria as the organization’s seventh conservation easement held in the City. Protection of the quarter-acre lot prevents development on the family property for all time as NVCT becomes its long-term steward in the otherwise highly developed area.

The newly conserved lot contains a combination of treed and open grass areas with a vegetative buffer to a stream that will help protect the water quality of Cameron Run and the Potomac River by minimizing the movement of soil sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens into the stream.

“Preservation of this site is a perfect example of what urban land conservation is all about,” said NVCT Executive Director Alan Rowsome. “Small undeveloped natural areas like this one make Alexandria communities more livable and balanced while protecting clean water sources and supporting local wildlife and plant species.”

The preservation of this open space lot was possible because of the generosity and foresight of the landowner, Andy Brown, who grew up playing on the property.

Mr. Brown’s late mother was a major inspiration for the conservation decision. She raised her family adjacent to the newly conserved natural area and wished for it to remain that way for neighbors and residents to enjoy. Additionally, the parcel provides critical habitat suitable for urban wildlife who are losing safe, healthy places to live at an alarming rate across our region.

“My mom Jean was a true conservationist and loved walking this lot and sharing its beauty with her friends and grandchildren who called it Big Grassy. It was always her wish that it remain as open space forever and she asked me to work with NVCT to make it happen,” said Brown. “Rentz Hilyer and the rest of the NVCT team did a great job ensuring its protection while recognizing that it’s effectively the front yard of the house I grew up in.”

The property's location connects and buffers a larger wooded area on the adjacent 15-acre St. Stephens and St. Agnes School property. Its position highlights how connected natural areas help ensure the health and sustainability of Northern Virginia wildlife and plant populations severely threatened by climate change and overdevelopment.

NVCT has a formal partnership with the City of Alexandria to identify and protect natural areas under the City’s Open Space Master Plan goals. The organization also stewards seven easements and oversees one small nature preserve in the City while conducting several annual outreach events for City residents, including trash cleanups, invasive pulls, and other educational opportunities.


The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) is a regional, nonprofit land trust that forever conserves, manages and advocates for land that has natural, historical and cultural value to our Northern Virginia communities. NVCT works with conservation partners, local governments and private landowners to preserve, restore and steward land in Northern Virginia. Since its founding in 1994, NVCT has protected over 8,000 acres in urban and rural areas. To learn more or to inquire about a conservation easement on your property, call us at 703-354-5093, visit, sign up to receive news alerts, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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