Many a Fauquier County high school student has skipped school to spend the day climbing High Point on Bull Run Mountain over the years.
However, all that activity on the cliff overlooking Fauquier County from the top of the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
threatens the area and prompted the Virginia Outdoors Foundation
to close the section of the preserve starting Jan. 15 for an indefinite period of recovery and restoration.
The VOF says, “the cliff area at High Point is a particularly fragile and significant natural community known as a pine-oak and heath woodland.”
“Both the vegetation and the geological formation that supports it represent important natural resources in Virginia that have been damaged by trampling,” the conservation group says. “Sensitive species such as the eastern timber rattlesnake and the Table Mountain pine have been disturbed by high numbers of visitors.”
While the scenic high point will be closed, six miles of public access trails in the preserve will remain open for hiking.
According to VOF, the cliff area is part of the 2,500-acre preserve, but is privately owned. Access is managed under a license agreement that enables VOF to provide natural resource protection for the habitat while permitting the public to visit the cliffs.
The closure will be carried out according to a recovery plan designed in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage, whose staff will monitor the effects of closure on the damaged habitat.
The duration of the closure will depend on the rate of recovery and the public’s adherence to current and future use guidelines. Visitors to the preserve must respect the closure of the High Point cliff area. At the time of closure, the Bull Run Ridge Trail beyond its juncture with Fern Hollow Trail and the Hickory Trail beyond its juncture with Quarry Trail will be closed.
VOF owns 90 percent of the preserve, which was dedicated as a State Natural Area Preserve in 2002 in recognition of its significant natural resources. The preserve straddles the border of Fauquier and Prince William counties.