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February 10, 2010

Natural Heritage chair delivers annual report, pawpaw pie

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The pawpaw tree, with its tear-drop leaves and edible berries, is one of Albemarle’s natural treasures. The chair of the county’s Natural Heritage Committee (NHC) recently presented a pawpaw custard pie to the Board of Supervisors in order to demonstrate why his group’s mission is crucial.

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"Pawpaws are a fruit that grow along our rivers and since colonial times, people along the Rivanna and the James would serve pawpaw custard at inns and lock-houses,” Murray said at the last week’s meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Murray said because the delicacy is no longer sold in grocery stores, many people do not know that it even exists. He said this is one example of how urban and suburban residents can lose sight of the benefits of preserving the rural countryside.

20100203-Murray Lonnie Murray
“One of the primary goals of this committee is to help identify the natural resources in the county that help make us unique and work with landowners and policy makers to find ways to preserve those resources,” Murray said.

In the past year, the committee has provided input into a new county ordinance on weeds, evaluated the effect wind turbines could have on wildlife, and has worked with the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) Committee on a new ranking system that prioritizes properties with rare and unique species.

The NHC is also seeking new ways to engage the public. At last year’s Earth Week, the group asked people to report wildflowers and other flora and fauna on their property.  The NHC is recruiting volunteers to work with Albemarle’s Parks and Recreation Department to analyze the 600 acres that make up the future Byrom Park in the northwestern corner of the county.

“In the coming year, we feel the skills we’ve developed will be very useful as we continue to provide input on the comprehensive plan,” Murray said. He said in these tough economic times, the county should call upon the expertise of NHC Committee members during planning in order to maximize proffered green space.

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) said she appreciated the work of the NHC, and very much enjoyed the slice of pie she was given.

“It had the consistency of pumpkin pie and was very fruity,” Mallek said in an interview. She said she also wanted the NHC to help work on the master plan for the future Biscuit Run state park.

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