Written by Lia Hobel
The Land Trust of Virginia’s “Conservationist of the Year” award is presented to an individual who has strong commitment to land conservation and has made extraordinary contributions to the organization’s mission. This year’s recipient is Dr. Betsee Parker, a leader for local preservation projects with an impressive track record in the field. She’ll be recognized officially during an award ceremony on May 7. “I’m very honored and I feel very privileged to receive this award,” shares Dr. Parker.
According to the executive director of LTV, Ashton Cole, individuals are identified in the selection process who’ve made “significant impact in conservation and preservation of properties with particular historic, scenic, agricultural, or ecological significance to the commonwealth.” The nonprofit recognizes Dr. Parker for her efforts to protect and steward various properties in the northern Piedmont.
Dr. Parker’s efforts include the restoration of the historic Huntland Estate, on Pot House Road, which encompasses the main house, gardens, stables, kennels, and original quarters of enslaved people. “When I found out about Huntland being up for sale, it was in very derelict condition and was not livable,” Dr. Parker recalls. “It took a few years before I could move in — in fact three and a half, because it was so derelict that there was a lot of foundational work which needed to be done. It wasn’t just a matter of cosmetic work.”
The estate includes 150 acres. When land surrounding the Huntland Estate came on the market, Dr. Parker acted swiftly to purchase the acreage to block the possibility of any housing development plans. She also made the conservation purchase of the nearby Farmer’s Delight Estate. She said she feels honored to preserve as much open space as possible in the community and feels a civic responsibility to do so to protect species of animals who inhabit the area.
Farmer’s Delight, located on Mountville Road, is the older of the two houses, dating back to pre-Revolutionary America. The house itself was built in the 1790s by Colonel Joseph Flavius Lane. Dr. Parker says her timing was right when the property went up for sale. She wanted to keep the home’s historical nature intact and “keep the properties in a state where they are very attractive to all the species of animals that need to take refuge on our lands.” She says, “It’s been a very expensive endeavor to do that, but I’ve been happy to hold the land for that reason.”
Dr. Parker was also largely instrumental in developing and funding the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Upperville Colt & Horse Show Grounds, the donation of the old General Store to the Unison Preservation Society, as well as the historic Allen House in Middleburg to the Middleburg Museum Foundation.
In part, her work is inspired by the United Nations and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. She feels privileged to have worked with senior advisors and activists for the last 20 years in sustainable development and climate change and said she’s learned much about the international, national, state, and local issues and always at the forefront is conservation of land.
Dr. Parker says her appreciation for conservancy started at an early age. “I was around horses and ponies as a little girl, and we would ride out into these big, beautiful green spaces,” she remembers. “I’ve always loved the wide-open spaces and particularly those in Virginia with the rolling vistas down to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I always found it very romantic and nostalgic and full of the experience that I wanted to have in life of a very peaceful and meditative scene.”
The 2023 Annual Conservation Awards will also include “Land Owner of the Year” and “Steward of the Year.” All award recipients will be honored at the Garden Party on May 7 at the historic Kinross Farm, owned by Zohar and Lisa Ben-Dov. ML
More information regarding the Land Trust of Virginia (LTV)
Founded over a quarter century ago, the Land Trust of Virginia is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that relies upon the generous support of the community and landowners to fulfill its mission. The LTV is a trusted conservation partner, recognized and accredited by the Land Trust Alliance as a land trust that meets “national standards for protecting natural places and working lands forever.”
Published in the April 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.