In the South River Valley just outside Stanardsville, Virginia, in the tiny county of Greene are some of the most spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in all of Virginia. Inspired by this, beginning in 1999 a group of South River land owners were motivated to collectively take actions and to convince their neighbors to take actions to conserve the land in and around the South River Valley to preserve its rural and agricultural character in perpetuity. An informal group, the South River Landowners Group, was created. Initially, each land owner acted individually with the guidance and encouragement of the Group. By 2005, almost 800 acres had been voluntarily placed in a conservation easement assuring that it would never be developed. As of December 2007, nearly 2400 acres have been proctected and a model conservation development, named Octonia Highlands after the historic Octonia Grant, has been created offering estate building sites and green home designs (see Going Green) bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia .
The historic town of Stanardsville was chartered in 1794 by the General Assembly of Virginia at the request of William Stanard. It is located about 100 miles southwest of Washington, DC and approximately 20 miles north of Charlottesville, Virginia--where the University of Virginia founded by Thomas Jefferson is located. Stanardsville and the South River Valley are minutes from Swift Run Gap and the entrance to the Skyline Park and the Shenandoah National Park. The South River Valley with its stunning vistas still retains much of its pristine rural character that first awed the Governor Spotswood expedition in the early 18th century and a young Meriwether Lewis in the late 18th century.
Near the end of 2005 it became apparent that outside residential developers not motivated by conservation were actively acquiring land in Greene county and were intent on penetrating the South River Valley. It also became apparent that not all South River land owners were prepared to put their land in a conservation easement and that the land tracts of certain of these owners would likely be coming on the market. Given this reality, the Group concluded that a partnership with resources to acquire properties in competition with conventional developers was needed.
To this end, in December 2005 the South River Land Preservation Group (SRLPG), LLC was formally created. By January 2006, the first property of 190 acres (the Parrot Farm) was purchased from the Parrot Estate and by April 2006 a purchase contract for a second property of 260 acres (the Jacobs Farm) was executed with the Jacobs Estate.
Reassured by these actions by the Group to preserve land, even in the face of intense competition from outside developers, several other South River area landowners took steps to preserve their land, protecting another 800 plus acres of land in 2006 and early 2007.
The SRLPG closed on the Jacobs Farm in 2007 and subsequently sold it to a buyer that is putting it under a conservation easement. As noted above, the SRLPG is doing a model conservation development named Octonia Highlands, offering estate building lots and green homes, on 55 acres of the Parrot Farm purchased in January 2006. The remaining roughly 135 acres remains intact as Octonia Highlands Farm.