Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment and Primland, a 12,000-acre sporting retreat and resort near Meadows of Dan, Va., will roll out some of their partnership projects at a special Tree House to Trails celebration July 22-24. 

“A Field Guide to the Nature of Primland and the Blue Ridge Mountains” will make its debut, when Primland also shows off its new Golden Eagle Tree House and geocaching trails, with the founding Primat family in attendance.

Scott Klopfer, executive director of the college’s Conservation Management Institute, and Michael St. Germain, a research associate at the institute, have co-authored a 145-page field guide that hikers and beginning naturalists can use to identify the plants and animals they see at Primland and in the Blue Ridge Mountains. St. Germain, who is also an artist known for some of the popular HokieBird sculptures in Blacksburg, drew the illustrations for the field guide.

“We are always looking for ways to make the best better as well as to pay homage to Primland’s spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife,” said Primland Vice President Steve Helms.

The field guide, which features many color photographs in addition to the 130 detailed drawings of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, butterflies, tree leaves, and wildflowers, covers forests, shrublands, grasslands, waterways, and other habitats, with sections on wildlife viewing tips, trail maps of Primland, and wildlife and plant identification.

“The college is enjoying a special partnership with Primland, whose owners and senior management share with us the same passion and belief in managing and sustaining our natural resources for future generations,” said Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

“It is rewarding for us to watch a world-class organization in Patrick County, Va., demonstrate world-class efforts in sustainability,” Winistorfer added. “We are very excited about the completion of the field guide, a joint project between the college and Primland, as well as the geocache trails, our ongoing water quality work, golden eagle research, and other projects on the property.”

David Kramar, a project associate a the Conservation Management Institute who has studied eagles for several years, found golden eagles at Primland, the furthest south they have been located in Virginia. He has been trapping the birds to measure mercury and lead contamination and to share data with the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group. Before releasing the birds, he fits them with a telemetry device to track their migration. Scientists estimate that there are less than 2,000 golden eagles east of the Mississippi. In honor of the discovery that Primland is a wintering habitat for the birds, the Primat family has named its new tree house accommodations, the Golden Eagle Tree House, after the raptor.

The collaborative work at Primland has also involved a number of Virginia Tech alumni. Forestry alumnus Carl McDaniel, who joined Primland in its early days and now supervises the resort’s hunting and outdoor activities, worked to identify potential undergraduate research topics of interest. Horticulture alumnus Scott Martin, now Primland’s horticulturalist, was instrumental in assisting with the cultural plant survey of the property. Agriculture alumnus Jason Turman, the trail master at Primland, leant his time and expertise to the cultural plant survey and the development of the field guide. In addition, Turman and biological sciences alumnus Aaron Teets, a field biologist at the Conservation Management Institute, designed and developed Primland’s two geocaching courses.

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a GPS receiver or other navigational techniques to find containers, called geocaches. A typical cache is a small waterproof container that holds a visitor log and other items. More than 1.2 million geocaches, published on various websites, have been placed in more than 100 countries around the world.

Primland’s beginner geocache trail, the 1.3-mile Pinnacle Loop, is ideal for young children as well as adults. It has six stations, each with a jar containing a fact sheet on the animals and plants in the area. The 2.5-mile Buzzards Roost Trail, geared for older children and adults, has nine geocaches. With more difficult terrain and cache point locations, the trail provides opportunities to find information ranging from the history of moonshiners and the names of surrounding mountains to plant and animal identification.

While the events of July 22-23 are by invitation only or limited to registered lodging guests, public events have been planned on Sunday, July 24, for the local communities. “Old Appalachian Trail Day,” which celebrates the restoration and reopening of a six-mile section of the original trail, will run from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Activities include a bluegrass country band, food sales by Primland chefs and local purveyors, hikes on the Old Appalachian Trail, geocaching, fly fishing and golf swing demonstrations, and access to the Primland Lodge with reservations for the spa, golf course, or restaurants. “A Field Guide to the Nature of Primland and the Blue Ridge Mountains” will be available for sale, with the authors on hand to sign copies.

Guests who want to geocache should bring their own GPS unit. A $10 per person fee will be collected at Primland’s Busted Rock North Entrance for the Sunday program; children under 12 are free with a paying adult. Proceeds will be donated to the Patrick County Education Fund and to Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Parking will be available in the field just below the entrance to the Old Appalachian Trail.

ATV enthusiasts will have their turn on Aug. 6 when they can go on a guided ATV tour of the Primland property. Interested individuals can bring their own vehicle or rent one at Primland. To participate, email Primland or call (866) 960-7746.

Primland’s founder, Didier Primat, purchased the vast tract of land, once a King’s Dominion Grant, in 1977, with a deep love and interest in caring for its natural resources, according to Primland. In recent years, Primland’s managers began working with Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment for assistance with best management practices and long-term planning for the pristine property.

“As we look for mutual opportunities to combine our collective strengths, we know that greater outcomes will follow,” Helms said. “Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment and Primland share a passion for nature and the sustainable management of our natural resources here in the extraordinarily beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of southern Virginia.”

For more scheduling and reservation details, visit the Primland website, or call (866) 960-7746 or (276) 222-3800.

Share this story