Potomac Conservancy protects 270-acre upstream forest

Discover 3 reasons why our newest land deal is good news for clean water

Potomac River dolphin

For Carl Hovermale and his siblings, Bear Garden is more than a piece of land. It’s what the family calls, “the home place.” 

Nestled on the outskirts of Cross Junction, Virginia, Bear Garden’s 270-acres of streams, fields, and sprawling forests have been home to Carl’s family for over one hundred years. 

“Our grandfather raised his family, made a living, and lived here for over seventy years,” recalls Carl. “Our father bought this place in the 50s and raised four children. We have fond memories of growing up here.” 

Carl hovermale, owner of bear garden. (c) william macfarland, www.macfarlandphoto.net

Carl hovermale, owner of bear garden. (c) william macfarland, www.macfarlandphoto.net

Bear Garden Run, a native brook trout stream, meanders through this land on its way to Sleepy Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River. As an accredited land trust, Potomac Conservancy has worked closely with the Hovermales to protect this waterway and the family’s land through a conservation easement.

This fall, that dream became a reality. Bear Garden and its namesake stream are now protected forever. 

[Bear Garden] is an integral part of our being,” Carl explains, “and we want it preserved hopefully for our descendants and future generations. We believe that this area with its pristine trout stream, picturesque rock cliffs, and wildlife habitat is worthy of preservation from any kind of development.”   

At a time when rural areas are faced with encroaching development pressure, land conservation is one of the best tools we have to protect the health of the Potomac River. In our 25-year history, Potomac Conservancy has worked with families like the Hovermales to permanently protect over 15,000 acres of streamside lands and forests. We thank the generous support of the Virginia Environmental Endowment, private foundations, and members who empower us to protect healthy lands and clean streams.

Explore Bear Garden and discover 3 reasons why protecting it is good news for clean water.

#1 Bear Garden protects rare brook trout habitat

photo courtesy of us fish & wildlife service

photo courtesy of us fish & wildlife service


Brook trout is a vulnerable species of freshwater fish that depends on cool water temperatures and gravelly-bottomed streams for survival. Streams ideal for brook trout habitat have an optimal water temperature of 55 degrees and can’t reach higher than 70 degrees. 

Bear Garden Run, which meanders through nearly two miles of the Hovermales’ lands, is healthy and cool enough to support our native brook trout. Very few of Virginia’s streams support brook trout. By conserving this land with a conservation easement, Potomac Conservancy and the Hovermale family are protecting a rare and ideal habitat for brook trout. 

The abundance of waterways once suitable for this native fish has drastically diminished as widespread forest loss and runoff from agriculture and mining have degraded stream health and raised water temperatures, while invasive species have outcompeted our native “brookies” for food and habitat.

#2 Bear Garden is a clean water paradise


You can’t throw a stone without hitting a source of water on the 270-acre Bear Garden property. Okay, we’re embellishing a bit, but not by much.  

The creek that the land is coined after, Bear Garden Run, flows through 1.9 miles of the property and is buttressed on both sides by healthy forests. Dubbed a riparian buffer, trees lining the creek protect it against excessive erosion and sediment, livestock, and pesticides. Trees also shade the stream, keeping its waters cool, and they drop leaves and small twigs that provide food and shelter for aquatic critters.  

Bear Garden is also home to several wet-weather streams, three ponds, one perennial spring, and multiple wet-weather springs.

These waters, protected and fed by the adjacent forest, produce some of the cleanest waters in the Potomac River watershed. And they provide healthy habitat for native fish, birds, and yes, bears!

#3 Bear Garden conserves healthy, deciduous and conifer forest


Bear Garden is nearly 90 percent deciduous and conifer forest, all of which is now protected under Potomac Conservancy’s conservation easement.  

That means this forest can never be legally felled, paved over, or extracted for minerals or gas in the future. And the same legal protection applies to other natural features found on the property including a wetland, meadows, and scenic, open spaces. 

The Bear Garden property sits adjacent to other conserved and forested property, forming a special 1,720-acre conservation “hub” ideal for clean water and wildlife habitat; together, the properties protect ~3 miles of Bear Garden Run.

The beauty of private land conservation: families are able to keep their lands just as they are and maintain flexibility for the future without compromising the conservation value of the landscape.

The Hovermales maintain a house, barn, and several outbuildings on the property, and under the terms of the agreement, the family may build another residence and additional agricultural structures in a small building zone.

Help protect more streamside forests!
We’ve got 9 more properties lined up!

When you make a donation to Potomac Conservancy, you’ll provide critical resources we need to help rural families like the Hovermales conserve their lands forever and leave a legacy of clean water for future generations.  

Our small, but hard-working team is currently working through the legal conservation easement process with 9 families, but we only have the funds to close on 2 properties next year.  

With the threat of sprawl and deforestation, we have to act now to save streamside forests in special places like the Shenandoah Valley before they’re lost forever! 

Make a $25, $50, $100 or more tax-deductible donation today for healthy forests and clean water!


Sr. Director of Land Conservation, Emily Warner, and Bear Garden owner, Carl Hovermale, sign the legal paperwork to close on the conservation easement.

Help us get 9 more landowners to the table in 2019!


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