Natural & Cultural Assets Plan

About

James City County is developing a Natural and Cultural Assets Plan to help identify, evaluate and prioritize the County’s highest value natural resources and cultural assets and to identify opportunities to protect and restore them. The project began in August 2021 and will take approximately one year to complete.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are natural and cultural assets?

Green-Infrastructure-CenterThey are trees and forests, waterways, wetlands, agricultural soils and natural areas such as parks and trails or areas of cultural significance to residents such as scenic or historic areas. It includes large blocks of intact habitats connected by corridors to form a network. The more connected the landscape, the more resilient it is and the more pathways there are for people, pollinators or plants.

Connections Count: When landscapes are connected, wildlife can move across the landscape, ensuring their ability to obtain food, find open shelter, and maintain a diverse gene pool for healthy populations. Pollinators - which help sustain our food supplies and flowers - also need habitat to carry out these critical functions. These connections not only benefit wildlife; people also need a connected landscape to allow for a recreation, adventure, and alternate transportation - how does walking to work on a nature trail sound? Connected landscapes help maintain the character of our community by weaving together our natural and cultural assets and by creating a cohesive experience between them. 

Why do we need to map and manage natural and cultural assets?

Green-Infrastructure-Plan-VegitationNatural and cultural assets include intact forests, tree canopy, wetlands, springs, parks and rivers, or agricultural soils that provide clean water, air quality, wildlife habitat and food. These natural assets create healthy communities and sustain the local economy; tourists and residents alike benefit from a sustainable and attractive community.

However, if we don't know where our natural and cultural assets are located, we can lose them over time. By identifying, ranking, and mapping these critical resources, they become a part of our natural system, and their health is intrinsically tied to that of our community.

Why develop a Natural and Cultural Assets Plan now?

Communities can use natural and cultural asset plans for many purposes, such as protecting current and future water supplies, protecting or expanding economies, creating healthy communities, protecting wildlife and biodiversity, providing or identifying new outdoor recreation options, highlighting land conservation priorities, and informing transportation projects, comprehensive plan goals or zoning decisions.   

This plan is the result of community priorities established during the recent update of the County’s Comprehensive Plan.  Prioritizing the protection of natural lands and open spaces was the most highly ranked and supported objective across all three rounds of community engagement during Engage 2045.  

This process will create a Natural and Cultural Assets Plan to meet the 2045 Comprehensive Plan’s environment goal strategy, ENV 3, and action, ENV 3.1.  

GI-Character

How will this plan help James City County?

  • The greener a community, the healthier the people.
  • Areas with more green spaces are able to better attract top companies and well paid jobs.
  • Counties can save funds in the long run by making better, smarter investments in water, trees, trails, food systems and parks, and reducing demand for public services and infrastructure.
  • Hazards, such as flooding, can be abated or avoided with better planning, thereby saving lives and lessening risks and costs.
  • Greener communities are safer communities; less crime occurs in green areas than areas without green spaces.
  • The greener the community, the better the air quality, even at the neighborhood level.
  • A connected landscape is healthier, more diverse and more resilient.

How will the plan be created?

GI-WaterwaysA Mapping Committee (MC) comprised of community members appointed by the Board of Supervisors will evaluate maps and models of the best natural resources and culturally important landscapes in the County as well as opportunities to improve areas. A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), an interdisciplinary team of staff, will provide technical expertise throughout the process. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center will help the County recognize new options for addressing local needs. For more background on the Green Infrastructure Center, visit www.gicinc.org. Please contact the County project manager, Tammy Rosario, at tammy.rosario@jamescitycountyva.gov with any questions or comments.

How are maps made?

Using local data and satellite imagery, we can determine the extent of our forests, waters, soils and many other features that make up the County’s environment.  A computer model has been created to help James City County identify many of its natural and cultural assets. Maps are created and evaluated to determine if they highlight the most important and significant resources. Maps can show what is unique, important, or needs more attention. 

What will implementation of the plan look like?

The plan can be used to inform park and open space planning, potential priorities to inform the county’s purchase of development rights, transportation plans, stormwater projects, and other County goals.

Will this plan restrict my property rights?

This plan is not intended to impose new regulations and it is not a land acquisition project. Just like the County Comprehensive Plan, this plan will look at the entire County’s landscape.  Any project ideas that results will still need to follow the usual procedures for any new development or changes to public property. Ideas from this plan may be used to inform future updates of the Comprehensive Plan or plans for future zoning or redevelopment. 

How can the public contribute?

GI-TrailsValuable information collected during the Engage 2045 Comprehensive Plan update process is already serving as a great starting point; however, additional opportunities will be offered throughout this process. Questionnaires and community open houses are planned at key milestones in the project to review the maps and offer comments and ideas.