What is Crow’s Nest?

Crow’s Nest is a nearly 4,000 acre peninsula in Stafford County, Virginia. It got its name from a three-masted schooner, The Crow, that was anchored there in the mid-1800s. The peninsula is roughly bounded by Accokeek Creek to the north, Potomac Creek to the South (just as they feed into the Potomac River), and by Brooke Road to the East. (See map.  You can zoom in/out or switch to satellite view.)

Frequently Asked Questions about Saving Crow’s Nest

Why does Crow’s Nest deserve to be saved?

  • Crow’s Nest is an environmental and historical jewel.  It is a 4,000 acre peninsula in eastern Stafford County that is entirely forested.  It is the largest undeveloped tract of land in the County.  Over 1,300 acres of wetlands, including 700 acres of freshwater tidal wetlands, are found on Potomac and Accokeek Creeks surrounding the peninsula.  These marshes account for 60% of all marshes remaining in Stafford County.  At least twenty-five species of waterfowl use the freshwater tidal marshes and wooded swamps in Crow’s Nest for nesting, migration, and wintering habitat—including hundreds of blue herons, the bird in our logo. In addition, Native Americans made Crow’s Nest their home; it was the site of Union encampments during the Civil War; and was the birthplace of important Virginia families.

Hasn’t Crow’s Nest already been saved?

  • As a result of citizen action, some of it has been saved as the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve.  Now it’s time to finish the job by saving the remaining land on the peninsula.

Wouldn’t allowing some development be a good compromise?

  • Development has already taken hundreds of acres of land that was originally targeted for preservation in the original Accokeek National Wildlife Refuge legislation (passed in 2002 but never funded).  It’s well past time to draw the line and preserve what remains–the entire peninsula.

But I’m not particularly a nature lover and I don’t live near Crow’s Nest.  Why should I care? 

  • In addition to the destruction of a valuable ecosystem, development of Crow’s Nest would create major problems in our community and contribute to the further destruction of Stafford ’s traditional rural character.  Development of more housing units would mean significantly more traffic and congestion for people living or traveling through the region.  It would also further strain VRE commuter service from nearby Brooke Station.  The influx of new residents would mean the need for an expensive new school and the need for other county services such as law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency rescue.  All of this will inevitably translate into higher taxes for all citizens of Stafford County.

Even if I support the idea of saving Crow’s Nest, how could it realistically be done?

  • We have concluded that the best way to save Crow’s Nest is to buy it outright.

My taxes are already going up, why would I want the County to spend more money on buying Crow’s Nest?

  • Spending to buy Crow’s Nest is a serious commitment of County resources.  But the reality is that Stafford County is going to spend money on Crow’s Nest one way or another.  If the County invests in purchasing and preserving the peninsula, the public will gain access to an environmental jewel for generations to come.  If the County allows Crow’s Nest to be developed, the public will pay the bill to subsidize more growth and congestion.  That’s because “private” development comes with the hidden costs to taxpayers of road improvements, increased demand for public services, and increased need for more schools.  We are concerned about using taxpayer money wisely and efficiently.  Buying and preserving Crow’s Nest makes economic sense, as well as providing the chance to protect this environmental jewel for future generations.

Won’t the costs of supporting development be offset by the increase in tax revenue?

  • No.  Residential development is a drain on community resources.  Numerous studies show that revenue generated by new residents is not enough to cover the costs of new, publicly-funded services. That’s why local governments seek “proffer” payments for new development.  These cash payments help to partially offset the capital costs of additional public services.   However, the owners of the lots in Crow’s Nest Harbour and nearby areas have a by-right development claim, meaning that they can build a house per acre without obtaining additional County approvals.  Therefore, they will pay no proffers for developing Crow’s Nest.  That means Stafford County would pay millions of dollars to subsidize the development of Crow’s Nest.

Don’t the owners of Crow’s Nest property have a right to develop their land?

  • Private property rights are important.  But those rights must be balanced against the good of the community. (We wouldn’t let someone open a toxic waste incinerator simply because they owned the private property on which to do it.  Community impact would be considered in the decision.)  Stafford County has the right to act on behalf of the interests of its citizens to prevent development of Crow’s Nest. This is especially true in the case of outside corporate developers; we are not talking here about the property of an individual home owner or small business person.   Limiting the pace of development makes sense for the entire County. The property owners, of course, should be compensated at fair market value for their land.

You make some good points but this is all complicated stuff.  Shouldn’t I leave this up to the experts?

  • No!  You don’t have to be a biologist to know that building hundreds of housing units on a pristine piece of undeveloped land would be an environmental disaster.  You don’t have to be an urban planner to know that putting the cars from those houses onto our already congested roads will just make things worse.  You don’t have to be an educational expert to know that hundreds of new kids will mean the need for new schools.  You don’t have to be a financial expert to know that all these new water and sewer services, road expansions, schools, police, fire and emergency services are going to end up being paid for by the citizens of Stafford County in the form of higher taxes. You don’t have to be an expert to know that developing Crow’s Nest would be a mess.

Even if I support the idea, I’m a busy person.  How could anything I do possibly help?

  • Crow’s Nest will be saved only if enough people speak out and let their voices be heard.  None of these things take a lot of time:
    • 1) Contact your elected officials and let them know you support preserving Crow’s Nest.
    • 2) Write a letter to the editor (Free Lance-Star ) and tell the community how you feel.
    • 3) Most of all, don’t be afraid to tell your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow community group members—anyone you know!—that it is important to support this effort.

The only way we can lose is if too many people who support Crow’s Nest sit on the sidelines and watch it be destroyed.  The only way we can win is if people like you join the effort.