By Matt de Simone
Botetourt resident Genevieve Goss, of the Valley Conservation Council (VCC), recently announced her retirement from the organization after spending nearly 30 years as an active member, program director, and educator.
The organization was only five years young when Goss moved to Botetourt County in 1995. The Indiana native grew up as a fan of the outdoors. Goss said that being a conservationist was “en vogue” when she was in high school. Her love for being out in the open air naturally meshed well with the VCC. Soon after arriving in Botetourt, she attended the Fincastle Festival where she met Faye Cooper at the VCC booth that year.
“I was a prime candidate for VCC at the first encounter (with the VCC),” Goss said a short time ago in a VCC letter to its membership. “My desire to promote the wise use and protection of these beautiful Virginia lands easily pulled me away from my career in the classroom and into easement and program work.”
Goss is a former adjunct professor at Roanoke College, who began with the VCC as a volunteer, then became a VCC board member, and most recently acting as VCC’s Upper James program director working within the counties of the James River watershed. She loves to promote the lands surrounding natural resources and the connections made with landowners.
“I have really enjoyed the people that I’ve worked with both in the organization and the community,” Goss said in a recent interview. “It’s made me feel like the love of land is the great common denominator.”
Goss explained she’s been allowed to see the land through the eyes of people who farm, plant trees, or fish in the waters through her visits with landowners. In Goss’s work with the VCC, she helped provide communications and support to partner organizations resulting in the addition of nearly 5,000 acres of land that features an iron furnace, brook trout streams, and habitat to the national forest system.
For the last 20 years, Goss and the VCC have made efforts to protect the animal crossing areas in Botetourt between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains animal population so VDOT and the state better recognize these areas for better travel.
One of the last programs Goss was involved in is Better Models in Development, a program that shows ways that economic and environmental goals can be achieved and be compatible with one another. She explained, “The population is growing… people make money building things, but let’s put them in the right place. Let’s not carve up every farm in the county and put in a gas station, not that we don’t need gas. It’s hard to see a lot of the development in Daleville, but in a way, that’s preferable. If you go to areas that are not protected… They will look for ways to build houses all the way up a mountainside if they can. It really spoils the look.”
One project Goss is particularly proud of is the preservation of the Oxbow Farm between Eagle Rock and Buchanan which, through conservation easement, protects a farm of over 500 acres and has over four miles of James River riparian protection and remnants of the historic James River and Kanawha Canal.
In 2003, Goss and Donna Henderson started the Botetourt Community Partnership (BCP) as a part of VCC’s efforts reaching members throughout the area. The BCP holds quarterly meetings in Fincastle updating the community on ongoing projects and conservation easement efforts. She’s also partly responsible for the startup of the Botetourt Farmers Market which takes place every Saturday morning from now until October at the Daleville Town Center.
“Essential to this network has been my natural ability to notice things and sense their importance and my willingness to interact with people at local events, libraries, and businesses,” Goss added. “Being a trusted member of the community and a trusted partner in conservation have become a way of life for me. Although many of the earlier easements on which I worked are held by parent organizations, VCC is now holding its own easements here.”
Goss has proved to be an inspiration for local landowners to gain a better understanding of the importance of protecting the environment and, through the BCP, has given the community a forum to discuss ongoing issues and ways to improve the land.
“Most folks may have never heard of Genevieve, but what many love about Botetourt is a direct result of the work she’s done quietly and effectively to make Botetourt a better place to live and raise a family,” BCP member Ed McCoy said when recently asked about Goss’s retirement from the VCC.
Goss has worked with Roanoke Cement Company (RCC) in riparian projects in the area. In 2013, RCC faced issues expanding its limestone quarry as potential impacts with wetland areas were imminent. RCC decided it needed to prevent the impacts one of two ways: pay someone to fix the streambank or fix the problem head-on and mitigate potential environmental concerns. Goss worked alongside RCC Environmental Analyst Lindsey Layman on the project.
“With passion, devotion, and hard work, Genevieve is the embodiment of community values and has been a valued partner,” Layman said when asked about Goss’s work in the community. “Genevieve is a catalyst for change and her results can be seen throughout Botetourt County. As area residents, the Roanoke Cement family sincerely appreciates her countless contributions to the community and for enhancing our community outreach.”
Along with Goss’s ongoing preservation projects, she and her husband, John, have played a part in Natural Bridge being designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association and will continue their efforts in conservation easement and environmental protection.
Goss hopes that her legacy lives on with VCC and will continue her work with the Botetourt Community Partnership. She encourages to continue taking steps to becoming more involved with the preservation of Botetourt’s beautiful and important countryside as it’s a good way to feel like a part of the community.
To learn more about the Valley Conservation Council, visit valleyconservation.org.