History of Our Organization
Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains (FBRM) had its humble beginnings in the Purcellville Train Station where a small group of western Loudouners came together in late 2006 to explore the idea of an organization dedicated to protecting the Blue Ridge Mountains in our region. This founding group was Inspired by a white paper written by Lella Smith, whose family owned a homestead on the Ridge, urging the Loudoun Preservation Society to establish a Blue Ridge Heritage Area. Citing Civil War skirmishes, gypsy encampments, Native American lore, Conestoga wagon outfitting stations, and “dancing grounds,” Lella’s paper pointed out the need to celebrate and preserve the rich cultural, historical, ecological, and recreational features of the mountains she had grown up on and come to treasure at a time when the mountains were (and continue to be) at increased risk as a result of development and environmental deterioration.
In 2007 Friends began to take on its identity. Formed as a 501(c)(3) organization, Friends undertook the process of articulating its mission, creating a powerful vision, settling on a permanent name, and setting up governance in the form of a Board of Directors and its first set of by-laws. By December of 2007, Friends was geared to host its first event: a Sunday afternoon of story-telling at the Bears Den hostel featuring old-timers from the Blue Ridge, mountain music, and a chili pot-luck provided by the Board. Buoyed by this event, Friends has gone on to build its membership and make its mark in a variety of ways over the last decade plus. Signature achievements include:
- undertaking research to identify and catalogue the key ecological, culture, and historic features of the Blue Ridge as well as threats to the Blue Ridge in our focus area; download the detailed report
- earning the Stewardship Forest designation for Blue Ridge Regional Park as a result of restoration work there during annual Stewardship Volunteer Days from 2009 through 2017;
- convening two summits of conservation organizations in the region to explore how we might leverage collective impact, as a result of which the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance was birthed; (see https://blueridgeconservation.org/)
- establishing the Friend of the Mountain award to recognize organizations and individuals who make significant contributions on behalf of the Blue Ridge;
- establishing the Jane Pratt Blue Ridge Education Scholarship to commemorate Friends founding member Jane Pratt, and to honor high school seniors who have demonstrated commitment to the environment and stewardship on the Blue Ridge; renamed the Jane Pratt & Jed Shilling Blue Ridge Education Award to memorialize Jed Shilling, Jane’s husband and an FBRM Board member;
- partnering with like-minded organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation, Virginia Native Plant Society, and the Regional Park Authority to address considerations particular to our stretch of the Blue Ridge;
- advocating with the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the Blue Ridge re: such issues as Chesapeake Bay zoning regulations, mountainside ordinances, alternative septic systems, the PATH alignment, the use of toxic herbicides by Dominion Virginia Power, the AT&T facility/tower application, and the Loudoun County Comprehensive Plan;
- establishing an Endowment to support scholarships and stewardship activities;
- staging a concert-fundraiser featuring the Furnace Mountain Band at Franklin Park Performing Arts Center to commemorate Friends’ 10th anniversary;
- collaborating with the Town of Round Hill, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, and others to create a land management plan and develop landscaping featuring native trees at Sleeter Lake Park.
Over the years since its founding, Friends has evolved and grown in both its structure, its scope, and its membership. In 2014 Friends hired a part-time administrative assistant and recently brought on a part-time communications consultant to expand the content of our bi-weekly newsletter, “Happenings Around the Mountain“ and assist with other communication/outreach initiatives. In addition to the Board of Directors, four standing committees focus, respectively, on land use; member and donor development; celebrations, communications, and outreach; and education.
Friends participates in various local festivals and hosts events each year to preserve, enhance, and celebrate the mountains and to engage membership. Friends also holds key roles in the Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition and the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance. . . and plays an advocacy role as needed in response to threats to the Blue Ridge. Consistent with our mission, Friends looks for opportunities to partner with like-minded entities in initiatives to preserve, enhance, and celebrate the Blue Ridge in our region.