Every morning I read press from around the nation about conservation projects. Most often, these are written from press releases and relate little beyond a brief description of the land that is or wil be protected, where the money comes from, and what the local senator, mayor, or conservation leader has to say about the project.
It isn’t often that a writer attempts to construct a real narrative around a conservation project or describe how it came to be. But Deirdre Fernandes of The Virginian-Pilot has done exactly this in writing about TPL’s work with Wells Fargo Bank and conservation and government leaders in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to protect 122 acres of wetlands, forests, and beaches once slated to become a community of 1,000 homes.
Over lunch at Chick’s Oyster Bar on a rainy Tuesday in May, conservationists and officials from Wells Fargo bank hammered out the fate of the largest piece of undeveloped waterfront property on the Lynnhaven River.
“A rainy Tuesday in May”—I love this detail, because it means that the writer probably had to ask someone what day of the week it was and what the weather was like, understanding that the information would allow readers to picture the scene. You can almost hear the source thinking, “what earthly difference does it make?” But with an opening like that, you know you are in for a “story” and not simply an “article.”
The piece goes on to describe how the developers who owned the land got into money trouble (yet the latest example of the “green lining” to the nation’s financial storm clouds) and how conservationists got to make their case to the bank.
Kent Whitehead, the Chesapeake project director for The Trust for Public Land, flew in from Washington to pitch a proposal to the bankers who had taken control of the property. The trust, working with the city and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, could buy the land quickly, Whitehead told them.
Modern conservation can be complicated, and this deal is not yet complete. But in 730 words, this newspaper piece not only describes the details of a very complex transaction, but suggests some of the drama involved in putting the opportunity together. Worth the read.