A large chunk of land in south Alexandria is now set aside for walking trails, environmental learning, picnicking and other ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
And it's all because of an unusual land donation.
At its November 23 meeting, the Alexandria City Council approved a charitable pledge agreement with Gary and Cindy Zacher.
At no cost to the city, the Zachers donated a 56-acre piece of property located in the 50th Avenue South Park Addition, west of the railroad tracks near the proposed site of a new high school. The Zachers will receive a charitable deduction on their federal income tax return for donating the land.
The city must use the property purely for conservation purposes, such as a walking path, ski trail, environmental learning and picnic areas.
Some of land may also be used to plant trees and preserve open spaces.
The property has some low-lying areas but it's scenic, with natural wetlands, big trees and nice views of the countryside. And it will stay that way.
As part of the agreement, no development is allowed. There won't be any ball fields, tennis courts or playground equipment - just trails, viewing stands to enjoy the vistas and perhaps a bench or two for walkers to rest, according to City Planner Mike Weber.
The property can't be used for any other purpose other than conservation, noted City Attorney John Lervick.
Donating such a large piece of land to the city is rare. Lervick couldn't remember a similar donation.
Council member Sara Carlson said that she walked along the property with the Zachers and it was beautiful.
Mayor Dan Ness recognized the Zachers at the meeting and they received a round of applause from those attending.
When contacted later by the newspaper, Gary Zacher said that preserving the land for conservation purposes was the right use of the property.
"There's no other place in the city where people can go for a walk and enjoy a little peace and quiet," he said.
In related action, the council also approved a final plat for the property.