He chose preservation over profit to protect this historic Henrico farm: 'This land should be as it is'

Howard Eberly: 'Some people say I was dumb. But I think I did the right thing.'
Posted at 6:23 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 18:23:59-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Fields, forest and farmland. A trifecta for nature lovers like Howard Eberly.

“It is a peaceful little corner of the world,” said Howard. “I like everything. We have three creeks. We have some beautiful woods. Hard wood and pine.”

The man from Varina knows every square inch of Four Mile Creek Farm.

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Four Mile Creek Farm. August 11, 2022.

“A little later in the day there would be a dozen deer looking at you,” Howard said.

He calls this place along Route 5 heaven and home. Not much has changed since his grandfather bought the farm in the late 1800s.

“It is a great place to live. Four generations of Eberly’s have lived here."

Just 12 miles from Downtown Richmond, Four Mile Creek feels more remote.

This land has more to offer than just natural beauty. The area is rich in Native American and Colonial history.

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It was also here that in 1864 the Union Army, including hundreds of U.S. Colored Troops, fought and died during the battle of New Market Heights.

“So many men died it is hard to imagine,” said Howard. “Because anytime you have a battlefield, it is a history lesson.”

14 of the African American soldiers would earn the Medal of Honor.

“I thought I knew a lot about local history but in the last 10 years I’ve learned so much more,” said Howard. “After awhile you start to feel like you’re a part of it.”


Over the years developers came knocking with their ideas and checkbooks. Each time, Howard declined.

“There was a lot of money involved but I told them I wasn’t interested,” said Howard.

At 79 years old, you might not fault Howard for cashing in — but that is exactly what Howard is not doing.

“Fortunately I’m in a position where I can make the decision on what to do with the property,” said Howard.

He can’t stomach the thought of townhouses or roads running through his home and so much history.

“It would break my heart to see this developed,” said Howard.

Howard Eberly. August 11, 2022.

So Howard is taking a stand. The Varina native is donating his 28-acre tract to the Capital Region Land Conservancy. Another 45 acres owned by Howard and his sister will be donated later.

“I get to live here for the rest of my life,” said Howard.

Howard will receive tax credits, but not as much a he could have earned by selling the property outright.

“I’m pretty content the way I am.”

The Conservancy’s Executive Director Parker Agelasto said Howard’s gift is nothing short of heroic.

Four Mile Creek Farm. August 11, 2022.

“It is what would have been here 1,000 years ago,” described Parker. “Once it is gone, it can be very difficult to restore it. Somebody who takes that extra effort to see the really big picture. Absolutely. They don’t come often."

Parker hopes that Howard’s actions inspire other landowners to do the same.

“I’m really, really happy that Howard is at peace and knows he can have the comfort that the land will always be protected,” said Parker.

Living at his Four Mile Creek property, Howard never wanted to end up sitting on a pile of money.

Four Mile Creek Farm. August 11, 2022.

“I’d rather be sitting on a farm,” said Howard.

This senior steward doesn’t regret his decision a bit.

“One of the smartest things I ever did,” said Howard. “Some people say I was dumb. But I think I did the right thing.”

Howard Eberly: a humble landowner who turned down a lot of green to keep his property green forever.

“This land should be as it is,” said Howard. “It will mean more to more people than anything else I’ve ever done.”

Howard’s family name will always be associated with the donated land. Parker Agelasto with the Capital Region Land Conservancy said the property will be known as the Eberly Tract, and will eventually be opened for public use as a park.

To find out more about donating land to protect it forever, click here.

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