:: GIC Projects :: Virginia :: Accomack County Blue/Green Infrastructure Study

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          : Accomack County Website

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Accomack County Project Overview

Accomack Project History In 2008, the nonprofit Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) proposed to develop a study of the green infrastructure resources of Accomack County, Virginia.  Green infrastructure is the interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas; greenways, parks, and other conservation lands; working farms and forests; and other open spaces that support native species while sustaining air and water resources and contributing to health and quality of life (McDonald, Benedict, and O’Conner, 2005).

Beginning in 2007, the GIC conducted field tests of green infrastructure planning approaches across Virginia.  The Accomack County Project served as the GIC’s coastal field test to evaluate and link land assets with the county’s coastal and estuarine resources. The field test will be used to inform development of a planning manual for local governments. For more on the field test projects see the GIC project page

On August 20, 2008, the Accomack County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted unanimously to request that the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) seek grant funding to pay for preparation of the green infrastructure study. In 2009, the GIC raised the required project start up funds of $50,000 from the USDA Forest Service.  Additional funds were raised from the Blue Moon Fund to support the work in Accomack County and across Virginia. The funding for the project supported staff time for mapping and data review, stakeholder interviews, printing maps and reports, development of educational materials, and hosting public events such as “open houses” where the community contributed to the project, as well as travel costs for conducting meetings and field work. 

Project partners included the GIC, Accomack County, the Coastal Zone Management Program (CZM), the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage and the USDA Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Why a Study? Accomack County is rich in natural resources that contribute to the county’s quality of life and support its economy.  The Virginia Institute of Marine Science estimated commercial fishing alone results in $13,695,000 and earns an additional  $1,480,000 when the full economic impacts are considered (boat supplies, jobs etc.).  The natural land assets are also important to the county’s economy. In 2007, more than 62,000 acres of county land were in agriculture and forestry uses. The county’s abundant natural assets and scenic beauty also contribute to a thriving tourist economy which includes fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, such as the famous ponies of Chincoteague, and abundant bird life.  However, to conserve these natural assets – green and blue infrastructure – we need to have the best possible information about them.  These “natural assets” are a critical component of the county’s resource portfolio and should be well managed to ensure maximum economic and ecological returns. 

Many ecological studies have been conducted in Accomack County on wading birds and wildlife such as the Delmarva Fox Squirrel, oysters and clam beds and other natural features, such as watershed drainage and intact forests. There have also been studies of soils suitable for development, transportation plans and growth plans.  There are also new state models such as the Virginia Conserved Lands Assessment and the Coastal GEMS that can inform plans for future growth and conservation.  However, there is no one comprehensive study that links all these plans and research studies together.  The Accomack Green Infrastructure Project used these resources to create a study that the county can use to determine how and where to grow, what to conserve and where to recreate.

It is important to note that this study did not impose or require new regulations or budgetary demands. The study provides better information for Accomack County to grow in ways that will create healthful and thriving communities. The study can be used to inform the next update of the comprehensive plan and to create maps that can be used by the county for everyday planning efforts. Examples include park, open space and recreational planning, heritage tourism strategies and economic development, strategies for determining where to zone land for conservation or growth, transportation planning for roads or multi-modal planning, protection of at risk or endangered species such as Delmarva Fox Squirrel, and protection of fisheries and aquaculture areas.

The community was engaged in the project through workshops where they provided input on resource asset maps and findings. The GIC Accomack Project team conducted interviews of key stakeholder organizations to help inform the study. The final study report has been provided to the county to inform future county planning and development efforts. In 2012, a University of Virginia class completed a review of the GIC's report and provided suggested strategies for the county and centrally located towns to conserve and enhance their green infrastructure. They also created a design guide called the Accomack County Form Book. A link to the student's study and design guide are below.

Updates and Materials

Project maps and presentations are posted here.


The project was implemented through a team-based approach. The GIC Accomack Research Study Team consisted of several parties working cooperatively on the project.  Staff from the GIC managed the project, conducted interviews and researched and provided updates to county staff and elected and appointed officials.  Mapping and additional technical support services were provided by an environmental consulting company E² Inc. County staff assisted with mapping, data review and project guidance.  Together, these entities comprised the GIC Accomack Research Study Team. Additional information and data were provided by several state agencies, including the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and the Division of Natural Heritage.

For Accomack County please contact: Tom Brockenbrough, GIS Coordinator, Accomack County Department of Planning at 757.787.5797 or tbrockenbrough@co.accomack.va.us.

For the Green Infrastructure Center please contact: Karen Firehock firehock@gicinc.org or 434-244-0322

To learn more about green infrastructure planning please visit www.gicinc.org

Additional Links

Virginia’s Coastal GEM - interactive map and detailed information of Virginia's coastal resources.

Virginia’s Conservation Lands Needs Assessment


The participation of Accomack County was funded by:


The Green Infrastructure Center's work was funded by:




Accomack County Marsh



Historic Church


Chincoteague Ponies




Marsh Trail at Assateague National Seashore