Solar farm would squeeze popular hunting preserve
The part-time dog trainer’s duck hunting trip to Arkansas 25 years ago led to the opening of Shady Grove Hunting Preserve in southern Fauquier.
We’ve have over 1,500 guests here in the first three months (of this year). And they spend a lot of money.
— Shady Grove owner Neil Selby
Kennel, hunting preserve and sporting clays.
504 acres, owned by Dominion Virginia Power, at 11986 Lucky Hill Road near Remington.
Neil Selby and Leslie Carter.
• Website: www.shady-grove.com
Neil Selby started his business a year later on 504 acres along Lucky Hill Road near Remington.
Mr. Selby, 70, in June will mark the start of his 24th year in business. He will host his 23rd-annual dove hunt in September.
But could they be last for Shady Grove?
At a minimum, it seems unlikely that the preserve by next year would operate at the scale hunters and dog owners from all over the country have come to appreciate.
Selby doesn’t own the land. He leases it from Virginia Electric and Power Company, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources.
Dominion has applied to rezone the property from agricultural to industrial use so it can build a solar power facility. The proposed solar farm – the first of its kind in Virginia - would cover about 205 acres Selby uses for his operation.
Fauquier’s planning commission will conduct a public hearing for the rezoning and related permit applications at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16.
Selby’s longtime friend John Meadows serves on the commission as Lee District’s representative.
“Neil and I have been friends for a long time, and Virginia Power knows that,” Meadows said. “When I conduct county business, I play no favorites. I base my decision on the applications.”
Selby has a lifetime lease on 34 acres of the site. The solar farm’s development would not affect that portion.
He uses that area to train hunting dogs for clients. It includes a house, an office, training barns and three manmade ponds used to teach dogs water skills.
The proposed solar farm acreage includes areas Shady Grove uses for upland bird hunting, the annual dove hunt and its shooting clays operation.
Selby buys flight-conditioned pheasants, Chukar and quail and releases them for the hunts. His clients can hunt in a variety of terrain planted in grain crops and maintained for natural bird habitat.
“We offer fields of grain sorghum, cedar hedgerows, and briar thickets and open woods hunting,” Selby said.
The solar farm would also take Meadows’ favorite spot on the farm – the lone majestic oak tree he and his wife Megan got married under six years ago.
“I told her if she ever proposed to me, I wanted to get married under it,” Meadows said.
The couple in June 2010 took their wedding vows on horseback under the tree with guests sitting on white linen-covered hay bales.
“It was a pretty scene,” Meadows added.
Regulated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the preserve’s hunting season runs from Sept. 1 to April 30.
Hunters must have state licenses, which they can purchase at Shady Grove.
The dove hunt, always held the second Saturday in September, attracts hunters up and down the East Coast.
Stafford resident Marvin Hulsey has attended for several years.
“Shady Grove is all about wonderful people, a great shooting atmosphere and is a lot of fun,” Hulsey said. “I can’t wait for the the next dove hunt. I took four friends last year and have seven begging to go this year.
“Shady Grove puts together great memories.”
For the price of a round of golf, outdoor enthusiasts can try out the shooting clays course.
Selby said participants can enjoy nature while participating in one of America’s fastest growing sports. His range includes 22 stations arranged in a circle to provide the utmost in safety.
The largest station can accommodate five shooters at one time.
Shady Grove has hosted National Shooting Clays Association tournaments, corporate outings and learn-to-shoot programs. The proximity to D.C. has made the preserve attractive to congressmen, generals and judges.
“We even have had weekly parties for local businessmen,” Selby said.
Of all the activities available to outdoorsmen, Meadows loves the clays the most.
“Neil has trained dogs for me, and I’ve helped him at the annual dove hunt. But, I have the most fun shooting clay pigeons.”
Meadows calls it “a fabulous game to participate in” and adds he has both participated in sanctioned competitions and more casual gatherings.
“Even when you go out there with family to shoot clays, it turns into a competition,” Meadows said.
Selby and his staff devote a lot of their time to training pointers and retrievers for clients.
He has bred and raised champions over the years. Phil Giarth, a fellow AKC breeder and judge, said Selby has all the qualities to stand out among his peers.
“Neil is down to earth, and his country mannerisms are engrained in his morals,” Giarth said. “His outgoing personality has helped him exceed and become well-known throughout the country.”
The Poolesville, Md., resident added that Selby started out working with his own retrievers and then began training professionally.
“Neil is known for getting the most out of a dog,” Giarth said. “He has the ability to understand dog language and knows what a dog is about to do. That helps his training style and helps his clients in reaching their goals and getting the most out of their dogs.”
Contractors also rent space at Shady Grove for their training and boarding.
Training includes gun dogs, forced retrieving obedience and hunt test and field trial conditioning.
The preserve has a retriever training course with live birds, technical ponds adaptable to all level scenarios and realistic duck hunting blinds.
“We prepare a dog for American Kennel Club hunt tests or a day in the field with the owner,” Selby said.
He works with Dominion on company-owned land surrounding the diesel- and natural gas-fueled power plant that stands across from Shady Grove’s offices.
Selby has additional upland hunting areas and a manmade flooded timber pond with a tower release duck-hunting site.
Fifteen years ago when then Virginia Power petitioned the county for the generation plant, Selby proved to be the company’s biggest local supporter.
“I talked it up and spoke in favor of it at the public hearing,” he recalled.
This time, he found out about the solar farm from a reporter.
“I was the last to know,” Selby said. “And that hurts.”
Dominion has changed, he suggested.
“They no longer care about the people who helped them get to where they are today,” Selby said. “All they care about is making money.”
Dominion representatives disagree with that characterization.
“Mr. Selby will continue to maintain leased property from Dominion,” company spokesman Chuck Penn said. “We have absolutely no desire to adversely impact Mr. Selby’s business. Our focus is solely on adding an emission-free renewable energy source to Fauquier County – renewable energy that will play an increasingly important role in Virginia’s future.
“Mr. Selby will still continue to occupy approximately 200 acres for his business, with approximately 32 of the 200 acres housing his kennel and dog
training activities, a portion of his upland hunts and all of his duck hunts on the lower pond, which is not impacted.”
Selby, meanwhile, continues to run his business that brings lots of visitors to Fauquier and the surrounding area.
“We’ve have over 1,500 guests here in the first three months” of this year, Selby said. “And they spend a lot of money.”
He hosted an AKC-sanctioned hunting dog trial the last weekend in March.
It attracted 139 dog owners and professional handlers along with 180 dogs. The two-day event drew dogs from 18 states.
Selby said he hosts at least seven such events a year – all which won’t be possible should the rezoning go through.
“Dominion has already told me we won’t be allowed to work the area,” Selby said.
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llfarm88 · April 15, 2015 at 9:47 pm
Mr. Selby is a true to life great person, why in heck can Dominion not
utilize ANOTHER location for its operations?? Is this going to be another
buy a lot of equipment, install it, only to find it does not produce the
results expected, will our state government jump up on the bandwagon and
once again take lots of money from Dominion and the lobbying?? Oh and have you noticed this is another do it in SOUTHERN Fauquier, seems like
everything is pushed south of Warrenton.......
Silii · April 14, 2015 at 12:16 pm
This is a shame. Unfortunately, Mr. Selby leases the land from a corporation that holds all the cards and is fully supported in all they want by the Virginia legislature. Dominion Power has lots of money and lobbying ability. They make great big campaign contributions, they treat lawmakers like gold, and Dominion gets what they want. Maybe it's time to look for candidates that will at least try to stand up to the likes of Dominion Power. All our state legislative seats, house and senate, are up for election this November. Take a close look at what they've done to block Dominion Power, including giving DP special treatment in not having to open their books to usual and customary audits.
Tell It Like It Is · April 14, 2015 at 11:47 am
Who sold Dominion the land?
ladyswifty · April 14, 2015 at 11:32 am
Yet Mr. Selby does not understand a speed limit. Comes flying down Lucky Hill Rd over the speed limit while kids are standing at the bus stop.
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