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Winchester man picked for Cave Board

By Sally Voth

As a kid, Winchester resident Robert K. Denton Jr. was fascinated with geology and caves, and grew up to be a geologist. Now, he's one of the newest appointments to the Virginia Cave Board.

Denton was appointed to the four-year term by Gov. Bob McDonnell, according to a news release from the governor's office. Among the other five people appointed at the same time was Luray Caverns President and CEO John H.H. Graves.

The board consists of the director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and 11 appointees, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, www.dcr.virginia.gov.

In a Monday afternoon phone interview, Denton, a senior geologist at GeoConcepts Engineering Inc. in Ashburn, said he was nominated by people from the U.S. Geological Survey and DCR.

He said he's a certified professional geologist and a state-certified soil scientist.

"[I] always have had a strong interest from childhood in geology, paleontology, and been a caver since I was a teenager," said Denton, a 17-year Winchester resident. "I'm excited about it."

The General Assembly set up the Cave Board in 1979, according to the DCR website. Its advisory functions include cave management, rescue operations, cave ownership laws, enforcement of the Cave Protection Act and a potential cave recreation plan, according to the site.

The board is tasked with protecting caves' minerals, archeology, life, groundwater flow and unique characteristics, according to the site.

Denton said he wanted to have a role in protecting caves' natural resources and groundwater.

While the greatest number of caves are in southwest Virginia, he said, the Shenandoah Valley is home to many.

"There's certainly lots of caves [that] have been found and mapped in Frederick County, although most of them are smaller," Denton said. "The thing is, they find caves when they blast open a quarry or something like that. There's a lot of underground passageways."

Hundreds of caves have been mapped or located in Warren and Shenandoah counties, he said, while in Clarke County, most of the caves are filled with water.

"Both Warren and Shenandoah County both have tour caves," Denton said.

While it has since closed again, he is quite familiar with Crystal Caverns in Strasburg.

"I used to be the curator of Crystal Caverns," Denton said. "I was the one who got it open for the Bernstein family back in 1998."

The caverns had originally opened to visitors in 1933, and opened and closed a few more times before 1998, he said, and closed once again in 2010.

Denton said he is currently working with the cave board to come up with a standardized method for doing karst assessment for developments, similar to environmental due diligence that is done.

According to the DCR website, the board meets at least three times annually at various locations, and its next meeting is Feb. 16 in Richmond.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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