Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) announced Sandy and Missy Schenck, of Cedar Mountain, as winners of the organization’s prestigious 2014 Lela McBride Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region.
The Schencks founded Green River Preserve (GRP), a non-competitive co-ed summer camp for the “bright, curious, and creative” that focuses on connecting children and nature, in the Green River Valley in 1987. For more than a quarter century, GRP’s camp programming has nurtured young people by fostering skills like perseverance, curiosity, communication, optimism, and creativity, striving to establish the next generation of conservationists and environmental stewards.
Because of the Schencks’ deep conservation ethic and their belief that learning is enhanced by the natural world, they partnered with CMLC in 2006 to enter 2,600 acres of their Green River Preserve into a permanent conservation easement. The protected tract represents the land trust’s largest easement, making up nearly 10% of all CMLC’s protected land.
The conservation easement prevents future development to ensure the preservation of the land’s natural heritage. Such protection extends wildlife corridors, preserves cherished mountain scenery and habitat for rare species, and safeguards water quality—including the headwaters of the Green River itself. The easement also created a protected buffer bordering DuPont State Recreational Forest, forming a contiguous area of more than 13,000 acres of conserved natural lands.
The Schencks’ contributions to conservation have also extended beyond the natural treasures of GRP. Sandy formerly served on the board of trustees of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, including as its president in 2001, as well as Friends of DuPont Forest. The Schencks have served multiple other boards and committees involving environmental education and conservation, past and present.
After witnessing summer after summer the invigorating effects of the outdoors on young people at GRP, as well as the importance of passed-down stories that define a sense of place, community, and relationship to the land, the Schencks formed Muddy Sneakers: a non-profit that would work to merge active outdoor experiential learning with traditional studies in public schools in western North Carolina.
Today, Muddy Sneakers has grown to serve fifth-grade students in 18 schools across four WNC counties with the mission to awaken in children a deeply felt connection with the natural word, one that inspires curiosity, stimulates learning, and brings new life to classroom performance.
The award was given out at CMLC’s Annual Meeting at Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville on Sunday, April 6. Bestowed annually, the Schencks represent the 20threcipient of the Lela McBride Award. Former winners include Rep. Chuck McGrady, Congressman Charles Taylor, and NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.
Lela McBride, the award’s namesake, was a community leader and conservationist that enabled the completion of Henderson County’s first Natural Heritage Inventory. She subsequently created the Henderson County Natural Heritage Trust, which grew to become CMLC.
CMLC conserves land and water resources to benefit the quality of life of residents and visitors in Henderson, Transylvania, and surrounding counties. Since 1994, the land trust has protected more than 23,000 acres of natural lands in our mountains. Entering their 20thanniversary year, the land trust protected a record 4,000 acres at 21 locations across the region in 2013. For more information, visit www.carolinamountain.org.