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417 Acres Added to Permanent Conservation of the Blue Ridge
Every spring, I like to take a look back and review the amazing places that have been permanently protected in the previous year — land that will everlastingly add to the charming beauty and precious natural heritage of our region. Each of these newly conserved lands is bursting with natural wonders, but more importantly, landowners who care so deeply for our mountains that they generously conserve them for the benefit of all of us.
In the past year, these local landowners and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) conserved nine new locales totaling 417 acres among our picturesque mountains of Western North Carolina. This means cleaner water, more trails, and ever-inspiring scenic views. It also means expanded plant and wildlife habitat, increased access to public lands, and preservation of local farmland. And while the benefit to our region is immediate, the impacts are forever.
Read on for a sampling of the special places granted permanent protection in the previous year — places deeply part of our natural heritage, now and always.
84 more acres
The grassy meadow crowning the top of 4,232-foot Bearwallow Mountain affords one of the best views in all of the Blue Ridge range. To forever protect this scenic jewel, the Barnwell family and CMLC first partnered in 2009 to place 81 acres of the picturesque mountaintop into a permanent conservation easement.
In 2012, the Barnwell family and CMLC again worked together to protect an additional 84 acres of the iconic Henderson County peak. The newly conserved land on the mountain’s western ridgeline surrounds the length of the popular one-mile hiking trail, built by the Carolina Mountain Club, that accesses the summit.
Family matriarch Pearl Barnwell lived to see 165 acres of her mountain protected before passing away at the age of 100 in January. The newest conservation easement on Bearwallow Mountain honors Pearl’s memory. She is survived by her son, Henry Barnwell.
“We have enjoyed living adjacent to this undeveloped, wooded land with its variety of wildlife,” said landowner David Thomas. “We decided to preserve it in this condition for the future.”
Fifty-nine acres of unspoiled forests and scenic waterfalls on the slopes of Flat Rock’s Rush Mountain were permanently protected through the generosity and good will of David and Merrily Thomas. The Thomases placed the tract into conservation easement, as well as conveyed ownership of 55 of its acres to CMLC.
Hosting a tributary of Mud Creek, the easement protects water quality downstream within the French Broad River watershed. Its conserved forests will also forever preserve scenic views from nearby Little River Road, part of the state-designated Historic Flat Rock Scenic Byway.
CMLC might one day develop a network of publicly accessible hiking trails on the property.
2.2 more acres
Ted and Karen Ramsaur chose to honor the vision of Ted’s mother, Dorothy, by donating a conservation easement on 2.2 acres in the Sherwood Forest community in Cedar Mountain.
“My mother acquired the land with the idea to protect it,” Ted explained. “We feel like we are carrying out her wishes.”
Though small in size, the newly protected tract is especially rich in conservation value, fronting 1,000 feet of the Little River directly upstream from DuPont State Recreational Forest. It also hosts critical habitat suitable for federally threatened species such as swamp pink and mountain sweet pitcher plant. The easement adds to 1.5 acres of ecologically significant lands previously conserved by CMLC in the Sherwood Forest community.
The Ramsaurs also donated the underlying ownership of the conserved property to the Sherwood Forest POA for addition to the community green space.
Tryon Greenway Corridor
“We wanted it to serve the common good,” Bob Lewis said of the nine acres of land in Tryon that he and his brother, Donald Smith, donated to CMLC.
By expanding future public recreation opportunities and safeguarding water quality, that’s just what their gift will do for the town’s residents and visitors.
The land adjoins more than 78 acres of park lands owned and managed by the town of Tryon, including a 24-acre tract that hosts the Vaughn Creek Greenway, now under development, and the 54-acre Ziglar Field. The donated parcels could ultimately enable a half-mile extension of the greenway. CMLC facilitated the acquisition of the initial greenway tract on Vaughn Creek in 2011.
The project will also protect water quality in the North Pacolet River watershed by buffering tributaries of Vaughn Creek.
Walnut Cove Mountain
A new conservation easement adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest protects the forested slopes of Walnut Cove Mountain, near Lake Toxaway. Hosting an upper headwaters tributary, the 64-acre easement also safeguards water quality of the French Broad River watershed.
The easement was donated by George Lenze and family, owners of CMLC-conserved Everett Farms in Pisgah Forest. CMLC has held a 140-acre conservation easement on the farm since 2003.
CMLC now buffers the Pisgah National Forest with conservation easements totaling 1,237 acres on its borders, thereby expanding wildlife corridors and preserving scenic viewsheds.
DuPont State Recreational Forest grew 65 acres larger this year with the help of CMLC, the N.C. Forest Service and conservation partner Tom Oreck, former CEO of the Oreck Corp., known for its lightweight vacuum cleaners.
The tract, on the north slopes of Stone Mountain, hosts endangered green salamanders and other rare species.
Protection of the tract was 10 years in the making; CMLC and partners first identified it as a conservation priority in 2002. Oreck purchased property and then worked with CMLC and NCFS to transfer it into public ownership with funding from the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund.
“This is a property that belongs to DuPont State Forest. I’m excited that I’m able to do something good for the community,” Oreck said.
Since 2006, CMLC has facilitated the addition of 200 acres of public land to DuPont State Forest and has buffered it with 3,711 acres of conservation easements.
Board of Trustees President Lynn Carnes Pitts and her husband, Russ, deepened their commitment to land conservation by donating a conservation easement on 82 acres of their property south of Lake Lure. The land hosted the Lake Lure Camp for Girls beginning in 1927 and Camp Occoneechee Girl Scouts Camp since 1956. The easement will forever preserve the picturesque setting that has inspired learning and leadership on the land for nearly a century.
With the belief that being on the land provides enhanced awareness and a deep connection to self, Russ and Lynn now operate a retreat center, Mystic Waters, on the property. According to Lynn, “it still seems to carry the memories of all that those girls learned over the years. The spirit of the land here inspires people to get back to their roots and to be creative.”
Twin Lakes has generously been made available to the Saluda community for fishing, swimming and picnicking for more than 60 years by the Wilkes family. A partnership between Saluda Community Land Trust and CMLC will ensure that this cherished local parkland will be accessible to residents and visitors to enjoy forever more.
Owners James T. Wilkes III, William Wilkes and Holly Wilkes donated the 21-acre tract to SCLT, which will own and manage it as a public park in perpetuity. CMLC now holds a conservation easement on the land, preserving the scenic forest surrounding the lakes and safeguarding water quality of a tributary of the Green River.
Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead
A partnership between CMLC and Henderson County Parks & Recreation has created a new, publicly accessible trailhead that enables visitors to better access CMLC’s 600-acre Florence Nature Preserve. Off Highway 74A in Gerton, the trailhead provides ample parking and easier road frontage for visitors seeking out the FNP’s five miles of publicly accessible hiking trails.
The tract was purchased from previous CMLC-conservation landowners John Myers and Jane Lawson, who protected 35 acres surrounding the Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community through CMLC in 2006.
Volunteers from the Carolina Mountain Club constructed a half-mile sustainable trail that links the new trailhead tract to the preserve’s larger trail network.
by Peter Barr, CMLC Trails & Outreach Coordinator
Read more stories of CMLC’s conserved lands at www.carolinamountain.org/stories.