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1,568 Acres in NC Mountains: $16 Million View from the World's Edge: Priceless
What does a $16 million dollar view look like? For the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy, the answer is more than 1,500 acres of sparkling waterfalls, sheer cliffs, forested slopes and dramatic views. Known as "World's Edge," the land was protected in August 2005 thanks to quick action by these conservation partners.
World's Edge is in the Hickory Nut Gorge, just 15 miles southeast of Asheville, NC-abounding with stunning natural features, this popular tourist destination faces the combined pressures of development and rapidly increasing land use.
Formerly owned by The Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation, the World's Edge property became available on very short notice. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy worked with Cynthia Haldenby Tyson, estate executrix, and seized the narrow window of opportunity. With the involvement of The Nature Conservancy's North Carolina Chapter, this ecological treasure is now guaranteed to be protected.
Earlier in 2005, North Carolina's General Assembly authorized a state park in the Hickory Nut Gorge area. The area is important as a potential tourism destination and has tremendous biological value.
"We've been excited about the idea of a state park at Hickory Nut Gorge for a long time, and that idea has moved from possibility to probability in just a matter of weeks," said Lewis Ledford, director of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation. "It shows what can be accomplished with such committed partners as The Nature Conservancy, the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, the local community and the General Assembly."
World's Edge contains a mile-long set of steep slopes on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, with more than 20,000 feet of streams and waterfalls. From an overlook point, the land falls away to provide a stunning view of the Piedmont. Unique cave-dwelling invertebrates, rare flowers, a variety of forest communities and an array of animals such as endangered bats, salamanders, peregrine falcons and migratory neotropical birds dwell there. The non-contiguous property extends into Henderson, Polk and Rutherford counties.
"Acquiring this magnificent property is a triumph for our region's people and our natural heritage," says Kieran Roe, Executive Director of the Hendersonville-based Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. "With development pressures on the rise, opportunities to protect significant lands such as World's Edge are becoming rare. As a local land trust, we've already protected 700 acres in the Hickory Nut Gorge, and our Conservancy will continue to work with landowners to make the most of this tremendous opportunity to preserve our special mountain places."
The Nature Conservancy agrees. "Safeguarding the beauty, diversity and natural integrity within the Gorge fits in perfectly with our mission," says Katherine Skinner, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy's North Carolina Chapter. "We've been working in the Gorge for more than 20 years and have protected nearly 1,500 acres here. But no matter how hard we work, private groups just can't do it alone. We're delighted to now have a state partner on board."
The support of the General Assembly and of community partners in the area has been a critical component of ongoing efforts in the Hickory Nut Gorge area.
"I'm pleased that so many local conservation partners are committed to working with our Division of Parks and Recreation to create a new state park in Hickory Nut Gorge. The increased recreation and tourism opportunities will strengthen the local economy and provide many benefits to the people of North Carolina and to visitors from other states. Future generations will appreciate our efforts to protect this wonderful place," says Senator Walter H. Dalton of Rutherford County, a primary co-sponsor of the bill that authorized the new park.
Local sentiment is echoed by Todd Morse, President and GM of Chimney Rock Park. "A new state park will add much needed tourism to complement what we have at Chimney Rock Park. The additional exposure will create a positive economic impact for area businesses and for towns within the Gorge, in Rutherford County and beyond."
The $16 million dollar acquisition is the result of a partnership among the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and numerous conservation lenders and donors. Critical funding has been provided by loans from the Open Space Institute and the Self-Help Credit Union, and by guarantees from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Lisbeth and Don Cooper, Bill and Nancy Stanback, Fred and Alice Stanback and other generous supporters.
"This is a great day for North Carolina. This project stands as a national model of collaboration and partnership between public and nonprofit partners. It is a testament to their collective vision, commitment and gritty determination that this land has been preserved for all to enjoy," said Peter Howell, Director of Conservation Finance at the Open Space Institute.
According to Ms. Haldenby Tyson, "From his youth, Robert Haywood Morrison took an intense interest in the natural world, particularly the terrain and flora of western North Carolina, where he grew up. He would be proud to know that World's Edge will be forever protected."
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy helps landowners protect local land and water rsources vital to our natural heritage and quality of life. As a local nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the places you love, CMLC is helping to create a regional network of protected farm, forest, park and natural lands. www.carolinamountain.org
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and its 23,500 members have protected more than 577,000 acres in the Tar Heel state. For more information, contact the NC Chapter office at 919.403.8558 or visit us on the web at www.nature.org/northcarolina.
Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats and sustain community character. OSI achieves its goals through land acquisition, conservation easements, special loan programs and creative partnerships.
Self-Help is a community development lender that has provided $3.9 billion in financing to 43,000 low-income home buyers, small businesses and nonprofits nationwide. Self-Help strives to integrate its community development with a concern for the environment and in 2004 invested nearly $70 million in 80 sustainable development projects.