News & Events: News

My time at CMLC AmeriCorps Project Conserve with Asheville GreenWorks has been spent in waterways more than in offices. The more that I frequent the waters of western North Carolina, the more I recognize the need to be increasingly mindful of the anthropogenic impact on organisms, and the functions of the French Broad River Watershed. 

Though the water quality throughout most of the basin is good, agriculture and urbanization are impairing the middle and lower parts of the basin. These happen to be the areas where I work the most. The habitat necessary for the survival of the many species in the French Broad is sensitive, and slowly succumbing to the pressures of poorly managed development, pollution and urbanization. I am grateful for the flexibility of my position at Asheville GreenWorks, because it lets me pursue methods to alleviate some of these pressures on the waters of western North Carolina that I know and love.  

When I began my position at Asheville GreenWorks, I became responsible for the maintenance of our four trash booms, which are construction booms installed in four tributaries of the French Broad that collect litter without compromising the movement of aquatic organisms. Since my time at GreenWorks, and with the help of volunteers, we have retrieved 459 pounds of trash from these booms in just a few months. Seeing how effective these booms have been at reducing the amount of litter that flows into the French Broad River, efforts have been made to create a litter trap of a larger scale to prevent greater amounts of trash from being moved into the river.

This year, I am assisting with the installation of this new “Trash Trout” litter trap system. I am also working to restore eroding riverbanks along Hominy Creek. With the reduction of waste and sedimentation, I am gathering water quality data of Hominy Creek to determine how healthier the water is.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have opened up for me through CMLC AmeriCorps Project Conserve, and I am eager to see what I can do with the rest of my time to improve this lovely community that I call home!

Lillian Lovingood

CMLC AmeriCorps Project Conserve

Clean Communities Coordinator at Asheville GreenWorks

 


river restoration“I would like to make that my home one day,” Woody Platt would say, whenever he passed by the white, 1930s farmhouse nestled between rolling hills with the East Fork of the French Broad River winding behind it. Platt, an avid life-long angler, admired the land’s access to trout-filled waters. It’s a pastoral property that brings a quiet sense of peace to balance Platt’s busy career as a member of the Grammy award-winning bluegrass band, Steep Canyon Rangers. 

Platt made that dream a reality when he and his wife and fellow musician, Shannon Whitworth, purchased the property in 2010. “This whole East Fork Valley has a very rural feel, a lot of open farmland and a lot of water,” shares Platt. “I was just really drawn to the river and to have this old farmhouse on some open pastureland—it’s pretty wonderful.”

But, like most good things, land is a work in progress. Platt and Whitworth knew that their beloved river was struggling to stay healthy.

During times of heavy rainfall, large chunks of riverbank slid into the water and heavy sediment built up, choking the rare plants and wildlife that live in the river.

“I’ve seen 10-20 feet erode into the stream in several locations. Any time we would get a lot of rain, the water would immediately be muddy in color and you would see large clumps of sand just falling off the bank,” says Platt.

Platt and Whitworth, along with their neighbors across the river, Carl and Lois Ganner, knew something needed to be done to save the integrity of the riverbanks and the quality of the water. The Ganners operate Z-Z-Zip Canopy Tours, a zip-line adventure business, on their property. Making sure their land is healthy is important in protecting those aerial views when clients are soaring overhead.   

This area along the East Fork lacked natural vegetation that helps hold soil in place along the floodplain and the riverbanks. Historic ranching operations removed the native plants and trees, replacing them with non-native grasses for livestock that have shallow roots and are unable to hold soil well during higher river flows.

“Once a bank becomes unstable, it can undercut and destabilize trees upstream, which may fall in the river and cause debris dams,” says Anita Goetz, a biologist at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who worked on the project. “The river may cut around these and into a farmer’s field. It’s a domino effect. Lesson number one I give landowners is leave your trees alone along riverbanks and provide as much forested buffer as possible in adjacent floodplains.”

hellbender salamander

All rivers are in a constant state of flux, shares Torry Nergart, Conservation Easement Manager at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “Unfortunately, they also do not follow deeded private property rights. The river was oxbowing and would have eventually formed a new channel. This erosion would have created a loss of acreage for Platt, Whitworth and the Ganners, as well as impact all wildlife. Both landowners are conservation-minded, and did not want to just sit by and let the river keep on taking away sediment.”

Platt, Whitworth and the Ganners jumped into action, rounding up the necessary parties to make restoration possible. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy was a key fundraising player, securing lead grants that private landowners cannot access on their own from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Before restoration work began, Anita and her team relocated aquatic species from the water for protection, including seven Hellbenders, one freshwater leech and several trout. The Hellbenders were a significant and surprising discovery, as they are a candidate for listing as Federally Endangered and weren’t previously documented in that section of the river. “As Anita says, we want to do all we can to keep them off the list,” says Nergart.

The high riverbanks were excavated to reduce the bank height from 10 feet to about 2.5 feet. Willows and alders were planted. The most severe meander was re-aligned to have a gentler curve. Root wads (dead tree trunks with their roots still intact) and tree limbs were buried along the toes of the banks.

“These logs and root structures add excellent habitat features and help to maintain proper pool depths,” says Grant Ginn with Wolf Creek Engineering, who designed and oversaw construction of the restoration project. “Additionally, the reshaping of the river bed profile provided the opportunity to reconstruct the riffles out of the native gravel and cobble that had been buried below years of silt and sand deposition.”

East Fork Restoration

The East Fork, along with the North, West and Middle Forks, contain the headwaters of the French Broad. As the river flows, it is a source of agriculture irrigation and outdoor recreation, two major drivers of our local economy.  

“People used to say the French Broad was ‘too thick to swim, too thin to plow’ for all the pollution and sedimentation,” says Nergart. “Nowadays, with some management, water quality has improved. The East Fork watershed is more than 60% protected by the newly forming Headwaters State Forest, sending clean mountain water downstream.  That level of clean water means the threatened Hellbender salamander can call the East Fork home. Trout also require that same degree of oxygen-rich, sediment-free cold water.”

After the two-month restoration work was completed this past fall, the river has made a significant rebound.

“We’re watching it every day,” says Platt. “The water is running clear; you can really see the cobble and ripples again. The water now has some place to go; it’s not hitting a wall. In high water it naturally swells up and flows back down. You can see the health of the stream coming back.”

Platt, Whitworth and the Ganners are currently working with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to permanently conserve the re-vegetated streambanks at the restoration site. Placing a voluntary conservation easement on the land ensures the important restoration work cannot be undone. The trees that were replanted along the stream to help stabilize the banks cannot be cut down nor can the riverbank be reshaped at the whims of a future landowner.

Tour of Restoration Work

“If you’re going to work to stabilize a piece of property like this and try to restore it for the natural health, it makes a lot of sense to put a perpetual easement on it so the long-term health of the property is protected,” says Platt.

The project featured a lot of moving parts made successful by several partners including the Transylvania County Soil and Water Conservation District, Conservation Advisors of North Carolina, North State Environmental, Resource Institute, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NC Department of Justice Ecosystem Enhancement Grants Program,Wolf Creek Engineering and NC Division of Water Resources.

“Everyone worked together really well,” says Platt. “I’m looking forward to working with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy moving forward to maintain the conservation easement, making sure that everything stays healthy.”

With cleaner water and happier trout, bets are Platt will be reaching for that fishing pole more often.


What do you love about our lands and waters?

Show us how much saving these special places means to you! Post a photo or tell us what your favorite CMLC-conserved land is on our Facebook page or use #carolinamtnlandconservancy in your Instagram post. You’ll be entered for a chance to win a REI Flash 18 lightweight daypack to make your dates with nature even more enjoyable! Get busy sharing!

The winner will be announced February 21st.


Little White Oak Mountain: A Collaborative Conservation Venture

The scenic ridgeline and south facing slopes of Little White Oak Mountain, slated as the site for an 687-unit residential development north of the Town of Columbus known as the Foster Creek Preserve in the mid-2000s, will now be permanently protected thanks to the cooperative action of local organizations. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), working closely with the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), purchased the 1,068-acre property in December 2016 to conserve its dramatic views, rare species, wildlife habitats, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

A major gift from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, NC and a $1.86 million loan from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina enabled Hendersonville-based CMLC to close on the purchase with the sellers, American Land Fund of Philadelphia. The conservation organizations are now pursuing a strategy to fundraise and convey sections of the property to collaborating agencies in order to be made whole on the purchase.

Over coming years CMLC and PAC hope to transfer portions of the property to the capable management of state and local partner organizations including the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, the Polk County Recreation Department, and the Housing Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit Hendersonville-based developer of affordable housing.

The Tryon-based Pacolet Area Conservancy has targeted the tract as a conservation priority for over a decade and at one point worked with the previous owner on a plan to protect the high-elevation part of the property with a conservation easement. Although the easement never came to fruition, PAC maintained periodic contact with the owners and, working with CMLC, approached the American Land Fund (ALF) once again in 2015. The dialogue initiated then led ultimately to the offer by ALF to sell for a price below market value if the transaction could be completed by the end of 2016.

“PAC is excited to be working with CMLC to create an outcome on the Little White Oak tract that conserves its outstanding natural features while also addressing other community needs,” said PAC President Rebecca Kemp. 

The Polk County Recreation Complex could expand by 300 acres to provide local residents and visitors with greater recreational opportunities. The recreation complex currently provides access to recreational sports fields and walking paths, and the expansion would facilitate more extensive hiking and mountain biking trails.

Thirty to sixty acres adjoining Highway 108 could be developed as a residential workforce housing development intended to help younger families and middle-income workers, such as police officers and teachers, get a start with home ownership. The homeowners help build the homes themselves, which keeps the cost of the homes more affordable. Each home is anticipated to have a value between $180,000-$200,000, which will result in increased property tax revenue for the Town and County.

Plans call for the majority of the tract – up to 600 acres -- to be added to the adjoining Green River Game Lands. The 14,000-acre game land located in and around the Green River Gorge in southeast Henderson and western Polk counties is managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and is primarily used by anglers, hunters and hikers. Though the game land has expanded many times since its creation in 1950, this addition will be the first since 2008 and will provide a point of public access from Houston Road.

The conservation partners hope to initiate a master planning process involving public input to determine how the long-term uses of the property can best benefit the community. For instance, Polk County Middle School adjoins the County Recreation Complex and the Little White Oak property. Planners will look for opportunities to create trails that might link the school to conserved land, and provide teachers and students with educational and recreational access.

According to CMLC executive director Kieran Roe, “Due to the substantial change in the local real estate market that occurred after the 2008-09 recession, the extensive residential development once envisioned for the site will never come to pass. CMLC looks forward to working with PAC and numerous other collaborators on a different, and perhaps better, long-term outcome there for the community.”

These projects provide vital protection of natural areas, federally-endangered species, clean water, and stunning mountain views in Polk County. The projects also expand recreational access to the outdoors, making the work of CMLC and PAC relevant to the wider public. The expanded recreational opportunities may draw more tourists to the area, strengthening the local economy.

When the plans to develop Foster Creek Preserve were originally proposed in 2006, community members made it clear they cared deeply about the property. CMLC and PAC are excited to be part of this important project. 


FREE SEED SWAP

Sponsored by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

Every year around this time, anticipation of spring begins with the laying out of garden beds, checking the planting calendar, eyeing the Farmer’s Almanac… and the appearance of seed catalogs to browse and daydream of warmer times.

With all this excitement, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) introduces our 2017 Seed Swap—a free sharing of seeds our staff, members, and volunteers have collected over the season. Yup, free! There’s no cost to you, no dollars, and no cents. We’ve set up a sharing station in the reception area of our office at 847 Case Street Hendersonville, NC 28792. There’s a bowl with seed packets you are welcome to give or to take, it’s that easy.

Take some seeds, grow the plants, make notes on their performance if you like, collect the seeds from the new plants, bring them back to our sharing station, get more seeds, and repeat! We have a few “make your own” seed packets, too.

For more information about CMLC’s 2017 Seed Swap, please contact Torry, Conservation Easement Manager, at torry@carolinamountain.org or (828) 697-5777.


Party Rock Fire

When Chris “Shrimper” Khare saw orange and red flickering smoke, he knew it was time to evacuate. The reflecting flames signaled that the Party Rock fire, about a quarter mile away, was getting too close for comfort.

Khare and his crew of six were camping on the slopes of Weed Patch Mountain, a summit just south of Rumbling Bald where the fire first ignited. Since April, his team has been digging Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s newest hiking and mountain biking trail.

Winding 7 miles through hemlocks, rhododendron and mountain laurel, the trail — being developed in partnership with the Town of Lake Lure — will soon connect the Buffalo Creek Park to Eagle Rock, a scenic promontory within Chimney Rock State Park. The project will be another segment of CMLC’s budding public trail network in the Hickory Nut Gorge that one day may extend more than 50 miles to connect conserved lands.

“I’ve been building trails since 1989 and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Khare. “The smoke was always behind us so we could see the fire really well as it came around the ridge. As far away as it was and with the wind blowing against it the whole time, it just never seemed like it was going to get to us. We watched it for almost a week before we got too nervous that we had to get out.”

The crew hiked — saws and axes, McLeods and Pulaskis in tow — back to the parked truck a quarter mile away.

As the wildfire burned, large plumes of smoke scattered across the mountainside. Individual trees, mostly dead, burst into flame. Pockets rich with woody debris and leaf litter ignited, causing abrupt, intense flares.

“I felt helpless in some ways, much the way someone would feel if their house was burning down,” said Clint Calhoun, Environmental Management Officer for the Town of Lake Lure. “The emotional side of me was concerned about the natural things that I care about. At the same time, I also had to reassure myself that fire, while not always caused by natural sources, is a natural part of the forest dynamic."

"Resolving that fact in my mind in the context of what was otherwise a very emotional event for our community, was therapeutic. At the same time my curiosity was at an all-time high, because I wanted to know how areas of the mountain were being impacted and what it would mean for the many natural communities on the mountain.”

After firefighters successfully contained the 7,141-acre wildfire, Khare and his trail building crew returned to work in early December. Their first task: removing fallen trees strewn across the trail.

“It was really amazing to see how hard the fire crews worked,” said Khare. “Where we access the trail, we go by a lot of structures that were on the front line and they didn’t let anything burn. They didn’t let people’s woodsheds burn.”

To contain the fire, firefighters constructed more than 130,000 feet of fire line. Fire lines are made by cutting, scraping or digging into the soil, providing a gap in vegetation and other flammable material to slow or stop a wildfire’s progress.

Calhoun headed out to examine the aftermath. The charred ground served as a mat for the blackened bases of tree trunks. In several places, mountain laurel and rhododendron were virtually cooked. Some of the hemlocks burned from the inside out, leaving a hollowed portrait of a once towering tree. Many large trees were totally consumed by the wildfire; others were left unharmed.

While some of the aesthetic qualities of the Weed Patch Mountain Trail have been temporarily lost, there is a great deal of cautious optimism. “Next year in the heat, there will be better wind circulation and there will be some rejuvenation of plants that the rhododendrons choked out,” said Khare.

The biggest question perhaps lingers in what sort of impact the Party Rock fire will have on our natural resources, native plants and local wildlife. Because many decades have passed since a wildfire of this magnitude burned in the Hickory Nut Gorge, there is some uncertainty as to what will grow back in these diverse natural areas.

“Theoretically speaking, the overall impact should be pretty positive,” said Calhoun. “We know that fire is a natural dynamic of forests; they are meant to burn as a way of reducing debris and litter and recycling carbon and other key elements back into the soil to encourage regrowth and regeneration.”

Wildfire increases biodiversity. It creates gaps in the forest that allow grasses and other plants to grow that are beneficial to wildlife, including insects, birds and small mammals, strengthening the overall food web.

Wildfire plays a Darwinism-like role, removing diseased trees and shrubs, allowing for the growth of healthy ones, and providing the light needed for fire-tolerant plants to thrive. Shrubs such as mountain laurel and rhododendron will be significantly reduced in size, and will have a more appropriately balanced presence in the forest.

“From a purely scientific standpoint, it’s an exciting event for me personally because this fire impacted several different ecological areas that will all respond in different ways,” Calhoun said. “The accessibility of many of these areas will make them interesting research subjects.”

One hundred and 80 acres of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s Teaching and Research Reserve — a project in partnership with the Community of the Transfiguration (a religious order for women in the Episcopal Church) — burned. The property, located in Bat Cave, will provide a great opportunity for researchers to study the long-term effects of the fire.

“I think there is a lot we can learn about fire ecology in the Hickory Nut Gorge that we may have always suspected, but can now be proven or disproved,” said Calhoun.

The Weed Action Coalition of the Hickory Nut Gorge, a program of CMLC composed of area partners, protects the natural environment of the Hickory Nut Gorge by managing the exotic invasive plants on public and private land. They operate collaboratively to provide landowners the information and resources they need to restore their land to its native habitat. WAC-HNG will be a major force in helping to mitigate the possible long-term effects of the Party Rock fire.

“WAC-HNG is working with the North Carolina Forest Service to educate landowners in the Hickory Nut Gorge and is piloting a Citizen Scientist Program focused within the burn area to get the community outside and to help document the effects of the fire,” said David Lee, Natural Resource Manager at CMLC. “We’re also continuing to work with public and private landowners to identify and control invasive plants, especially within the burned areas.”

Calhoun thinks most people will see very little difference in the forest from a distant perspective. “Up-close some differences may be quite considerable, but that may not be a bad thing," he said. The public will get an on-the-ground perspective of the post-fire landscape from the Weed Patch Mountain Trail once it opens this summer.

The second of four free forums will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 22nd in the Community Hall at the Lake Lure Municipal Building. Panel experts include Clint Calhoun with the Town of Lake Lure, Wesley Knapp with the NC Natural Heritage Program and Adam Warwick  with The Nature Conservancy, discussing how the fire will impact the natural communities of the Hickory Nut Gorge.


 
 
Position Title:
Finance Coordinator
 
Reports To:
Finance Director
 
Position Summary:
The Finance Coordinator is responsible for accurately recording and maintaining financial records and transactions of the organization.
 
Key Responsibilities:
  • Coordinate with CMLC program staff on project financial management, including invoicing, cost tracking, contract administration and reporting.
  • Manage Accounts Receivable processing, including working with the Assistant Director on grant invoicing and reconciling Accounts Payable with grant invoicing.
  • In coordination with the Finance Director, manage permanently restricted, temporarily restricted, & designated funding regarding donor intent, Board quasi-endowments, and internal designations.
  • Manage Accounts Payable processing.
  • Financial management of the AmeriCorps Project Conserve grant including: collecting and recording in-kind and other match contributions from host site supervisors, tracking and reporting grant related expenditures for monthly reimbursements, working with AmeriCorps program staff as a team to oversee and manage grant funds, and attending trainings sponsored by the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.
  • Receiving revenue in the donor management software/database and facilitating data import to the financial database.
  • Coordinate Finance Committee meetings, and record and distribute meeting minutes.
  • Serve as support to the Finance Director and other CMLC colleagues and assist with other tasks as needed.
 
Essential Job Requirements:
 
EDUCATION:
Undergraduate degree in accounting or relevant experience.
 
EXPERIENCE:
1-3 years experience, with experience in fund accounting preferred.
 
REQUIRED SKILLS:
Highly proficient with Microsoft Excel, organized, detail-oriented, committed to accuracy and possessing strong computer skills.
 
PREFERRED SKILLS:
Reconciliation experience including that of restricted funding; non-profit organization and software experience; AmeriCorps experience/familiarity helpful.
 
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS:
Ability to work at a computer, sit for extended periods of time, and operate office equipment.
 
LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMER:
This job description does not represent an exhaustive or comprehensive list of all possible job responsibilities, tasks and duties. Responsibilities, tasks, and duties may differ from the job description, as assigned.
 
WORK HOURS/COMPENSATION:
Full-time position, 40 hours per week. Competitive pay commensurate with experience; health benefits; retirement benefits; supportive and engaging work environment with opportunities for professional development.
 
TO APPLY:
Send resume, cover letter, and references by email to:
Human Resources
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
847 Case Street
Hendersonville, NC 28792
 
Open until filled.
 
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) prohibits any discrimination in carrying out its mission on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation or marital status. This includes all programs, projects, events and any other related activity sponsored by CMLC.
 
CMLC recognizes and honors diverse cultures and traditions. CMLC proactively seeks individuals for all aspects of its work from varied backgrounds for the greater enrichment of the organization. It is the goal of CMLC to have a membership, staff, volunteer base, and board that reflects the diversity of ethnic and demographic groups of our service area, and for CMLC programs to encourage involvement of groups that are underrepresented in CMLC.

CMLC’s Bearwallow Mountain Trail is CLOSED temporarily,

effective Monday, February 6th, 2017, to protect it from damage during the freeze/thaw cycle following significant ice accumulation and subsequent wet and delicate soil conditions. Recent warm weather has led to a significant thaw event that has left the trail particualrly muddy and wet. 

The summit of Bearwallow Mountain remains OPEN.

Visitors/hikers may walk the gravel road to the top of the peak during this trail closure. Please help CMLC take good care of this special place by avoiding use of the Trail and instead choosing to walk the gravel road.

We hope to reopen the trail as soon as possible. Trail closure is expected to last only a few days; conditions will be reassessed soon and the trail will be re-opened once it is determined to be less susceptible to tread damage.

Because of the Bearwallow Mountain Trail’s immense popularity and high frequency of foot traffic, its natural surface tread is particularly susceptible to damage following the accumulation of snow and ice and the freezing of its soil followed by thawing. Use of this trail during the freeze/thaw cycle can wreak havoc on its sustainability and lead to significant damage that requires considerable repair while also negatively impacting the experience of its users in the future. Soil is upheaved in the freezing process, and when stepped on by foot-traffic it is crunched, and melted—a recipe that quickly results in substantial mud and soil displacement. Thus, walking on the trail at this time will damage it.

In 2016, this process occurred repeatedly and frequently which ultimately prompted CMLC to close the Bearwallow Mountain Trail for several weeks at the end of winter—but only after the damage was done. This Winter, CMLC will strive to lessen the total impact and damage by shorter-term closures based on conditions. Closures should typically persist only a few days to a week, though more significant snow and ice accumulation and/or longer periods of freezing temperatures may cause longer closures. These closures will protect both the trail tread as well as the surrounding natural resources and prevent compounded damages that have occurred in the past under winter conditions.

At this time, other CMLC trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge will remain open. While comprehensive closure of CMLC trails may be also beneficial, these other trails are less susceptible to damage than Bearwallow Mountain because they receive less traffic while also being at lower elevations. Increased traffic on other CMLC trails in the future may eventually cause the need for their temporarily closure during the winter as well.

For questions or more information, contact Peter Barr, CMLC Trails Coordinator, at peter@carolinamountain.org.

Thank you for helping us protect the Bearwallow Mountain Trail!


family traditionSeven-hundred-sixty-miles separate the white sandy beaches of Miami and the rolling mountains of Henderson County. The Fernandez family has been traveling to Western North Carolina from southern Florida for 26 consecutive years. It’s one trip where the destination — not the journey — is truly what matters.

Jose and Kathee Fernandez first visited Western North Carolina with their children, Joe and Ana, in the mid-1980s. The lush forests and welcoming mountains offered reprieve from their busy lives in Miami managing a construction company responsible for a significant portion of south Florida’s roadways and airports.

“It’s a place where you can slow down, work on the land while listening to the birds sing, feel a cool breeze and just be at peace,” reflects Jose. “The outdoor recreational opportunities and interaction with a diverse landscape make it the best place for our family to connect and enjoy together.”

Inspired by the tranquility, scenic beauty and abundance of outdoor recreation, Jose and Kathee purchased a 149-acre farm near Edneyville in 1990. The land boasts creeks, ponds, oak and eastern hemlock forests and pastures where their horses graze. Wildlife seek refuge and thrive. The gentle, rolling hills and the deep woods provide endless opportunities to meander freely.

“We liked it the way it is,” says Jose, who knew he needed to conserve the land in order to preserve it. In 2009, they partnered with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to permanently protect 136 acres of the property. “We didn’t want to ever see it divided and developed,” Jose adds.

Returning to their Western North Carolina home each year has become a tradition for the family, one that is now being passed down to Jose and Kathee’s grandchildren.

Each summer and most holidays, their two children and their spouses, together with the four grandchildren, gather at Jose and Kathee’s mountain home. They gaze out the living room window at Bearwallow Mountain, crowned with a grassy meadow. At 4,232 feet, it’s the highest peak in the widely-visible Bearwallow Highlands range. They hike and ride bikes together on trails that wind through rhododendron, maple and pine, stopping to examine acorns, mushrooms and caterpillars along the way. They eat lunch atop mountain summits, taking in sweeping views of the mist slowly drifting up from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“My first child was born six years ago and it’s important to me that both of my children have summers at the farm as part of their childhood,” shares Ana. “Our kids learn just as much exploring these trails, creeks and mountains as they do sitting in a classroom. It’s also a haven for our family. We connect here and spend quality time as a family, despite the distance between us where we live.”

mountain summitAna and Daniel’s children, Eric, 6, and Sofia, 5, race up the Bearwallow trail, climb on moss-covered rocks and are inquisitive about the plants and insects around them. At the top, they giggle as a grazing herd of cattle greets them — an experience they wouldn’t find among the swaying palms of Miami.

Ana's brother Joe, his wife Becky, and their children Alina, 5, and Joseph, 3, join them. “The four of us now live in central California, but this place captures your heart no matter where you reside,” says Joe.

The family is attracted to the relaxed lifestyle, the warm people and the change of seasons iconic to Appalachia. They understand our natural resources are precious and limited.

“Our family has been able to grow up enjoying the open space and beauty of the area,” Ana says. “We feel strongly that places like this need to be protected and conserved so that our children and their children can have the same experience and appreciation that we enjoy. There is something very special for children and adults alike when we have access to unadulterated nature and beauty. The lesson of caring for our natural spaces started with my parents, and my children are getting a front seat to how we do that in practice.”

Conservation is a passion for the family. Jose and Kathee started a charitable family foundation that has environmental issues as a key focus. “We want to contribute, as best we can, to the betterment of the environment and society in our local communities,” says Jose. “Our goal, as a foundation, is to help create a more sustainable place to live. Part of how we do that is through environmental conservation and advocacy. The land in Western North Carolina is a perfect place for us to do this work, where we can support the area that is so special to our family.”

The foundation has generously enabled the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to save invaluable lands and waters in the Hickory Nut Gorge and surrounding region, allowing people from all walks of life to take a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the meandering trails, panoramic views and peaceful escape that these natural treasures provide.

“The foundation is a beautiful way for us to keep common threads through our family,” says Ana, who now serves as the foundation's executive director. “In spite of our busy and different lives, we come together to work for good.”

“Connection to the land is essential for human well-being,” shares Jose. He smiles as he describes the way his grandchildren’s eyes light up, mirroring the same excitement his children had uncovering the marvels of these mountains. The tradition of coming together as a family each year to share the simple joys of the land flourishes as a love for nature shines in the next generation.

“Our family loves the open space, the slower pace and the adventure lurking around each corner. We love the balance it gives us to our lives in Miami,” says Ana. “It just feels good here.”


What is Green Gifting?

Have you ever wondered about the impact gift giving has on the environment? Want to know what you can do to give environmentally conscious gifts? Interested in learning how to wrap your gifts the environmentally friendly way? If yes, then come to Hendersonville's Green Drinks on December 8th at 5:30pm!

Our very own Adrienne Brown, AmeriCorps Community Outreach & Education Associate, will be presenting in partnership with Christine Brown from GreenWorks. Their talk will focus on how to give Green this holiday season! 

 

Hendersonville's Green Drinks takes place every second Thursday of the month and features various speakers and topics.


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