News & Events: News


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 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:
Undergraduate degree in accounting or relevant experience.
1-3 years experience, with experience in fund accounting preferred.
Highly proficient with Microsoft Excel, organized, detail-oriented, committed to accuracy and possessing strong computer skills.
Reconciliation experience including that of restricted funding; non-profit organization and software experience; AmeriCorps experience/familiarity helpful.
Ability to work at a computer, sit for extended periods of time, and operate office equipment.
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.
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.
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.

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.

“There is a wolf in me. …I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.” 

-Excerpt from "Wilderness" by Carl Sandburg

Eagle's NestFor Jodi John Pippin, Sandburg’s poem is a reflection of her experiences growing up at Eagle’s Nest, a summer camp and academic semester school nestled amongst the dense forests, cool creeks, cascading waterfalls and rolling mountains of Transylvania County.

“Once you feel that you belong to the land and that it belongs to you, there is no way to let it go,” says Pippin. “The connection cannot be unheard or unfelt.  It is a rare thing today, to find 143 acres of conserved land that has 90 years of life-changing stories to go with it.”

Over the past six years, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy worked with Eagle’s Nest to permanently protect more than 75% of the 184-acre property, saving the invaluable educational, outdoor and cultural adventures that so many generations keep coming back to experience.

As a child, the Blue Ridge Mountains cast an enchanting spell on Pippin. As a teenager, she slow danced at camp for the first time knowing she could relax and just be herself… even while stepping on her partner’s toes. As a young adult, morning strolls through the rhododendron thicket made her feel completely at peace with the world. She fell in love with her now husband on the front porch of the dining hall while she was a camp counselor. They have three children and, as an adult, Pippin has watched them with pride as they grow comfortable in their own skin as campers and students at Eagle’s Nest.

Pippin’s story is not unique.

“I wanted my children to be able to grow and experience independence in a safe, positive, inspiring environment away from home as I did,” says Cissy Byrd, who attended the camp in the late 1960s and 1970s. “I wanted them to be influenced by and build trust in people beyond our family. I wanted them to find joy and build confidence in themselves and feel the rewards of contributing to and being part of a community. I knew that they would get these things at Eagle's Nest.”

Over the decades, Eagle’s Nest has expanded from its beginnings as an all-girls camp when it first opened its doors in 1927. It transitioned to a coed camp in the 1940s, chartered as a nonprofit 501c3 in 1950, started offering specialized wilderness-based programs for teens in the 1970s and added The Outdoor Academy (academic semester school) for high school sophomores in the 1990s. Today, all these programs operate under the umbrella of Eagle’s Nest Foundation.

“Eagle’s Nest emphasizes a child's development with a nurturing community in nature,” shares Mo Waite, whose parents, Alex and Hannah Waite, ran the camp for more than three decades. Mo grew up at Eagle’s Nest, studying salamandersandwaterbugs and learning how to use an axe and cross cut saw.

The multi-generational connection continued, with Mo’s wife Helen, an experiential educator, taking the helm from his parents in 1978. His daughter, Noni Waite-Kucera, attended camp and since 2000, has served as the Executive Director of Eagle’s Nest Foundation. Today, Mo’s grandchildren listen to the sounds of bullfrogs at the lake and make s’mores around the campfire on the hill just as he did in the 1940s.

“With all these changes, the mission remained unchanged,” says Mo. “The clear vision of my parents when they founded Eagle's Nest has stood the test of time through many advances.”

Eagle’s Nest allows campers and students to strip away the complexities of life and experience a simpler way of living. To take a deep breath of fresh mountain air, touch the towering pine trees and gaze up at the stars twinkling in the dark night sky.  

“The times that I spent lying in a field of tall grass watching the clouds roll by and letting the crickets leap across my cheek, the times that I took groups of kids wandering up the trails to find the giant Frasier Magnolia...these are forever imprinted in my mind,” says Pippin. “That land is full of variety and surprise.  I will always love it and feel that I am a part of it.”

outdoor school

Educational experiences are deeply steeped in every aspect of life at Eagle’s Nest. Myriad English, math, music and science classes teach critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and tolerance. But, those same skills are also acquired in the 12 cabins where the soft breeze permeates the screen windows, in the dining hall where the rain pounds down like drums on the roof, and in the open air Arts Arena where projects are crafted with natural materials found steps away.

“I'm often trying to live out the person Eagle’s Nest empowered me to be in the greater world,” shares Jamey Lowdermilk, “to be open, kind, creative, to be diligent and light-hearted.  I gained these values making my way through the many experiences Eagle’s Nest offers.”

Lowdermilk continues to apply these lifelong skills today, as a law student. “So much of our days are absorbed with stress driven by more stress,” says Lowdermilk. “Eagle’s Nest taught me to get to the heart of what matters. Am I contributing to meaningful work? Am I in good company? Are there opportunities for play, rest and reflection?”

Eagle’s Nest continues to serve as home to a diverse community of young people from around the world. It has welcomed students from Cuba and youth living with diabetes. Conserving this land ensures that our children and grandchildren will continue to connect with the wonders that only nature can provide.

“Eagle’s Nest is special for its commitment to authentic, lived experiences; for its commitment to the past and to growing into the future,” says Lowdermilk.  “It empowers young people to explore their unique perspectives, ideas, and curiosities while reconnecting all of us to natural rhythms and native landscapes.”

Pippin believes that without the important partnership of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Eagle’s Nest Foundation, generations of campers and students would risk losing their roots, their magic and their connection to that land.

“The intricate mushrooms that pop up in between classrooms, the rays of sunshine that drop down through the trees, the sound of the hawk circling during group activities,” shares Pippin. “These are the precious moments that will continue to fall into the laps of those who are lucky enough to walk the paths of Eagle’s Nest at 43 Hart Road.”


Eight Hikes. Free Gear. Save Land.


We've partnered with Pardee Hospital to bring you our new White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 4!

We want to take you to exciting destinations--including brand new trails and recently protected lands. The Pardee & CMLC White Squirrel Hiking Challenge encourages outdoor enthusiasts—and anyone interested in keeping western North Carolina’s mountains beautiful—to explore and discover the lands that Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has helped preserve while staying active and improving your health.

  1) Bearwallow Mountain
  2) Grassy Creek Falls
  3) Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower
  4) Headwaters State Forest
  5) Rhododendron Lake Park
  6) The Park at Flat Rock
  7) Wildcat Rock
  8) Your Choice: Float French Broad or Hike Little Bearwallow


Select a hike above for trailhead directions & trail descriptions






About the White Squirrel

Challenge Rules


Tips for a Successful Challenge


WSHC Champions who are CMLC Members* or Pardee Participants will receive a Congratulary Package upon completing the Challenge. The package includes:

  • The famous white squirrel embroidered hiking patch
  • A certificate of completion
  • Recognition in our online and print publications
  • $10 gift certificate for hiking gear at Hendersonville's Mast General Store

*Please note for CMLC participants:  You do not need to be a CMLC member to enroll and start the Hiking Challenge, but you do need to be a CMLC member to receive your Congratulatory Package.

Hike to support land conservation as, together, we continue our pursuit of saving the places you love.

Not done with Hiking Challenge 3? No problem! Click here to finish this challenge. 

Want to become a CMLC Member? Join today!


Click here or on the cover above to read the full volume.

In this issue:

  • A River Runs Through It: Growing up on the Green
  • Yellow Lady Slipper Volunteer Award: Cathy Cooper
  • Coming Soon to a Forest Near You: Headwaters State Forest
  • 16th Annual Conservation Celebration Successes
  • New AmeriCorps Project Conserve & Board of Trustee Members CMLC Teams Up with Boys and Girls Clubs
  • ...and More!

We are proud to present Cathy Cooper with our Yellow Lady Slipper Award in appreciation of her dedicated service and commitment to CMLC.

“If it weren’t for CMLC, I would still be searching,” admits Cathy Cooper. “CMLC has changed my life.” Cathy wanted to find like-minded people who share her passion for the outdoors. Though speaking with Cathy, it’s hard to imagine anyone as passionate about nature as she is. The sheer wonder in her voice is sure to alleviate any doubt in even the most skeptical person.

Fellow volunteers, Al and Barb, are to thank for Cathy becoming a dependable Trails Crew member. Cathy started volunteering with CMLC last winter, but her love affair with nature is a much longer relationship. She has been hiking Bearwallow for nearly 40 years. Since the trail improvements in 2010, she and her shepherd mix, Maddie, go up every single day. Cathy jokes, with a good bit of truth, that Maddie looks forward to those walks more than her food.

Nothing holds Cathy back. She is typically one of the few women attending Trail Crew days and doesn’t mind the hard work, even if she does tease Peter and the rest of the crew about trusting her to make gravel. Trails Crew seems to be the perfect fit for Cathy; she is able to joke around with the crew while enjoying the outdoors and seeing first-hand the fruits of her labor. Most people Cathy interacts with don’t fully grasp her fascination with spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors. She shares, with a laugh, that she is thankful the folks at CMLC understand.

When Cathy is not volunteering with CMLC—she can still be found outdoor—mountain biking and hiking. She hopes more people become inspired to get outside. Seeing the Trombatore Trail project was a great accomplishment. “The more trails the better,” Cathy smiles. Cathy is hopeful that the Little Bearwallow Trail will give her the same sense of reward because it would provide people with more choices and the option to make a whole weekend of exploring trails.

“Keep the Earth beautiful and go outside every chance you get, because it is ever-changing,” advises Cathy. Now, it’s up to us to discover the same passion Cathy has found with CMLC. 

Juanita Bruce pushes her kayak off the tree-covered banks of the Green River and takes a moment to soak it all in.

The three-mile stretch that she paddles is bursting with life. River cooter turtles dip into the water. Monarch butterflies flutter around. White-tailed deer bound along the shore. She has entered a green oasis and her worries are carried away with the gentle current.

“Nature provides us with an overwhelming sense of awe, beauty, security and protection,” shares Juanita. Juanita was born and raised near the Green River at Lake Adger Dam. She has spent most of her 74 years exploring its wonders.

“I was baptized in the Green River. They don’t do that much anymore,” Juanita says with a smile. It’s where her home is and where her heart is.

In the 1920s, Juanita’s grandfather moved his family from South Carolina to become the first superintendent of the newly built Lake Adger Dam and Duke Turner Shoals power plant. Her father and uncles made their livelihood at the plant as well. “Dad met my mom, a local girl, and made our home by the river,” reflects Juanita.


Saving the Land

In April 2016, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) partnered with Polk County Community Foundation to acquire 586 acres along the Green River, ensuring people like Juanita have a peaceful place to retreat and local wildlife have a safe place to call home.

The 586-acre property is separated into two tracts. CMLC protects a 155-acre tract located upstream of South Wilson Hill Road and a second 431-acre tract located downstream of South Wilson Hill Road was purchased by Community Green LLC, a subsidiary of Polk County Community Foundation.

We were able to purchase the smaller tract with a generous $225,000 gift from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury and a $225,000 loan from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. We have until April 2017 to pay off the loan and are seeking contributions to permanently secure the tract for conservation. 

Every Bit Counts

“We could never be more grateful for the substantial gifts made by our major donors and partners,” thanks Lynn Killian, CMLC development director. “But, no project is ever completed without the enormous generosity of an army of loyal, everyday conservation donors. The small gifts of many are just as critical to each conservation success.”

Combined, the tracts contain more than three miles of spectacular riverside frontage. It’s a beautifully dense and heavily forested area with south-facing bluffs steeply rising up from the banks.

“Saving lands and waters from development means ‘nature’s own’ can be shared by the masses as opposed to only a few,” says Juanita. “CMLC helps us connect to nature by creating trails leading us into the forest and protecting waters leading us down the valley.”

Over the years, Juanita’s family enjoyed tubing the river and when kayaks became popular, she opted for their speed, control and efficiency. “Outdoor activities give us great opportunities to enjoy the God-given beauty of nature,” shares Juanita. “It gives us great exercise, provides challenges to ‘try our wings’ and see what we can accomplish.”

A Place for Life to Thrive

The property boasts healthy populations of hemlocks—a rarity in Western North Carolina—as the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid has taken its toll across our region. The woolly adelgid is native to China and Japan, where hemlock trees possess immunity. Most hemlocks throughout the world are protected by some degree of resistance in their native ranges. Here, with no natural predators, the trees lack any defense. Without natural predators, the adelgids take over.

Three rare plant species, whorled horsehair, ashy-leafed hydrangea and climbing milkvine, also prosper in the area. Almost the entire 586 acres are second and third-growth forest and will provide a stronghold for plants and animals to adapt even as the climate changes. 

Exploring Nature’s Gifts

“Kayaking the Green River in my area is quiet with only the sounds of the rippling water over the shoals, the breeze, the birds and the critters,” says Juanita. “The views are saturated with overhanging trees, boulders, farmlands, dense forests... There are many flowering plants, untouched, unmarred.” 

The land protected by CMLC keeps those peaceful views along the river intact. We see the 155 acres as a good site for a potential future rest stop on a paddle trail that could be created along the Green River. There is legal access to South Wilson Hill Road via private roads that pass through a subdivision.

“It’s as important to protect our lands and waters for future generations as it is for the current generation—an ongoing source of livelihood, enjoyment, recreation, appreciation and education,” says Juanita. “Thank goodness CMLC works to save these awe-inspiring places.”

We plan to partner with Pacolet Area Conservancy, which has a strong presence in Polk County, to help manage the property and assist with future guided hikes and outings. Recent kayaking has stopped short of the Wilson Bridge due to lack of a safe exit. Hopes are high this acquisition will provide a safe experience for hikers, birders, photographers and paddlers alike.   

With a few easy strokes Juanita is off, drifting into a place of peace and serenity. “I love the heron leading me down the river, stopping to wait on me before flying on,” she calls over her shoulder. “This is home to me. I love it all.”


Read more stories of CMLC’s conserved lands.

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