News & Events: News

AmeriCorps Project Conserve

Project Conserve Expands Focus Areas


Project Conserve welcomed many new members and several returning members to the AmeriCorps program in September 2014. The 2014-2015 program year marks the 10th term of Project Conserve since it was founded by CMLC in 2004. Changes in the priority areas by the program funder, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), motivated Project Conserve to expand its Environmental Stewardship focus to begin incorporating Disaster Services activities.  Team disaster-focused trainings have included Wilderness First Aid and CPR, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and trainings with the Salvation Army and Red Cross. Members use the training they receive to design disaster preparedness trainings for their host site organizations and the greater community, increasing awareness of local hazards and encouraging preparedness. Additionally, members educate the community about proactive disaster mitigation projects and engage volunteers in mitigation activities such as storm water drain marking and erosion control.

AmeriCorps Project Conserve places 32 members at 18 environmental and conservation organizations across western North Carolina—including five members at CMLC. Members serve 1,700 hours over eleven-month terms and lead efforts to improve at-risk ecosystems and build community support for conservation through education, volunteer engagement, and direct service on rivers, trails, and public lands.


In this issue:

  • Halfway Home: Headwaters State Forest Surpasses 4,000 Acres;
  • More Bearwallow Mountain Conserved;
  • New Trail Open in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge;
  • 2014 Annual Report;
  • Calendar of Events.

Lela McBride 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 in 1994. The Lela McBride Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region. Former winners include CMLC founding fathers John Humphrey and Rep. Chuck McGrady, Congressman Charles Taylor, and NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

Beginning nearly a decade ago, John Myers and Jane Lawson have partnered with CMLC on multiple conservation projects that have been a catalyst for a growing network of land protection and public hiking trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The couple first conserved 35 acres of their property adjacent to the Hickory Nut-Forest Eco-Community in Gerton via conservation easement in 2006.

Myers and Lawson worked with CMLC again in 2011 with the sale of 31 acres of their property with frontage on Gerton Highway (US 74A) for the establishment of a new public trailhead to CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve. The Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead is now a Henderson County park. It is the primary jumping off point for the developing trail network in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. In an effort to both protect the land and ensure public access to the area’s trails, Myers and Lawson generously accepted well less than its market value.

In 2013, Myers and Lawson partnered with CMLC once more to permanently conserve the 103-acre Wildcat Rock tract on the north slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. Protection of the tract not only safeguards dramatic cliff faces, a 100-foot waterfall, and a plethora of biodiversity, it made possible the construction of the Little Bearwallow Trail, a new public footpath that will connect the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead to the popular summit of Bearwallow Mountain. To again further conservation and trails in the region, Myers and Lawson sold the tract to CMLC for nearly half of its market value.

While Myers and Lawson directly have protected 169 acres of mountain lands in Henderson County, their impact has stretched far beyond their own property holdings. Their enthusiasm for the importance of preserving the region’s natural heritage spread to neighboring landowners who followed suit in conserving their own properties with CMLC. Persuasion from Myers and Lawson led the Barnwell family to conserve 170 acres atop Bearwallow Mountain and the Brock family to protect 25 acres at the Chimney View tract. Both tracts are adjacent to the conserved Wildcat Rock property, expanding a contiguous corridor of protected lands in the Gorge.

While Myers and Lawson can be personally associated with 364 acres conserved in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge—with the protection of up to 300 more acres at Bearwallow Mountain still in progress—it may be their wider vision to connect these treasured lands by public foot trails that will endure as their most impactful legacy. Myers and Lawson are the visionaries for the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a 15-mile continuous footpath that will circumnavigate the Upper Gorge and community of Gerton. The hiking circuit will link protected lands conserved by CMLC—including Bearwallow Mountain, Wildcat Rock, and Florence Nature Preserve—as well as those protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. One day, the trail network may connect conserved lands in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge to Chimney Rock State Park and Lake Lure.

For their enduring commitment to the conservation of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge and their innovative vision to connect its forever-protected natural treasures by public trails, CMLC is proud to present the 2015 Lela McBride Award to John Myers and Jane Lawson.

 Gerton Duo, McGrady, Community Volunteers Honored at CMLC’s Annual Meeting

HENDERSONVILLE, NC—Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) announced John Myers and Jane Lawson, of Gerton, as winners of the organization’s prestigious 2015 Lela McBride Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region.

The award was given out at CMLC’s Annual Meeting at Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville on Sunday, April 12. Bestowed annually, Myers and Lawson are the 21st recipients of the award. Former winners include Rep. Chuck McGrady, Congressman Charles Taylor, and NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

Beginning nearly a decade ago, t have partnered with CMLC on multiple conservation projects that have been a catalyst for a growing network of land protection and public hiking trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The couple has directly protected 169 acres of their own land in Henderson County are are the visionaries of the region’s budding trail network.

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 also recognized Representative Chuck McGrady and his wife Jean for their two decades of commitment to CMLC’s conservation efforts. McGrady was one of CMLC’s early board presidents. He played an instrumental role in the organization’s involvement in the conservation of DuPont State Recreational Forest.

Also honored at the meeting were 23 community volunteers for donating at least 70 hours of volunteer service to the land trust in 2014. CMLC recognized John Humphrey, David Brown, Diana Richards, Al and Barb Pung, Mike Knoerr, Genien Carlson, Bill Imhof, Fred Weed, Jerry McAninch, Wes Burlingame, Patrick Horan, Connie Backlund, Amos Dawson, Chris McDonnell, Bob Lindsey, Skip Sheldon, Jim Neal, Mary Beth Hayes, Brenda Hillyer, Tom Weaver, Mickey Kilpatrick, and Tom Davis.

Volunteers donated a total of 5,743 hours in 2014 which made it possible for CMLC to conserve more than 1,000 acres of land last year.

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 28,000 acres of natural lands in western North Carolina. For more information, visit


Members, volunteers, and friends of CMLC! Join us for our 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Volunteer Recognition Event on Sunday, April 12th from 2:00-4:30pm. 

The meeting will be held in the dining hall of Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville, NC and will include the following:

  • CMLC year-end summary
  • Guest speaker - NC Representative, 117th District, Chuck McGrady
  • Special recognition of CMLC founders and early supporters
  • Volunteer recognition awards
  • Lela McBride Award presentation
  • Nature hike

For more information, please contact CMLC Volunteer Program Associate Caroline Ketcham at, or call the office at 828-697-5777.

The East Fork Headwaters Conservation Effort will protect one of the primary sources of the French Broad River. Located in southern Transylvania County, the project seeks to conserve the largest remaining privately-owned tract of land in western North Carolina.

This multi-phase, multi-year effort will benefit North Carolina’s economy and environment for generations to come. Conserving the East Fork Headwaters area will protect an abundance of natural and cultural resources.



Keep up-to-date about the latest conservation news at the new Headwaters State Forest website:




From the Executive Director

Recognizing a Pioneer

As CMLC comes to the end of its 20th anniversary year, we’ve been calling attention to the pioneers whose leadership of CMLC in its early days helped to set the organization on its path for success.  Chuck McGrady served as CMLC’s board president from 1995 to 1998 and in that role laid the groundwork for much that has followed.  In June 1995, Chuck learned about DuPont’s upcoming plans to sell thousands of acres near its plant in Cedar Mountain. With support from contacts at The Conservation Fund, Chuck and our board aided the NC Forest Service in acquiring 7,600 acres of DuPont property in 1997, the first step in creating DuPont State Recreational Forest. Other projects initiated in Chuck’s time as president included acquisition of the Florence Nature Preserve and the donation of CMLC’s first conservation easement on the John Humphrey Farm.

In late 2008, Chuck played a different role in an important new chapter in CMLC’s growth and development.  As investor in the Ironwood Square nonprofit office park off Upward Road, Chuck provided generous terms to CMLC in helping us relocate to the wonderful new structure that has been our home for the past six years.

Chuck and his family have been among CMLC’s most loyal and generous supporters for the past twenty years.  In this, our 20th anniversary year, he and his wife Jean have recently added to the legacy of generosity with a $50,000 gift. In recognition of this long-standing unique leadership and support, CMLC has proudly named our large conference room in honor of Chuck and Jean McGrady.  Come join us at the CMLC Annual Meeting on Sunday, April 12th as we thank Chuck, Jean, and the other CMLC founders, members, and volunteers who have made our conservation successes possible.

Kieran Roe | Executive Director

Yellow Ladyslipper Volunteers

Al and Barb Pung

“We do everything together,” Al and Barb Pung say, so it’s no surprise that they dove into volunteering at CMLC as a joint effort. Their current project—digitizing CMLC’s 20-year archive of news articles—have taught them a lot about a new region they’ve have come to love.

The Pungs moved from Michigan in 2013. Like many people, their love for the mountains began at one special place: Bearwallow Mountain. They first visited the mountain during a CMLC guided hike and then they “went every day for probably a week,” Al says. While Barb admits she “barely made it up that mountain,” you’d never know it now. After completing Hiking Challenge 3 in November, they’re just getting started.

Although they only recently started hiking, Al and Barb have a longstanding fondness for the outdoors. In Michigan, they built a log home on 36 acres, where they gardened and explored the woods. Translating their love for nature into volunteer work was an obvious choice. Volunteering helps them feel connected not just to nature, but to the community. “We thought, ‘This would be good to get involved in,’” Barb says. “You feel like you’ve helped with something.”


We are proud to present Al and Barb Pung with our Yellow Lady Slipper Award in appreciation of their dedicated service and commitment to CMLC.


1,000 More Protected Acres in Honors Two Decades of Conservation

Two decades ago, a small group of community members gathered around a kitchen table in the interest of preserving our region’s precious natural heritage. What resulted from their vision would prove to have far-reaching impacts on the quality of life for a community, a region, and beyond. Those impacts would not just benefit their own generation, but countless others to come.

In the 20th year since those selfless citizens banded together to form a local land trust, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) furthered the legacy of its founders by forever protecting 1,095 more acres of the places you love in western North Carolina. These permanently preserved places keep us healthy, bestow our identity, and inspire us to live and love within our community.

Now surpassing the conservation of 28,000 acres of our region’s most treasured natural resources, CMLC is proud to present its 2014 additions to our community’s protected landscapes.

Deerlake – 1.8 more acres

A decade after conserving 37 acres of undeveloped land in Brevard’s Deerlake Village, CMLC partnered with two of its resident landowners and the Deerlake Village Community Association to protect an additional 1.8 acres in the Transylvania County community.

Both landowners generously donated lots—previously slated for new homes—to the Association and collectively placed them into conservation easements.

One lot—a lakefront property—was considered imminently developable by project partners, and the other hosts sensitive wetlands of particular conservation importance. The added land protection at Deerlake safeguards water quality on Lambo Creek and preserves scenic views surrounding the shoreline.

While small in size, the latest conservation at Deerlake is an important example of preserving a balance between developed and undeveloped land.

“We recently purchased a home adjacent to the Deerlake easements because of the perfect marriage between a residential community and conservation lands,” said Brevard resident Owen Carson. Carson, a plant ecologist for Equinox Environmental, said that it is the perfect place to raise a family.

“To live close to town yet know my children will always have access to the natural world out our back door is priceless. I’m grateful for the vision of CMLC and the Deerlake POA.”

Headwaters State Forest – 1,018 more acres

The momentous effort to conserve the East Fork Headwaters in Transylvania County reached its most significant milestone yet in 2014. Project partners The Conservation Fund and NC Forest Service acquired 1,018 more acres for addition to Headwaters State Forest and thereby passed the halfway mark of acquiring the acreage proposed for the new state forest.

The acquisition included the tributaries of Jane Cantrell Creek and the South Prong of Glady Fork Creek—the latter hosting one of the tract’s most stunning waterfalls, Gravely Mill Falls (pictured on the cover).

North Carolina’s newest state forest now consists of 4,229 acres. “We hope to complete acquisition within the next two to three years,” said NCFS Assistant Regional Forester Michael Cheek.

Protecting the headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River was initiated by CMLC and its landowner, former Congressman Charles Taylor, in 2009. The undeveloped property—the largest remaining contiguous private tract in western NC—is teeming with waterfalls, 25 miles of trout streams, mountain bogs hosting rare species, and more than nine miles of the venerable Foothills Trail system.

Partners utilized federal funding from the Forest Legacy program, NC’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, philanthropists Fred & Alice Stanback, and donation of some of the land value by the Taylor family.

Bearwallow Mountain – 5 more acres

Henderson County’s most iconic peak, Bearwallow Mountain, has been a focus of CMLC’s conservation efforts since 2009. Since then, 165 acres have been protected in conservation easement as well as a new public trail constructed to its scenic summit.

Following the resolution of an uncertain property boundary, five new acres were added into the conservation easement at Bearwallow Mountain in 2014. The new addition includes the trailhead of the popular Bearwallow Mountain Trail, the starting point for hikers seeking the inspiration of its majestic view from above.

CMLC gratefully acknowledges that preservation of Bearwallow and its enjoyment by visitors has been made possible with the cooperation of its owners, past and present.  One of those owners, George Henry Barnwell, sadly passed away in December, two years following the death of his mother Pearl Barnwell. 

“The Barnwell family’s vision and commitment to conservation will continue to be treasured by all those who are inspired by the beautiful views from this protected peak,” said CMLC executive director Kieran Roe.

CMLC is striving to conserve an additional 306 acres atop the mountain with the ultimate goal of protecting 476 acres in total at the locally-beloved summit.

The Park at Flat Rock – 68 acres

In support of more community green space and outdoor recreational opportunities, CMLC aided in the establishment of the new The Park at Flat Rock in 2014.

CMLC provided assistance to the Village of Flat Rock to secure funding for land acquisition–including the authoring of an NC Parks & Recreation Trust Fund grant—of the former Highland Lake Golf Club. The grant provided significant funding to help defray the costs of acquiring the land.

The Village intends the 68-acre park to be “place for all generations to enjoy its natural beauty and reap the benefits of outdoor recreation and leisure while protecting and preserving the wildlife that make its home there.”

It already features a 1.5-mile natural surface perimeter trail that is suitable for users among a wide range of physical abilities as well as multiple uses beyond walking including bicycling, strollers, and dog-walking.

“We’re grateful to be a part of this project because it offers multi-use recreational opportunities that are not found elsewhere in the Village,” said CMLC Administrative Director Rebekah Robinson.

French Broad River Etowah Access – 1.7 acres

CMLC acquired 1.7 acres in Etowah at Highway 64 along the French Broad River in order to create a new public access point for paddlers and anglers. The land was generously donated by Patten Seed Company, producers of Super-Sod turfgrass. The company owns the adjacent Horseshoe Bend Farm, on which it donated a 360-acre conservation easement in 2003.

CMLC donated the new river access tract to Henderson County Parks & Recreation who plans to make it a new park. NC Wildlife Resources Commission will construct a new boat ramp and parking area.

Currently, only two public access points—18 miles apart—exist for boaters on the French Broad River in Henderson County. The new Etowah access will enable shorter and more manageable trips for river enthusiasts. It could also one day serve as a trailhead for the proposed Ecusta Rail Trail between Hendersonville and Brevard. Support for this project was provided by the Fitzpatrick Foundation.

Little Bearwallow Trail Easement

Made possible by CMLC’s acquisition of the Wildcat Rock tract in 2013, the next phase of the budding Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail advanced in an effort to link the summit of Little Bearwallow Mountain to the new public trailhead on Highway 74A in Gerton. Phase 1 of the new Little Bearwallow Trail was constructed by a Vermont Youth Conservation Corps crew last spring.

The new footpath ascends from the trailhead 1.1 miles up the north slopes of Little Bearwallow to picturesque 100-foot Little Bearwallow Falls. Because this new section of trail partially traversed private property, a permanent public trail easement was purchased from CMLC conservation landowners John Myers and Jane Lawson.

Phases 2 and 3 of the Little Bearwallow Trail are still under construction, receiving help from the Carolina Mountain Club and both the North Carolina and Vermont Youth Conservation Corps crews. All three phases of the new trail are expected to be open for hiking in 2016.

The project was made possible with funding from the Recreational Trails Program, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, the Donald Jones Foundation, REI, and Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation.

When completed, the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail will connect multiple conserved lands of CMLC and other land trusts by a 15-mile continuous footpath circumnavigating the community of Gerton.

The trail network—which features waterfalls, dramatic cliff faces, rock outcroppings, and expansive summit vistas—is centrally located within a 45-minute drive of Asheville, Hendersonville, and Lake Lure.


CMLC’s 2014 conservation initiatives were not limited to newly protected lands or freshly-dug trail. Stewardship staff worked tirelessly to uphold the critical conservation values of properties under CMLC’s protection—and when possible—enhance and restore them.

In addition to monitoring more than 100 existing conservation easements—a thankless but imperative feat undertaken annually—CMLC partnered with the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) on efforts to restore Flat Rock’s King Creek bog via removing invasive species threatening native rare species that call the bog home. These unwanted plants also disturb natural water levels and hydrology critical to sustaining the bog itself.

“USFWS calls it the holy grail of mountain bogs in terms of its conservation significance,” said CMLC stewardship director Sarah Fraser.

Restorations efforts also got underway last year at Hyder Pasture, another Flat Rock mountain bog. CMLC acquired the former wetland in 2013 and intends to complete a full-restoration of the bog in 2015. CMLC is partnering with USFWS and NC’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund on the project.

Partners hope that the project will mirror CMLC’s successful rehabilitation of nearby Ochlawaha Bog. Both bogs are home to the bunched arrowhead flower, one of the rarest plant species in the nation.

And in addition to CMLC’s efforts to manage non-native invasive plants species via WAC-HNG (see page 21), stewardship staff ramped up efforts in the fight against the hemlock woolly adelgid with the release of 4,600 predator beetles. The pest has been decimating hemlock trees across the southern Appalachians. The beetles are natural predators to the adelgid and have visibly slowed hemlock degeneration on CMLC conserved lands.

Grab a beer for a good cause! Join Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy for Makin’-a-Difference Monday at Oskar Blues Brewery's taproom in Brevard on Monday, March 16th starting at 5:00PM. For every purchase you make of your favorite Oskar Blues brew, they’ll donate 10% of the proceeds to CMLC's land conservation efforts. Don’t miss this chance to help Oskar Blues support your favorite local land trust!

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