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.