Lake James State Park has grown by 41 acres with Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina’s donation today of the historic Whippoorwill Farm property to the State of North Carolina.
In a 10 o’clock dedication ceremony this morning, N.C. State Parks officials gathered with members of the community, project donors and funders, including representatives from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and Foothills Conservancy representatives to celebrate the dedication of the scenic farm property along Paddy’s Creek as a new addition to Lake James State Park.
The donation expands Lake James State Park during the centennial year of North Carolina State Parks. Western North Carolina’s most popular state park, Lake James State Park draws more than a half-million visitors per year.
“Foothills Conservancy has long been an effective partner in conservation and the development of North Carolina State Parks in this region,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “This project at the Whippoorwill Farm is another example of its tenacity and professionalism, and will enhance land protection, water quality and recreation opportunities at Lake James State Park.”
The farm’s backdrop is the beautiful scenery of Shortoff Mountain, the Linville Gorge Wilderness, and Pisgah National Forest. The land added to the state park also contains an important piece of American history: a segment of the National Park Service’s Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
With funding from private donors and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Foothills Conservancy purchased the majority of the scenic farm, 41 acres that border Paddy’s Creek, in early 2016 with plans to donate it to Lake James State Park.
“Permanent protection of the Whippoorwill Farm is a wonderful success story made possible by our state’s commitment to clean water and by visionary private donors who understand the value of protecting our waters and beloved scenic and historic heritage places for generations to come,” said Susie Hamrick Jones, Foothills Conservancy’s executive director.
Adding most of the farm to Lake James State Park extends public access along Paddy’s Creek, enhances water quality at Lake James, and forever protects beautiful views enjoyed by all who travel Highway 126 or look out across the valleys from vantage points in Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
Foothills Conservancy will protect the remaining 8 acres of the former dairy farm with a permanent conservation easement to be donated by Fonta Flora Brewery. The local craft brewery in Morganton purchased the portion of the farm that fronts Highway 126, including most of the old stacked-stone barns and structures, to expand its operations with a new farmhouse brewery.
Funding for Foothills Conservancy’s Whippoorwill purchase included a challenge gift of $172,000 from conservationists Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury requiring a 2:1 match, which was met with a $210,475 N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant, a generous leadership gift from George and Ann Costello of Nebo, and other private donations. A grant from Conservation Trust for North Carolina’s Mountain Mini-Grant Program completed the project’s matching funding.
“We have always loved this iconic view of barns, pastures and mountains,” said Ann Costello. “We are very happy that we were able to help Foothills Conservancy preserve this beautiful spot for everyone to enjoy for years to come.”