A key portion of the scenic view from the popular Bear Den Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway is now permanently protected thanks to Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina.
Foothills Conservancy moved swiftly to acquire 208 forested acres along 1.6 miles of the parkway between mileposts 323 and 325 in McDowell County. The conservancy purchased the tract on September 20 from the Moody family, who own the popular Bear Den Campground.
The land trust’s acquisition was made possible by a generous gift of $898,000 from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, a $22,000 grant from Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and a $590,000 loan from CTNC’s Mountain Revolving Loan Fund, which is also underwritten by the Stanbacks. The loan fund enables land trusts to respond quickly when critical conservation properties become available.
“We are very pleased to protect spectacular vistas at the Bear Den Overlook, one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most loved vantage points enjoyed by countless visitors each year,” said Tom Kenney, land protection director for Foothills Conservancy. “The land’s protected source streams that feed Honeycutt Creek and its natural habitats at 3,000 feet elevation add great value to and buffer the adjoining parkway. We thank Fred and Alice Stanback for their generous gift as well as the Moody family for working with Foothills Conservancy. Work remains for us to raise the funds to pay off the loan, but we are grateful that CTNC’s loan fund is available so that we can move quickly to conserve places like Bear Den.”
Foothills Conservancy plans to transfer the property to the National Park Service for addition to the Blue Ridge Parkway lands after raising additional public and private funds to retire the loan.
Blue Ridge Parkway officials joined Foothills Conservancy representatives, members of the Moody family, project funders and community members at the Bear Den Overlook this morning at 10:30 to announce and celebrate the regional land trust’s conservation of the scenic property.
“Families have enjoyed this area of the parkway for many years, due in large part to the beautiful setting,” said Mark Woods, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “In addition to the protection of significant natural resources, knowing these lands are now protected for future generations is equally important. We appreciate the relationship the parkway has with Foothills Conservancy and the land trust community; they are crafting a rich legacy for our region and nation.”
The Bear Den property adjoins both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. Its acquisition further protects critical lands amidst a complex of federal, state, and privately owned conservation lands along the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Spruce Pine, N.C.
In addition to preserving scenic views from the parkway, purchase of the Bear Den property will also protect water quality in the Honeycutt Creek watershed in the Catawba Basin’s headwaters in McDowell County. The property contains more than 1.5 miles of streams that drain into Honeycutt Creek.
Protection of water quality in the upper Catawba Basin benefits millions of consumers of drinking water obtained from the Catawba River. This includes Lake James, which receives waters from Honeycutt Creek after the creek flows into the North Fork Catawba River.
“We congratulate Foothills Conservancy and the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Reid Wilson, executive director of CTNC. “Protection of the land below Bear Den Overlook means millions of visitors will continue to enjoy unspoiled views from one of the area’s most popular overlooks.”
The Moody family has owned the land surrounding and adjoining Bear Den Campground for nearly 70 years. Dr. William S. Moody and his wife, Louise, lived in Hickory but spent most of their spare time in the mountains and were instrumental in developing the campground over 50 years ago. The children and grandchildren of Dr. and Mrs. Moody all spent a great deal of time on the property around the campground as they were growing up and throughout their lives. Although Dr. and Mrs. Moody are both deceased now, the Moody family wanted their legacy to continue by preserving the land they loved.
“Our family has had developers inquire about purchasing the property but we all preferred to keep the property in its natural state for the future,” said Rick Moody, co-owner of the Bear Den property. “We have been discussing the possibility of the sale with Tom Kenney, Susie Hamrick Jones and the Foothills Conservancy for quite a few years and have appreciated their willingness to work with us. Being able to preserve and conserve the property so that its natural beauty will be maintained for everyone visiting our area to enjoy is a “win-win” for our family. We all have many wonderful memories of these beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and we are thankful to see this sale come to fruition and to have this land preserved for future generations.”