Local Family Donates Eight Acres to Foothills Conservancy to Honor Grandfather’s Legacy

On August 9, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina received a donation of an 8-acre parcel of undeveloped, forested land along the Henry Fork River in Burke County from members of the Corbitt family.

Landowners and siblings Robert and Susan Corbitt also contributed to part of the stewardship, survey, and other transactional costs by making a generous monetary donation. The remaining project expenses were covered by a Clean Water Management Trust Fund Mini Grant and a matching contribution from Foothills Conservancy.

The Corbitts’ grandfather, Claude Beard Keller, was born in the Walker Chapel Community in Morganton. Although he moved away in the early 1900s, he always made an effort to revisit his birthplace, traveling back with his family at Christmas and during his time off from work. When he acquired the 8-acre property near his birthplace, he saw the land not only as an investment, but also ultimately as a testament to his love for the land and all that came with it — the woods, the streams, and the wildlife. He was once quoted saying, “land is something that they don’t make anymore.”

Susan Corbitt attested to the appreciation for the land that her grandfather passed down to her family. “It seems only appropriate that we donate this land to Foothills Conservancy so that the Henry Fork River can be protected and a recreation area can be developed to be enjoyed by the people of the community,” said Corbitt. “It is a way for us to show our appreciation for the heritage that our grandfather and great-grandparents gave to us.”

The property contains 2,100 linear feet of the Henry Fork River, a waterway designated by the State of North Carolina as Outstanding Resource Waters because of the river’s exceptional state or ecological significance. The conservancy will restrict the property with a conservation easement to protect water quality in its ongoing effort to conserve significant watershed lands throughout the Catawba River Basin.

“Safeguarding our region’s water supply through watershed land conservation is one of Foothills Conservancy’s highest priorities,” says Andrew Kota, executive director. “We are honored that the Corbitt family entrusted the conservancy to permanently protect their family land.”

Foothills Conservancy anticipates partnering with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission – Inland Fisheries to develop public access to the Henry Fork River in the near future. If this partnership with the state happens, the agency’s law enforcement would patrol the property, ensuring that only permitted uses are occurring. Foothills Conservancy will also inspect the property for conservation easement monitoring requirements.