Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina Burke County preserve grows

On November 9, Foothills Conservancy’s Smith Cliffs/Henry Fork River Preserve grew by 26 acres to a total of 259 acres. Using a contribution from conservationist Tim Sweeney, the land trust purchased the property from landowners Jim and Jeanne Simpson. Over the past four years, Sweeney has assisted the conservancy in acquiring 251 total acres to protect the Henry Fork River and an important natural area surrounding Smith Cliffs.

The Simpson property is situated near the Cane Brake property, a 2015 Foothills Conservancy acquisition. Conserving it adds another half-mile of protection along the Henry Fork River in the South Mountains of Burke County, and improves Foothills Conservancy’s access to its Cane Brake and Smiths Cliff properties.

The Henry Fork River, which runs through the 26-acre Simpson property, is designated as Outstanding Resource Waters by the State of North Carolina, which identifies unique and special waters of excellent quality. The property is also documented by the North Carolina National Heritage Program as a natural area, meaning it has been inventoried for rare plants and natural communities and is important for the protection of biodiversity of North Carolina.

Jim and Jeanne Simpson have owned land on the Henry Fork River since 2014, when Jeanne inherited it from her parents. The property started as a land grant and has since been passed down through the family for nearly 200 years. A farm and a home stand within the boundaries of the property, but they are not part of the 26 acres of new preserve land and will continue to be owned by the family.

Jeanne shared that protecting the land and river is an ongoing community effort.

“Protection of this river corridor is critical not only to us but to this entire community,” she said. “The whole community has worked to keep the river pristine for fishing, drinking water for wells that many of us have, and even for baptisms that the church holds.”

Several of Jeanne’s relatives have sold or donated land to Foothills Conservancy along River Road. She and her family have always considered the river to be sacred.

“My parents knew about Foothills Conservancy and worked hard to get the river and land around it protected,” Jeanne said. “We knew Foothills were the people to help us continue this protection.”

Today, the Simpsons and the community in this region of the Henry Fork River are proud to have clean water and urge others to consider Foothills Conservancy for preserving historic land.

The whole idea just made a lot of sense,” Jim said. “For us to have Foothills Conservancy as a neighbor on our borders means a lot. The conservancy loves the same thing we have always loved — nature, the river, and habitats all around the river. It was a natural fit.”