Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina purchases land adjoining Lake James State Park for state park expansion

On May 6, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina purchased 36 acres in the Linville Township of Burke County for addition to Lake James State Park.

The property adjoins the 41-acre Whippoorwill Dairy Farm, which Foothills Conservancy acquired in February 2016 and donated to North Carolina State Parks in July 2016.

The land includes pasture and undeveloped woodlands and contains a few stone structures that point to its agricultural past. Along its eastern boundary with the Whippoorwill Farm property is a 2,000-linear-foot section of Paddy’s Creek, a major tributary of Lake James. The property’s uplands offer scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the South Mountains.

The designated route of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail passes through the property. This National Historic Trail designation is reserved for trails of the greatest historical significance in the United States. The Overmountain Victory trail is closely linked to one of the most important campaigns in the southern theater of the Revolutionary War. It was the route used by Patriot Militiamen to travel from the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina to defeat General Ferguson and his army at the Battle of King’s Mountain on October 7, 1780.

The Paddy’s Creek tract will eventually become part of Lake James State Park and will be managed for public recreation, including mountain bike trail access and extension to connect to existing trails on park lands, Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail extension, creek access, trailhead access, and creekside benches. Adding the project to the state park ensures its protection from residential development and protects forested, open meadowland and habitat for birds and other species.

“I am proud and honored to be part of such projects with Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina,” said Nora Coffey, park superintendent for Lake James State Park. “These are important acres along Paddy’s Creek that will now be protected for future generations.”

The conservancy purchased the property from Southmountain Children and Family Services — child advocacy and foster community specialists with headquarters in Morganton — thanks to grants from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Duke Energy Catawba-Wateree Habitat Enhancement Program, funds from Fred and Alice Stanback, and other private contributions.

“We’re thrilled to be able to partner with the conservancy to protect another beautiful part of Burke County,” said Chris Jernigan, executive director of Southmountain Children and Family Services. “We think that it’s a great opportunity to save land as well as help us provide for the needs of our region’s children.”

Executive Director of Foothills Conservancy Andrew Kota emphasized the importance of this project’s focus on watershed protection.

“This project is a great success in the continued watershed protection of Paddy’s Creek,” said Kota. “The clear, clean waters of Lake James and its scenic surroundings make it a unique destination for tourists and residents. By focusing on protecting upstream tributaries, we can make a positive impact on our downstream water supplies.”

He also spoke to the conservancy’s ongoing collaboration with North Carolina State Parks: “We have maintained a strong partnership with Lake James State Park since 2005, when the conservancy helped add more than 2,900 acres to the state park. This relationship has been crucial in expanding the state park, protecting its natural resources, and providing a recreational haven for citizens of Burke County. It was also a pleasure working with Southmountain Children and Family Services on a conservation outcome for this parcel of land.”