Lake James State Park grows by 36 acres with Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina land sale

On July 29, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina sold 36 acres of land to North Carolina State Parks for addition to Lake James State Park. The conservancy purchased the property from Southmountain Children and Family Services on May 6 and held it until funding became available for State Parks to purchase it.

Located in the Linville Township of Burke County, the property adjoins 41 acres of Whippoorwill Dairy Farm, which Foothills Conservancy acquired in February 2016 and donated to North Carolina State Parks in July 2016. The remaining eight acres of the farm is the site of Fonta Flora Brewery’s Whippoorwill Farm farmhouse brewery operation, established in 2018.

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.”

“It was a pleasure working with Southmountain Children and Family Services on a conservation outcome for this parcel of land,” said Kota.

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.

“This project is a great success in the continued watershed protection of Paddy’s Creek,” said Executive Director of Foothills Conservancy Andrew 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.”

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 Patriot militiamen used 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 be managed for public recreation, which will include 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. Its addition 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.”

Foothills Conservancy has facilitated the addition of more than 3,000 acres to Lake James State Park for public recreation and use. “We have maintained a strong partnership with Lake James State Park since 2005, when we helped add more than 2,900 acres to the state park,” said Kota. “This relationship has been crucial in expanding the state park, protecting its natural resources, and providing a recreational haven for citizens of Burke County.”