On Jan. 8, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina acquired 68 acres of woodlands and former pasturelands near Finger Bridge, along the Jacob Fork River in Catawba County.
In 2019, the land trust learned that landowners Becky and Wayne Welch were interested in selling the property, and, after some discussion, Foothills Conservancy reached an agreement to purchase their land for conservation.
“We’ve owned this land a little over six years, ever since I inherited it following my father’s passing,” said Becky Welch. “We don’t live in the area anymore and talked about putting up a cabin and using it occasionally for a vacation home. But, once I was walking along the property and saw that big, beautiful river, I thought that it would be a great place for recreation, where you can canoe. That was when the lightbulb seemed to come on.”
The conservancy will transfer the property to North Carolina State Parks, which will manage public river access for recreational activities like paddling and fishing. This includes the planned installation of a canoe launch for paddlers to utilize this stretch of scenic river.
“We anticipate that this tract will become part of the new Wilderness Gateway State Trail,” said Dwayne Patterson, director of the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources. “We look forward to working with Foothills Conservancy on this exciting project that we expect will bring great things to Catawba County.”
This land acquisition is just one more step toward the protection of Newton’s downstream drinking water supply — and it marks Foothills Conservancy’s third property acquired in Catawba County, with another pending on the Henry Fork River.
“I am so happy with the outcome of our land, and I know my father would be happy too,” Welch said. “I’m excited for the conservancy and state parks, and I look forward to one day coming back up there and seeing this vision come to light.”
Funding for the purchase comes from N.C. State Parks and a private contribution. The Beaver, Unifour and Duke Energy (Piedmont Natural Gas) foundations also granted funding to Foothills Conservancy in support of its efforts to acquire additional public parklands.