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. 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. Land Protection Record Tract Designation County Acres Welch Property North Carolina State Parks Catawba 68 Oak Hill Park & Forest FCNC Preserve Burke 330 TOTAL: 398
On January 23, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and North Carolina State Parks completed the first land purchase, about 1,500 acres, for the new Bobs Creek State Natural Area in southeastern McDowell County. Located just over three miles from the Town of Marion, the new state natural area will eventually be open for public hiking and other passive recreation uses. Land Protection Record Tract Designation County Acres Bob’s Creek State Natural Area – Phase 1 North Carolina State Parks McDowell 1501 Little Cedar Mountain South Mountains Game Lands Burke 96 Jacob Fork River Property Future Catawba County Park Catawba 188 Paddy’s Creek Property Lake James State Park McDowell 36 Cane Creek Meadow South Mountains Gamelands McDowell 20 Lindsay Tract FCNC South Mountains Headwaters Preserve Burke 90 Bailey Tract – Mineral Springs Mountain Wilderness Gateway State Trail Burke 45 Aho Road Conservation Easement Watauga 46 Misty Meadows Farm & Forest Conservation Easement Burke 192 Overmountain Victory Trailhead Pisgah National Forest McDowell 8 Bob’s Creek State Natural Area – Phase 2 North Carolina State Parks McDowell 2,199 Henry Fork Inholdings South Mountain State Parks Burke 29 Jonas Ridge Bog Burke County Public Parks Burke 17 TOTAL: 4,446
Foothills Conservancy’s purchase and transfer of 90 acres of land near Old Fort to North Carolina State Parks was a step in the Fonta Flora State Trail expansion project. The property, previously owned by Melanie Goodson, was a puzzle piece in the continuing effort to build a 90-mile trail reaching from Morganton to Asheville. The conservancy remains diligent as more tracts of land become available along this proposed route for addition to the trail. Land Protection Record Tract Designation County Acres Lake Rhodhiss Park Valdese Parks & Recreation Burke 302 Bristol Creek Floodplain Fee Simple Donation Burke 25 John’s River Gameland NC Wildlife Resources Commission Burke Tuttle Educational State Forest Tuttle Foundation Burke 20 Rock Creek South Mountains Headwaters Preserve Burke 303 Overstreet Smith Cliffs/Henry Fork River Preserve Burke 77 Corbitt Smith Cliffs/Henry Fork River Preserve Burke 8 SOMO Gameland/Henry Fork Watershed NC Wildlife Resources Commission Burke 167 Simpson Smith Cliffs/Henry Fork River Preserve Burke 26 Chestnut Mountain Pisgah National Forest Caldwell 96 Goodson Fonta Flora State Trail McDowell 90 TOTAL: 1,114
In 2017, Foothills Conservancy permanently conserved it’s most acreage in one year since 2007 with 12 projects in five counties. The conservancy worked with landowners to place conservation easements on four different properties, including two family farms. The conservancy also expanded the Catawba Headwaters Preserve with a significant victory in the acquisition of Sank Gap (pictured), a priority tract of land. South Mountains State Park and Game Lands also gained over 1,000 acres through a partnership with The Conservation Fund, Open Space Institute, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, NC State Parks, and NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Land Protection Record Tract Designation County Acres Smith Cliffs Access Smith Cliffs/Henry Fork River Preserve Burke 26 Hipp Creek (partnership with The Conservation Fund) South Mountains State Park Burke 844 Ivy Creek II (partnership with The Conservation Fund) South Mountains State Park Burke 215 Tim’s Creek Agricultural Conservation Easement Burke 184 Wilson Ridge United States Forest Service Caldwell 32 Clover Hill Farm Agricultural Conservation Easement Cleveland 192 Camp Grier Conservation Easement McDowell 203 Sheila Adams II Catawba Headwaters Preserve McDowell 49 Sank Gap Catawba Headwaters Preserve McDowell 259 Wildacres Retreat Conservation Easement McDowell 1,076 Koone, Broad River Conservation Easement Rutherford 81 TOTAL: 4,757
Protecting the Whippoorwill Dairy Farm on Paddy’s Creek was a unique partnership between the conservancy and Fonta Flora Brewery. Foothills Conservancy purchased 40 acres that border Paddy’s Creek, and later donated to Lake James State Park. Fonta Flora Brewery purchased 8 acres of the former dairy farm along Highway 126, which included most of the old barns and structures, to expand and create a farmhouse brewery. Also this year, the conservancy acquired the Bear Den property, 208 forested acres along 1.6 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway in McDowell County. The acquisition was made possible by gifts from private donors, a grant from Conservation Trust of North Carolina (CTNC), and by taking out a loan from CTNC’s Mountain Revolving Loan Fund. The loan fund enables land trusts to respond quickly when critical conservation properties become available for purchase. A 93-acre parcel at the base of the South Mountains, containing the headwaters of Cane Creek was acquired by the conservancy with a private contribution. The property has significant historical value–the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail passes directly through the middle of the property. The site is also situated within the boundary of the Cane Creek Battlefield, a 1780 skirmish between the Patrons referred to as the Overmountain Men, and British Loyalists during the revolutionary war. Land Protection Record Tract Designation County Acres Sheila Adams II Catawba Headwaters Preserve McDowell 189 Bear Den Blue Ridge Parkway McDowell 208 Cane Creek Overmountain Property South Mountains Burke, McDowell 93 Whippoorwill Dairy/Paddy’s Creek...