Conservation group buys 523 acres along Blue Ridge Parkway

sgilman@newsobserver.comDecember 5, 2013 

— The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has purchased 523 acres along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the convergence of McDowell, Mitchell and Avery counties.

The Raleigh-based trust, which works to preserve land along the parkway, paid $2.5 million to a private owner for the undeveloped parcel, which stretches for about 3.5 miles between mileposts 319 and 323.

“This property has everything,” said Reid Wilson, executive director of the trust. “It’s all just sort of wild, natural land.”

The property, on Humpback Mountain, has more than 3 miles of tributaries of the North Toe River and the North Fork Catawba River, and is full of healthy, forested wildlife habitat. Wilson said to his knowledge it contains no buildings.

The trust will turn the property over to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which will own and manage it and build hiking trails.

Isaac Harrold, program manager of engineering and lands management for the wildlife commission, said the property is “of conservation interest to the state.” It includes unique habitats like Cove Forest, a “very diverse ecosystem that supports a lot of wildlife, particularly salamanders,” Harrold said.

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which also serves as an umbrella organization for the state’s local land trusts, has given 26 properties to the commission over the years, including 544 acres at Little Table Rock Mountain, adjacent to the Humpback Mountain land.

Harrold said the existing 2-mile trail on Little Table Rock Mountain may become a 4-mile trail through both parcels. The primary uses of the land will be hunting, trapping and scenic views from the parkway.

The Humpback Mountain property is the trust’s 50th project along the parkway. Last month, it announced that it had purchased 104 acres that adjoin the parkway for more than half a mile near the Cranberry Ridge Overlook in Jackson County. Wilson said the group targets parcels with “the best of the best” combination of resources – good views, abundant wildlife and natural habitats.

The trust raised half of the $2.5 million for the Humpback Mountain property from donors Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, and the other half through a grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Though the land was not in immediate danger of development, Wilson said the trust did not want to risk it. One of the ridges on the land is “developable.”

“We did not want to see that happen,” he said.

Gilman: 919-829-8955

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