As subdivisions and strip malls crept up around them, Bob Kellam and Susan Wyatt had a vision.
The wife and husband had dedicated their lives to sustainable farming methods and wanted a way to protect and preserve their 60 acres of farmland, wooded area and lakes in a growing, urbanizing area between Raleigh and Knightdale in eastern Wake County.
The Wake County commissioners voted Monday night to accept the property for future open space and a possible park on behalf of Susan Wyatt, her late husband Bob and his daughter, Leewyn Kellam. The park won't be open to the public for several years and until a master planning process is completed.
"I am very, very excited," Wyatt said. "I am grateful they shared the values of open space, environmental protection and sustainable agriculture. I'm grateful they are willing to accept the donation of the farm and preserve it as green space for future generations."
The family originally donated a conservation easement on the farm to Raleigh's City of Oaks Foundation in 2013.
"We are appreciative of the county's acceptance of this generous land donation,” said Chris Heagarty, executive director of the City of Oaks Foundation. “We look forward to partnering with Wake County to preserve this hidden natural treasure and to share it with future generations as a special place celebrating our community's natural and agricultural heritage.”
The farm, off of North Rogers Lane, is in a food desert, meaning people lack access to affordable and fresh foods. It was the family's vision to see the site used for a community garden or a training project for future farmers.
"I am so grateful," Leewyn Kellam said. "It will carry on my dad's legacy and his visions for what he wanted and what he taught me as a child. Preserving the land and keeping it as green space. He installed that in me and taught me that — so by donating this land we are making sure future generations get to learn that."
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, who made the motion to accept the donation, called the land a "stunning contribution."
"This will live for generations to come here in Wake County," he said. "And we are only beginning to see and understand the significance of this contribution."
As part of the agreement, the county agreed to pay $40,000 in contract and due diligence costs, to allow the current farmer to remain on the property for up to another year and for Wyatt and Kellam to continue living on the property up to five years.
"It's a really cool thing anytime someone wants to donate property for a park," said Chris Snow, director of Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space. "It's 60 acres in an urban area and really urbanizing area — and like Commissioner Hutchinson said, 'it's a little oasis of green space in the middle of a whole lot of suburbia.'"