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Grant bolsters Burke County park project

A $464,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest Program will support the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina’s ongoing Oak Hill Community Park and Forest Project, located near downtown Morganton in Burke County. 

On Jan. 28, the conservancy purchased the first half of the property — 330 acres — with funds from private individuals, small businesses, churches and foundation grants. The partial acquisition afforded the conservancy a six-month extension to raise the funding needed to purchase the remaining 321 acres. With this grant from the Community Forest Program, the conservancy still must raise $440,000 by the end of September 2020 to purchase the remaining half.

The community park and forest, totaling 651 acres when complete, will eventually host public trails for walking, running and biking. The conservancy also envisions facilitating on-site environmental education programs in the near future and, with help from partners, will implement land restoration to improve forest health and enhance native terrestrial and aquatic habitat. Because the vast property could hold clues to historic Native American settlements and ways of life, a public archeology program will be explored in conjunction with Warren Wilson College and the Joara Foundation. Additionally, fertile agricultural fields along Canoe Creek offer opportunities for a community agriculture program.

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