Gateway to recreation: Canton begins planning for 448-acre outdoor park

The 448-acre woodland property sitting right off U.S. 23/19 and Interstate 40 near Canton was almost a speedway. Then, it was almost an indoor ski resort. It was almost a lot of things over the years, but now it will be a public park and conservation area. 

Land trust closes on 448 acres for outdoor rec in Canton

After a year of planning, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has closed on a 448-acre purchase in Haywood County that it plans to gift to the Town of Canton as an outdoor recreation area. 

Keeping the doorstep green: Canton likely to receive 448 acres for outdoor rec

If all goes as planned, Canton will soon have a 448-acre park for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor recreation activities just a mile from town limits. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy hopes to close on the property, known as the Chestnut Mountain Tract and currently owned by Canton Motorsports LLC, within the next couple months. 

Grant advances conservation efforts for Canton Motorsports tract

Efforts to conserve the 488-acre property currently owned by Canton Motorsports got a boost when the N.C. Department of Justice awarded the project a $150,000 Environmental Enhancement Grant.

More land conserved at Highlands of Roan

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has purchased 62 acres at Doll Branch in the Highlands of Roan, an acquisition that adjoins the Cherokee National Forest and is less than half a mile from the Appalachian Trail.

Conservation purchase will protect elk, other wildlife on I-40

A 187-acre conservation purchase in Haywood County will allow for wildlife grazing and movement near Interstate 40.

Funding conservation: Federal program’s expiration impacts local land trusts

On Sept. 30, 2018, a program that’s been pouring money into land conservation for more than 50 years expired. And despite bipartisan support, efforts to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund have so far failed. 

“A program like LWCF should not be subject to these crazy swings in politics and funding,” said Jay Leutze, vice president of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Board and a spokesperson for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. “This just creates chaos.

Nearly 50 acres conserved along national forest boundary

out preservedA purchase of 48 acres adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest and the Highlands of Roan by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy saved the tract from development.

Giving new farmers a boost

out frBy Katie Reeder • SMN Intern

Demand for locally grown food is soaring in Western North Carolina, but recruiting — and retaining — the farmers to grow the goods has been a challenge. That’s a problem a trio of farm-centric groups is hoping to address through a $100,000 grant they just landed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. 

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Organic Growers School and Western North Carolina FarmLink are collaborating to create Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood and Learning, a new program that will mentor beginning farmers and link them with the resources they need to succeed. It’s set to begin in 2016.

More Blue Ridge Parkway viewshed protected

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) recently protected Blackrock Ridge in northern Jackson County, a striking and important component of the Plott Balsam Mountains. The Plott Balsams, which reach 6,000 feet in elevation, tower above Waynesville, Sylva and Cherokee. Blackrock Ridge is a 60-acre parcel just a little south and west of Waterrock Knob, which is located at milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Blackrock Ridge lies within the Yellow Face/Blackrock Mountain State Natural Heritage Area and Audubon North Carolina’s Plott Balsams Important Bird Area. The tract ascends Blackrock Mountain where it adjoins The Nature Conservancy’s 1,595-acre Plott Balsam Preserve.

According to Jay Leutze, SAHC trustee, the organization had been negotiating with the landowner when it learned the property was going to be auctioned.

“We had five days to raise donor funds,” Leutze said. “We’re fortunate — we don’t have a lot of bureaucracy — and we can be pretty nimble,” he said. SAHC was nimble enough to be high bidder and purchased the tract for around $110,000.

The tract is located near the newly created Pinnacle Park (Sylva’s old watershed), and trails maintained by natural resources students from Western Carolina University link the Blackrock Tract and Pinnacle Park.

Leutze said SAHC was extremely happy to be able to preserve the Blackrock tract. “It’s in a larger assemblage of private tracts and would have surely been developed,” he said.

 

Attributes

The proximity to thousands of acres of already protected wilderness makes the tract important as a wildlife corridor. Blackrock Ridge attains an elevation of 5,600 feet, making it an ideal habitat for high-elevation species like the endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel. According to Leutze, Carolina northern flying squirrels have been documented on The Nature Conservancy’s Plott Balsam Preserve and the protection of this tract will add further protection and preserve more suitable habitat for the endangered flying squirrel.

Protection of the tract also helps preserve the cultural heritage of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who have strong ties to the craggy peaks of the Plott Balsams.

 

A nice fit

Leutze said that SAHC breaks the regional landscape up into “focus areas.”

“This allows us to focus on who would be likely partners and where to find likely donors for particular projects,” he said Blackrock Ridge falls within SAHC’s “Smoky Mountains Focus Area.”

“The Smoky Mountains Focus Area, of course, includes efforts to try and help buffer the Park [Great Smoky Mountains National Park] but it also provides the opportunity to try and protect outstanding high-elevation sites like this one that don’t have a lot of protection,” he said.

And parcels that help protect the integrity of the Blue Ridge Parkway viewshed help protect the goose that lays the golden egg.

“A 2007-2008 study noted that 90 percent of the visitors that come to the Blue Ridge Parkway come for the view,” said Carolyn Ward, the new head of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation (BRPF).

That translates into about $2.3 billion for communities adjacent to the Parkway.

“Those of us who live in the area know the value of protecting our natural resources and anytime we can add land, whether by purchase or by an easement, it helps protect that resource,” said Ward.

Ward said that the one of the BRPF’s projects for 2011 would be to help design guidelines for protecting viewsheds along the scenic byway that celebrated its 75th birthday in 2010.

Ward said the foundation would not only focus on the technical aspects and/or options for protecting tracts of land that would be useful to landowners and organizations and agencies but also work on outreach and education for residents to help them see the incredible value of the resource.

“Protecting our viewsheds is critical,” she said.

 

 

About SAHC

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy — headquartered in Asheville — is one of the oldest land trusts in the country.

SAHC was founded in 1974 and works to conserve the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, local farmland and scenic beauty of the mountains of North Carolina and east Tennessee for the benefit of present and future generations. SAHC achieves this by forging and maintaining conservation relationships with landowners and public agencies, owning and managing land, and working with communities to accomplish their conservation objectives.

SAHC’s flagship project is protecting the Highlands of Roan in Mitchell and Avery counties North Carolina and in Carter County in Tennessee. But its focus areas include the Smoky Mountains, Newfound and Walnut Mountains, Pisgah Ridge and Balsam Mountains, Black Mountains and the Mountains of East Tennessee.

To learn more about the SAHC visit www.appalachian.org.

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