MORGANTON, N.C.—Foothills Conservancy purchased 90 acres of land near Old Fort in McDowell County on February 27 and conveyed the property to North Carolina State Parks on April 17. The acquisition was a conservation partnership among Foothills Conservancy, Camp Grier, and Dan and Denisa Allison, all of whom purchased portions of the property to help expand the Fonta Flora State Trail between Old Fort and Black Mountain.
Both Camp Grier and the Allisons are donating public trail easements across parts of their land to allow public use of the Fonta Flora State Trail in the near future.
Foothills Conservancy transferred the 90 acres it purchased from Melanie Goodson to North Carolina State Parks. Funds for the state’s purchase came from the Connect NC bond. The Connect NC bond, which passed in 2016, allows the state to borrow funds for projects associated with State Park land acquisition and construction of facilities.
Acquisition of the Goodson property by Foothills Conservancy will ensure protection of scenic views along Old Highway 70 and water quality for Mill Creek and Jarrett Creek, both high-quality streams. The land is also located near tens of thousands of acres of Pisgah National Forest.
“Foothills Conservancy is thrilled to work with North Carolina State Parks, Camp Grier, and the Allisons to acquire land and public trail easements for the Fonta Flora State Trail,” said Tom Kenney, the conservancy’s land protection director. “We hope this effort to secure trail property and eventually connect to nearby Pisgah National Forest trails will generate more tourism and economic benefits for Old Fort.”
Smith Raynor, state trails planner for North Carolina State Parks, elaborated on the importance of partnerships in projects associated with creating new state recreational areas.
“As with all of our State Trails, partnerships are the only way to accomplish this,” said Raynor. “The citizens of North Carolina enabled us to purchase land that is vital to advancing our State Trails when they approved the Connect NC bond. Their confidence in North Carolina will provide a multitude of ways for people to experience the natural wonders of this state for generations to come.”
Raynor went on to explain that state trails can only be created by authorization from the General Assembly.
“State Parks coordinates planning for each of the State Trails,” she explained. “But the actual construction, maintenance, and management are the responsibility of the various section sponsors along the length of the planned route.”
Developing the Fonta Flora State Trail has been a collaborative effort over the past several years in Burke County and at Lake James. Sections of trail have been opened to the public as they are completed. To date, there are nearly 16 miles of designated trail, including six miles around Lake James, as a result of Burke County and the leadership of its community development director, Scott Carpenter. Additional trail segments have been designated in Black Mountain, Marion, Morganton, and the Pisgah National Forest. The long-term vision for the Fonta Flora State Trail is to create a 90-mile continuous hiking and mountain biking trail that will connect Morganton to Asheville.
“This project exemplifies the public-private partnerships Foothills Conservancy implements to improve the use of public trails,” said Andrew Kota, executive director of Foothills Conservancy. “We want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in our region. We take great pride in being part of developing the Fonta Flora State Trail.”
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is a nationally accredited, non-profit regional land trust based in Morganton. The conservancy works cooperatively with landowners and public/private conservation partners to preserve and protect significant natural areas and open spaces. Focus areas include watersheds, forests and farmland across the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills in eight counties: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell, and Rutherford. Since 1995, Foothills Conservancy has protected more than 54,000 acres, including lands added to South Mountains, Lake James and Chimney Rock state parks; Wilson Creek, South Mountains and the Johns River state game lands; Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Information about Foothills Conservancy, including ways to support its work, can be found online at www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.