Conservation Easement Protects Nearly 1,500 Wooded Acres Rimming the Blue Ridge Parkway

A conservation easement negotiated with CSX Corp. will protect nearly 1,500 acres along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photos by Margaret Lillard, CTNC.

A nearly $4 million deal with one of the country's largest railroads has placed almost 1,500 wooded acres, including some that are highly visible from Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, into a conservation easement that will protect them from ever being logged or developed.

It took six years of negotiating by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, but boy was the wait ever worth it. Not only does the deal protect viewsheds along the famed parkway, but also sections of an historic trail that served a role during the Revolutionary War. Under the agreement with CSX Corp., 1,488 acres will be placed in a conservation easement managed by the state of North Carolina, with monitoring by the conservation trust.

The land in question is found in McDowell County, North Carolina, near Little Switzerland, and borders the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 325 to Milepost 329.5. It contains forested mountain views from three Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, encompasses 1.5 miles of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and protects all or part of two North Carolina Significant Natural Heritage Areas along with seven miles of pristine streams that are sources for drinking water supplies and include native brook trout habitat.

The easement cost $3.67 million to acquire, although CSX will continue to own the land and pay taxes on it, according to a release from the conservation trust.

“Protection of this property is critical to the future of the Blue Ridge Parkway, because it’s the spectacular views that keep bringing people here. It’s an added bonus that the Overmountain Victory Trail will be opened for hiking," said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis. "This land conservation achievement is a perfect way to help kick off the celebrations of the parkway’s 75th anniversary over the next year.”

J. Robert Gordon, who chairs the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund's board of trustees, said this one project serves multiple purposes -- "safeguarding a part of American history, protecting critical natural areas and maintaining the spectacular views from the most popular unit of the National Park Service. We’re certainly getting the biggest possible bang for our buck.”

“This is a wonderful partnership in which many different organizations are achieving different goals," added Paul Caron, superintendent of the national historic trail. "Ours is to preserve more of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. On the CSX property, we are protecting sections of the trail that, as far as we know, follow its original route. That’s a very unique opportunity, because few of the older sections of the trail exist today. Once we are able to open it to the public, people will be able to actually walk in the footsteps of the patriots who came this way in 1780.”

At the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Executive Director Houck Medford applauded all those involved in making the easement possible.

"Securing the CSX conservation easement nails the other half of a 13-mile-long view area horseshoe from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The culmination of this 12-year project is a landmark accomplishment for land preservation in this unique and most visited national park site," said Mr. Medford. "The achievement was only possible through the efforts of many partners and generous donors."

Comments

This is GREAT news! Glad to see some true conservation taking place.