The Cannon Foundation, based in Concord, awarded a $50,000 grant to Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina on Dec. 18 to help the land trust transfer a 208-acre property adjoining the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Bear Den Overlook (milepost 323) into public ownership.

The Bear Den property borders 1.7 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and is part of the scenic vista from the popular Bear Den Overlook. The project includes conservation of rare natural areas, diverse habitats, and mountain headwater streams important to the downstream drinking water supplied by the Catawba River.

Foothills Conservancy purchased the property in September 2016 with funding from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, as well as a contribution from conservation philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback and a loan from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

The conservancy has until September 2018 to pay off the loan used to purchase the property. Once the loan is paid off, Foothills Conservancy will donate the property to the National Park Service for addition to the Blue Ridge Parkway system.

With funds raised to date, including a matching $50,000 contribution from conservationist Tim Sweeney, the remaining loan balance is $90,000.

Foothills Conservancy, a nationally accredited, nonprofit regional land trust based in Morganton, is raising money for this project and welcomes private donations to help satisfy the outstanding debt. Gifts will be restricted to the Bear Den project and may be made online at or by mail to PO Box 3023, Morganton, NC 28680.

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina 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 52,000 acres, including lands added to the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

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