Parkway to receive conservation tract in McDowell Co.

Karen Chávez
Asheville Citizen Times

LINVILLE - People sometimes forget as they drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway “oohing” and “aahing” at the mountain scenery that many of those views could be replaced by not-so-exciting homes or hotels.

So every little bit of land in the parkway’s viewshed is worthy of protection, said Chris Canfield, executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. And not just for the tourist-drawing views, but for the permanent protection of habitat for wild plants and animals and water quality.

The land trust at the end of May purchased a 12-acre tract adjoining the parkway on Bear Den Mountain Road, visible from Milepost 325 in McDowell County.

Though small in size, the parcel known as Honeycutt Creek Cascades, packs a big punch in significance, Canfield said, since it was on the market.

“It could have easily been developed,” he said of the land, which is near the Linville Falls area. “Proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway is the key reason we look at conserving land, and this fit a key piece of puzzle in Bear Den Overlook property. It’s a special little gem.”

Canfield said the conservancy was able to buy the property for a “great price” of about $100,000, because of the conservation-minded sellers. The project was funded by philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury.

The 12 acres adds to the value of the protection of 208 acres purchased by Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, a land trust based in Morganton, below Bear Den Overlook in 2016. The properties will be donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Foothills Conservancy land trust acquired that forested tract along 1.6 miles of the parkway between Mileposts 323 and 325 in a purchase from the Moody family, who own the popular Bear Den Campground.

That property contains more than 1.5 miles of streams that drain into Honeycutt Creek, part of the Upper Catawba Basin, which provides drinking water for millions of people.

The newly acquired Honeycutt Creek Headwaters property contains a scenic cascade in the headwaters of Honeycutt Creek in McDowell County. Permanent protection for this property protects the area around the small waterfall and water quality further downstream in Honeycutt Creek and the North Fork Catawba River.

“The more we can protect those sources of drinking water for all communities, the better it is for the whole state,” Canfield said.

Canfield said Conservation Trust for North Carolina was made aware the property was on the market by the Dispiter Family through Jann Godwin at Timberline Properties in Spruce Pine, who helped broker the deal.

“Our family has wonderful memories of camping on this property and enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway and nearby attractions,” Monica Pattison, a member of the Dispiter family, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Conservation Trust and Foothills Conservancy for helping us leave a lasting legacy for future generations.”

Conservation Trust for North Carolina works with voluntary landowners along the Blue Ridge Parkway to protect streams, forests, farms, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, parks, and trails.

The land trust has now protected 12 properties totaling more than 3,700 acres in the area around Altapass and North Cove between Linville and Little Switzerland along the parkway, and more than 34,000 acres along the entire parkway.

“All of us who’ve grown up enjoying the beautiful views from the parkway, few of us understand how narrow that original property was (when the parkway was established in 1935),” Canfield said. “We’re working to make sure the things we see as so beautiful are actually protected.”

The transfer of the property to the National Park Service is a process that can take years, he said.