/ Places You Helped Protect, Trails and Recreation,

Thousands of Protected Acres Will Link Two State Trails

Joel Ridge forest
Joel Ridge. By Leah Swann.

The future for the wooded mountains north of Lake Lure once seemed clear—a vast, upscale housing development. In the early 2000s, the planned GreyRock development spanned about 4,000 acres, with lots selling for up to $700,000. Then, the recession hit and the development went bankrupt. Landowners were stranded with no roads to access their land. The company holding bonds for that infrastructure refused to pay, and the owner was arrested for fraud. Costly lots were now almost worthless. 

Through all this drama and loss, a very different vision has emerged for much of this land—thousands of acres of protected forests, breathtaking trails, and now a link between two state trails.  

With your support, we have been steadily protecting undeveloped portions of GreyRock since 2009. This summer, we purchased another 174 acres, bringing the land protected so far to more than 2,200 acres. And we are working to protect even more, with the goal of protecting a grand total of more than 2,650 acres!  

It’s not easy to buy hundreds of lots, as well as common land, in a bankrupt development. Rebekah Robinson, our Assistant Director of Programs, navigated sales that involved swapping lots in areas that won’t be built for lots within the reduced development footprint. This process also required forgiveness of unpaid property-owner dues and back taxes.  

Rebekah says it has been complex and challenging but very rewarding. This project first led to the creation of Lake Lure’s 1,525-acre Buffalo Creek Park, where we built the award-winning Weed Patch Mountain Trail. Now, on land known as Joel Ridge, we have plans for more trails, which will link two of North Carolina’s 13 designated state trails—the 100+ mile Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail that Conserving Carolina is spearheading and the 100+ mile Wilderness Gateway State Trail to the northeast. 

The land you are helping protect is home to a great diversity of plants and animals, including the rare Hickory Nut Gorge Green Salamander. Nearly all of the Buffalo Creek watershed will be protected, providing clean water. And thousands of acres of forests will go on capturing carbon—an important part of climate solutions.  

Many partners and funders made this extraordinary success possible. We are grateful to the GreyRock Community Association, Rutherford County Tourism and Development Authority, NC Land and Water Fund, Fred and Alice Stanback, Tim Sweeney, the Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation, the NC Complete the Trails Fund, and the estate of the late Maurice Loiselle. And we are grateful to YOU! 

Related: 21 Acres Purchased for Trails and Addition to Buffalo Creek Park

Weed Patch Mountain Trail
Weed Patch Mountain Trail. By Gordon Tutor.

Article by Rose Jenkins Lane

Tags: ,