Land Purchased to Expand Bracken Mountain Preserve
This fall, a rare opportunity came up to expand Bracken Mountain Preserve when over 34 acres of beautiful forest land became available for sale. But there were only a few months to raise the funds. The local community rose to the challenge and raised nearly three quarters of the goal, making it possible for Conserving Carolina to secure the land. On Friday, Dec. 30, Conserving Carolina purchased this property, where the City of Brevard aims to expand the Bracken trail network.
Bracken is a local treasure that connects the city to Pisgah National Forest. However, the existing entrance trail is so steep and challenging that many community members don’t go to Bracken. The planned expansion will provide 2-3 miles of more moderate trails and an easier way to reach the existing trail network. These new hiking and mountain biking trails will make the preserve more inviting to people of all ages, skill levels, and fitness levels.
The new land will add nearly 10% to the existing 395-acre preserve, which is owned by the City of Brevard. The property is a healthy forest with clear mountain creeks, high elevation seeps, and tall oak trees. It is home to rare plants such as yellow ladyslippers and many kinds of wildlife, including salamanders which thrive in the seeps.
The City of Brevard and Conserving Carolina worked together to raise funds for the land purchase, resulting in $159,000 in generous private donations, including a major gift from Fred and Alice Stanback. In addition, the City pledged $70,000. Although this still leaves $91,000 remaining toward the goal of $320,000, strong community support got the project to the point that Conserving Carolina was able to take action. The nonprofit used an internal loan fund to buy the property while it was still available for sale. Conserving Carolina and the City continue to seek grants and private donations to raise the rest of the funds.
“Conserving Carolina is excited to be a lead partner in acquiring this property to expand the Bracken Mountain Preserve and its trail system, and widen its recreational user base to a broader audience,” said Rebekah Robinson, Assistant Director for Programs at Conserving Carolina. “Our next steps will be to close the funding gap so we can transfer the property to the City of the Brevard. Then, we will work with the City to pursue grant funding and private donations to fund trail design and development.”
“The City of Brevard is thrilled at the outreach and collaborative efforts that have resulted in Conserving Carolina purchasing 34 acres of land adjacent to the City’s Bracken Preserve,” said Maureen Copelof, Mayor of Brevard. “This is part of the City’s vision of expanding Bracken Preserve and adding trails that are suitable for beginning and intermediate level riders.”
She continued, “We are extremely grateful for the partnership with Conserving Carolina, which led the fundraising efforts, and for the enthusiastic and dedicated efforts of community leaders like Howie Granat, Ryan Olson, and others who stepped up and organized successful fundraising events like Brackenfest.”
This 34-acre property was originally part of the Waterford Place development, which was built in the 1980s by a subsidiary of what is now Home Trust Bank. However, the owners chose not to develop this steep mountain land.
“HomeTrust Bank has been holding this part of Waterford Place for the past 35 years instead of developing it because we felt there was a higher and better use for it,” says Dana Stonestreet, the bank’s Executive Chairman. “And now we are thrilled for it to be a key addition to the Bracken Preserve with exciting new trails planned.”
The office of Allen Tate/Beverly-Hanks, REALTORS Ⓡ represented the seller, offering its services at a reduced commission. The agency is a longtime supporter of Conserving Carolina and one of its agents, Rick Merrill, has volunteered in leadership positions with the nonprofit for 17 years.
Real estate agent Lizzie McGann says “I was really honored to be part of something that will increase recreational opportunities in our community. It’s a win for everyone involved, and I’m personally very appreciative of the efforts the City, Conserving Carolina, and Mr. Stonestreet put in to make this happen.”