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New Land Added to Norman Wilder Forest

Whorled Horsebalm is one of several rare wildflowers in the Norman Wilder Forest addition. Photo by Pam Torlina.

A popular local hiking spot just grew larger, with the addition of a 36.5-acre property that includes rare wildflowers and streams that flow into the North Pacolet River. In April, Conserving Carolina purchased this property between Saluda and Tryon to add to the existing 185-acre Norman Wilder Forest. Now over 220 acres in size, the forest offers protected views of Little Warrior Mountain and a mature woodland surrounding 1.3 miles of hiking trails.   

Conserving Carolina’s community engagement manager, Pam Torlina, worked with the landowner, John Rice, for years to protect the land. She says, “I am elated that the Norman Wilder Forest addition has come to fruition!  The conservancy has had a long relationship with the former landowner who always wanted to see the land protected, and finally, it is.”  

She says, “This property is contiguous to existing land protection projects and enhances the conservation of natural resources on Little Warrior Mountain. Additionally, this property protects the viewshed in the North Pacolet River valley and important habitat for native plants, including several species listed as endangered or threatened. It provides a safe corridor for wildlife, and protects several tributaries to the river.

It is a treasure that this property has been left in its natural state for many years and that now, it adds more land to our Norman Wilder Forest nature preserve.” 

Norman Wilder Forest
Norman Wilder Forest. Photo by Pat Barcas.

This protected property adds to growing corridors of conservation land along the Pacolet River gorge and across the surrounding mountains—an area of exceptional beauty and biodiversity. The newly protected land connects to both the original Norman Wilder Forest and private property that is protected by a conservation easement with Conserving Carolina.  

The area surrounding Norman Wilder Forest also includes several other Conserving Carolina preserves, including Melrose Falls. Other conservation lands nearby include a NC Plant Conservation preserve, a Saluda Community Land Trust preserve, several Town of Tryon Open Space parcels, the Green River Game Lands, the Greenville Watershed, Pearsons Falls, and multiple conservation easements (including the recent Greenhaven Farm). All of these conservation lands help to preserve the spectacular scenery along the route of the Saluda Grade Trail, a proposed new 31.5-mile rail trail following the historic railroad line. 

The property also includes an intriguing note of local history. The former landowner, Mr. Rice, recalls that at one time there was a teahouse on the ridge, while other local residents say there was a mountain lodge. In either case, it seems there was once a hospitality business that welcomed visitors to come and enjoy views from the mountainside. 

Yellow trillium
Yellow trillium blooming in the Norman Wilder Forest addition. Photo by Pam Torlina.

Conserving Carolina was able to purchase the property thanks to the generosity of the landowner Mr. Rice, who sold the land for less than its assessed value, as well as philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback whose donation made the purchase of the land possible.  

In addition, a Conserving Carolina volunteer group known as the Kudzu Warriors has an important role to play. The Kudzu Warriors have already rescued a large portion of Norman Wilder Forest that was being overtaken by kudzu and other non-native invasive plants. These dedicated volunteers have worked for over a decade to control invasive plants so that hikers can enjoy a forest of tall trees, beautiful wildflowers, and migrating songbirds. This new addition to the forest also has an area with significant invasive species to tackle and the Kudzu Warriors have agreed to take on this new challenge.  

Conserving Carolina’s Land Protection Director, Tom Fanslow, says, “With the good stewardship shown by Mr. Rice, the Stanbacks, the Kudzu Warriors, and all Conserving Carolina supporters, this mountain land can be passed on to future generations even better than it is today.”  

Kudzu Warriors volunteers
This group of Kudzu Warriors includes (clockwise from center) Greg Miner, Don Dicey, John Lane, Ted Altman, and Ford Smith. Photo by Rose Lane.

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