Top 10 Stories from 2022
Dear friend of Conserving Carolina,
I hope your holiday season has been joyful! And I want to share with you some of the joy that has come about because of your support for Conserving Carolina.
Here are our top 10 conservation stories from 2022. When I look back on these, I’m especially happy to see so many projects that create new public access, inviting people to connect with the wonder of our natural world. Maybe some of these will bring more joy in your own life.
You have made this a very exciting year and I hope that you feel as proud of this good work as we all do at Conserving Carolina.
I hope we can count on your support to keep this good work going. It’s still possible to make a gift for 2022. Donations to Conserving Carolina are tax deductible. If you have any questions about how to make your year-end donation, by mail, check, or online, you may find these tips helpful. Thank you so much for your support!
It’s an amazing turnaround. When land next to the Green River Game Lands was targeted for an outdoor shooting range, neighbors organized to conserve it and add it to the Game Lands instead. This 76 acre property is now public land—and there’s more! The neighbors are working together to protect nearly 300 acres, which will include 200 acres of new public land, buffered by 100 acres of private conservation land! (Photo by Dave Deggendorf.)
Have you hiked the new Strawberry Gap Trail yet? It’s another gem in our growing Hickory Nut Gorge trail system, offering stunning forests, mossy boulders, a ridgetop meadow, and two panoramic viewpoints. This trail connects to our Trombatore Trail, then Bearwallow, and on from there! It’s part of the ambitious 100+ mile Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail that Conserving Carolina is spearheading, with over 38 miles now open to the the public.
We’re getting closer to the 19-mile Ecusta Trail, which will invite people out to walk, run, play, bike, and enjoy the outdoors. In 2021, a subsidiary of Conserving Carolina purchased this rail line between Brevard and Hendersonville. Now, we’re partnering with Friends of the Ecusta Trail to raise funds for construction and we’ve made huge strides toward our goal! In 2022, we secured millions of dollars in donations, pledges, and grants toward building the trail.
Imagine a 31-mile rail trail that goes all the way from Upstate SC, through vibrant small towns, into the spectacular mountain scenery of Western NC. In 2022 Conserving Carolina and our partners launched an effort to purchase the historic Saluda Grade rail corridor! We believe this rail trail could be a game changer for our communities, with benefits for outdoor recreation, local economies, and health. And we hope to connect it to the future Ecusta Trail!
Conserving Carolina is working to purchase 34 acres of beautiful forest land, with the goal of expanding the City of Brevard’s Bracken Mountain Preserve. If you’ve ever hiked or biked in Bracken, you know how challenging it is! The new trails will be more approachable so more people can enjoy the extraordinary forest at the doorstep of Brevard. We still need to close a funding gap, but support from the local community has been very strong, and we are moving forward to seize this rare opportunity.
6. New Restorations Along the French Broad River
This Coopers hawk and northern harrier were seen flying over our Mud Creek restoration site on the French Broad River—a stunning image of how wildlife is resurging there. In 2022, we expanded Mud Creek, adding land that will allow public access, greenway connections, and an important bog restoration. And we’re seeing incredible momentum, with six new restorations underway in the Upper French Broad River watershed. These inspiring and hopeful projects bring back wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and reduce damage from floods.
We worked with farmers to protect two family farms so this land will continue to provide food and scenic beauty for generations to come. At Plumlea Farm in Fletcher, the Roberts family protected highly productive farmland with prime agricultural soils and beautiful views, next to a community park. At San Felipe Farm in Columbus, NC, Rafael and Mary Bravo protected the sustainable sheep farm where their neighbors love to watch the spring lambs or come visit.
A new nature preserve with rich biodiversity and old-growth trees forever protects the wild surroundings and stunning views from our Wildcat Rock Trail. The 57-acre Chestnut Hills Preserve is one of the few tracts in our mountains that was spared from industrial logging. This extraordinary forest is home to many rare plants and animals. Its mature trees store vast amounts of carbon and its cool north-facing slopes are a haven for species migrating due to climate change.
Right now there’s a stretch of the French Broad River near Brevard with no way to get on or off the river for nearly 10 miles—but that’s going to change. This summer, we bought the land for the future Morrow Landing river access, just three miles from Brevard. This new river access will allow people to enjoy the beauty of nature close to home. It will also make the river more approachable for people who are new to paddling or looking for a shorter, more casual trip. Plus, it will improve access for emergency response and volunteer river clean-ups.
10. Connecting kids with the outdoors!
Among our many community engagement activities, we make a special effort to connect with kids. We hope to offer experiences of wonder, curiosity, and playfulness and pass on our love for the natural world. Last year our activities with kids included field trips to Bearwallow Mountain, Riverfest, a school project planning the future of Little White Oak Mountain, and a school garden. We also provided kid-friendly activities at festivals, summer day camps, Boys and Girls Clubs, and more. We love seeing their joy in nature!