On March 30, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation closed on the purchase of 2,249 acres in McDowell County to become part of Bobs Creek State Natural Area. This purchase is the last of three acquisitions for the new state natural area and increases its total size to more than 6,000 acres. The first two phases of the project, about 3,700 acres, were purchased in 2019.
The land’s former owner, conservationist Tim Sweeney, donated approximately one-third of the property’s value in the sale. Once it is open to the public, the state natural area will be managed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation for passive (low-impact) recreation, water quality protection of numerous streams in the Broad and Catawba river basins and preservation of rare plants and diverse natural ecosystems documented by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. Future passive recreation opportunities could include hiking, mountain biking, wildlife observation and scenic enjoyment.
The Bobs Creek State Natural Area protects water quality along five miles of source streams that drain to Muddy Creek, the Catawba River and the Second Broad River through an extensive network of riparian buffers on the property. The Muddy Creek watershed is one of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s priorities for stream and water quality improvement.
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to protect these extraordinary lands of the foothills for generations to come,” said Dwayne Patterson, director of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. “Our conservation partner at Foothills Conservancy of N.C. and the foresight and generosity of Mr. Sweeney have allowed us to continue to make great strides in protecting some of our state’s most sensitive and outstanding natural resources. We are grateful that they continue to entrust the long-term stewardship of these lands to us.”
“The phased purchase of Bobs Creek State Natural Area over a four-year period of time demonstrates both perseverance and strong partnership by all parties involved in the permanent conservation of this incredible natural landscape, which will offer public benefit in the form of landscape scale open space protection for future public recreation,” said Foothills Conservancy’s executive director, Andrew Kota.
Funding for the third phase of the project included grants of $1.2 million from North Carolina Land and Water Fund; $1,518,399 in federal Land and Water Conservation Fund monies provided by the N.C Division of Parks and Recreation; and grants from Fred and Alice Stanback and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
“Our partnership is grateful to the N.C. General Assembly for passing legislation in 2017, and to Governor Cooper for signing the bill to authorize Bobs Creek State Natural Area,” added Kota. We are also grateful for conservationist Tim Sweeney and his effort to secure the land and patiently own it while Foothills Conservancy and N.C. State Parks raised the funds to purchase the property at a discounted price for public ownership. There are also many other public and private funders to thank for making the three transactions possible, including conservationists Fred and Alice Stanback, The Cannon Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, and several grants from N.C. Land and Water Fund and federal Land and Water Conservation Fund programs.”
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is a nationally accredited regional land trust that inspires conservation in Western North Carolina by permanently protecting land and water for the benefit of people and all living things. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Foothills Conservancy has conserved more than 64,000 acres in its eight county service area: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell and Rutherford, in three major river basins: the Broad, Catawba and Yadkin. Information about Foothills Conservancy, including ways to support its work, can be found online at www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.
North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation manages more than 252,000 acres of iconic landscape within North Carolina’s state parks, state recreation areas and state natural areas. It administers the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, including its local grants program, as well as a state trails program, North Carolina Natural and Scenic Rivers and more, all with a mission dedicated to conservation, recreation and education. The state parks system welcomes more than 22 million visitors annually.
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, three science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 41 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, and the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.