A few weeks back, I had an opportunity to meet with a friend down in the Sandhills and have lunch and go for a walk at a great place – Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve. It is located at 1024 Fort Bragg Road, Southern Pines NC 28387. Although the park started with just 403 acres in 1963, it is now a 930-acre nature preserve, and is largely comprised of gorgeous longleaf forest habitat. Some of the trees here are hundreds of years old, and they have been using prescribed fire to enhance the habitat for a number of years.
Weymouth Woods is also home to the oldest known living longleaf pine, which dates all the way back to 1548. The history of the park is also found on their website. It describes how longleaf were once used to produce turpentine, rosin, pitch and tar, but with the arrival of the railroad, by the 1900s most of the pine trees in the area had been cut down.
In the early 20th century, the grandfather of James Boyd, a well-known North Carolina author, purchased a tract east of Southern Pines to save the longleaf trees from logging. This first property that became a part of Weymouth Woods was purchased and named “Weymouth” because the trees reminded the owner of ones he had seen in Weymouth, England. In April 1963, his widow, Katherine, donated 403 acres – which established Weymouth Woods as the first natural area in our state.
There are over 4.5 miles of trails that can be found here, with some for hiking and some for both hiking and equestrian usage. My friend and I hiked the Bowers Bog Trail to the Lighter Stump Trail, to the Pine Island Trail, then on to the Holly Road Trail. From there we hiked a short connector trail called Moccasin Creek onto the Gum Swamp Trail. Lastly, we turned right onto the Pine Barrens Trail which brought us back to the parking area and park office. We went through a variety of habitats, from longleaf pine uplands with carpets of wiregrass, to hardwood lowlands with boardwalks through swampy areas.
The website for the nature preserve states, “with limited understory, the forest is a natural theatre for birding and wildlife viewing.” My friend who was with me is a great birder, and she helped me identify a number of great species while we were walking. We probably walked for an hour or so, and here are all the species we saw: golden-crowned kinglet, brown creeper, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, American robin, Carolina chickadee, red-headed woodpecker, ruby-crowned kinglet, pileated woodpecker, red-cockaded woodpecker, and eastern towhee. According to the Weymouth Woods website, over 160 species of bird inhabit the area.
The Sandhills and Weymouth in particular are home to a variety of unique species, and their website boasts that more than 500 unique species can be found on site. On Sunday, February 24th, the staff is hosting a 1.5 mile guided hike on the Paint Hill tract to find a rare plant, the Sandhills Pyxie-moss. This species exists in only a handful of counties in the Carolinas. This species is one of the first spring plants to bloom at Weymouth. They are meeting at the visitor center and caravanning to the other site, a mile and a half down the road. This event starts at 3:00pm.
Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce that their Associate Director, Michael “Mikey” Nye Fulk, has been appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve as an at-large member of the Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council. The mission of the Council is to “provide statewide leadership, guidance, and funding to measurably expand opportunities for current and future generations to experience quality outdoor activities.”
Fulk has been with The Land Trust since June of 2016, and was the Membership and Outreach Director before becoming the Associate Director in January of 2018. Prior to that, Mikey worked for nearly 12 years in Wyoming as a wildlife biologist and in Montana as the Access Coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Michael was born and raised in Orrum, NC (Robeson County) and attended North Carolina State University, where she earned a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Science and a minor in Environmental Science. While in Montana, Mikey received both the Montana Hunting Heritage Award and the Montana Wildlife Federation Special Achievement Award.
Mikey has started several new programs while at the Land Trust, including our Leopold Society that reaches out to youth in grades 6th through 12th to get them involved in conservation and the outdoors, as well as our Sportsman Access Program, which connects local sportsman members to Land Trust properties so that they can see their conservation dollars at work. Mikey was nominated to the Council by Land Trust Executive Director, Travis Morehead who said: “I could think of no one more committed to conservation and to promoting hunting and fishing than Mikey.”
According to their website, “on July 8, 2015 the Outdoor Heritage Act was signed into law, which created an Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council and established a trust fund. The North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund provides for the expansion of opportunities for youth, ages 16 and younger, of outdoor recreational activities, including but not limited to fishing, horseback riding, camping, hiking and bird watching in order to preserve North Carolina’s outdoor heritage for future generations.”
Mikey states “I am humbled to be appointed to the Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council by Governor Roy Cooper. For the last 17 years, I have spent my career advocating for the conservation of our natural resources both across the west and here in my home state. The Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council provides opportunities for current and future generations to explore and enjoy North Carolina’s rich outdoors, in hopes that one day, they too will be advocates for our natural resources. I am honored to be chosen to assist in leading this effort.”
To learn more about this Council or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust in our conservation mission, please contact Michael Nye Fulk, Associate Director of the Land Trust at 704-647-0302 or email@example.com.
I was able to take a “Legacy of the Land” tour at Biltmore on New Year’s Eve (I would say earlier this year, but since it was technically 2018, it was last year when I went). This was a fascinating tour of the land that is part of the Biltmore Estate. I had only previously been in the house, which is mesmerizing on its own, but a guided tour of the grounds proved to be even more captivating – especially with my interest in land and forests and all things outdoors.
The tour guide gave a brief history of the estate. He said that George Vanderbilt owned 125,000 acres when he died. He had 13 children and almost his entire inheritance went to his first-born son. George’s father, William, had 8 children and was worth $220 million when he died. They said that at that time, one out of every $10 was a Vanderbilt dollar. William divided the money and gave the most to his two oldest sons. George is the youngest son and he got $10 million and an extra $2 million to take care of his mother, who at the time was suffering from malaria.
George was an equestrian and was riding around these North Carolina Mountains and fell in love with the view here at what would be become the Biltmore Estate. All the trees had been cut down by that time and he did not buy pristine land, but worn out sterile land. He hired Richard Morris Hunt as his building architect and Frederick Law Olmsted as his landscape architect to help him turn this property into something special. There were 2.9 million trees and shrubs planted. Currently, about 9% of the forestry budget goes into treating invasive plants – including bamboo. There are 20 types of bamboo at the Biltmore estate, and we saw some of the “pygmy bamboo” on our tour.
Charles McNamee, an attorney, was hired by Vanderbilt to buy land for his new home. Our tour guide reported that to buy the entire estate took over 1200 land transactions in 4 counties. We took one stop along the way to look at what was once a small African-American community made up of freedmen called Shiloh, of approximately 28 families and 200 acres. The approach road to Biltmore went through this community. Land in this area was going for $7 an acre, and McNamee offered the landowners $35 an acre. Some of them took the offer and some did not. McNamee offered those who did not take it better land 2 and ½ miles away as a trade. They moved the church and the graves of the people buried there and called it the New Shiloh Community. We got out of the bus here, and you can still see impressions in the ground where the graves were.
Biltmore wanted the estate to be self-sustaining. It had its own herds of sheep, swine, poultry and nurseries. There was a dairy farm there with 200 cows brought down from the family farm in New York. The first managed forests in the country were located here at the Biltmore estate. The Biltmore Forest School was the first school of forestry in North America. The forests were designed by Olmsted, but managed by Gifford Pinchot. Carl Schenck eventually replaced Pinchot, and Schenck founded the Biltmore Forest School in 1898. Graduates of this school were the country’s first professional foresters. This former school forms the basis for the “Cradle of Forestry,” a 6500-acre historic site that houses exhibits about forestry and forestry conservation.
The property taxes were a lot for this land, and the family eventually had to sell some of the land to the government – what would become part of Pisgah National Forest. Edith, George’s wife, sold 80,000 acres for $5 an acre, or $400,000 to the US government. Because this was such a large sum at that time, the government had to pay her over time.
I am glad that the Vanderbilts chose to purchase land in our North Carolina mountains and create a legacy here of forestry and forest conservation, and that they chose to sell some of their precious property to become part of the national forest. I’m also glad I had the opportunity to see the land associated with the house, which is still owned by Vanderbilt heirs. If you have an interest in land and history and ever get the chance to take this tour, I’d encourage you to do so. I have shared some of the information provided with you in this article, but there is a lot more history to the site than I have time to provide you with. Consider taking this tour the next time you’re in the area – it is worth checking out.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect back on the activities of the past year. Working for a land trust, the highlights of the year are often the projects that close – many of these having been worked on for a number of years before finally getting across the finish line. Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT), the organization I work for, conserved just shy of 600 acres last year in Central North Carolina. This encompasses 9 projects that occurred in 5 out of our 10 counties.
Two of these projects were in Rowan County, and both adjoined our 1400-acre Two Rivers Property. One of these projects was made possible by a Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) grant, and had been a project we’d been working on for several years. This 40-acres has a nice mixture of habitat, with some hardwood forest and some field. There were some very patient and conservation-minded landowners who were willing to wait to see this property protected. Some other family members owned the 10-acre property that adjoined it, and through some negotiation The Land Trust was able to purchase that 10-acre tract as well. We already owned the land to the east of that tract as well, so this was an important acquisition to fill a gap in between conservation lands.
Stanly County received the most attention last year, with nearly 300 of the acres being protected there. A donated conservation easement of 183 acres near the Pee Dee River adjoining another conserved property comprised the majority of those acres. A 45-acre addition to Morrow Mountain State Park was made possible through conservation buyers who also were willing to purchase and hold this land for 3 years while grant funds could be raised. The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund contributed to this acquisition as well as generous private donors. On the last day of the year, another donated easement on a 54-acre farm on the outskirts of Albemarle was closed, and conserved for future generations.
In Montgomery County, where The Land Trust does a lot of our work, there was a purchase of a strategic tract along the Uwharrie Trail of 70 acres. This tract has the peak of Dark Mountain, the highest mountain in Montgomery County, at approximately 935 feet in elevation. This tract has mature hardwood forests and some important historical folk sites identified by Joe Moffitt, talked about in my last article. The landowners who owned the tract wanted to see it conserved, and had not offered it to any one else, but came to The Land Trust to see if we were interested in buying it for conservation purposes – hopefully to eventually transfer to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Uwharrie National Forest. The purchase of this tract was made possible through private donations.
In Randolph County, TRLT worked with the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund through the North Carolina Department of Agricultural and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program through the United States Department of Agriculture, to preserve a 72-acre farm on the Uwharrie River. Just after the New Year, we were able to preserve an additional 9.4-acre property on the Uwharrie River that adjoins land we protected last year on Highway 49.
TRLT closed two projects in Cabarrus County this year – a 42-acre donated easement on a property on Coddle Creek Reservoir in Concord, and we assisted with the conservation of the Suther Prairie, which property was 78 acres in total. This prairie is a unique piece of land that offers a glimpse into what North Carolina looked like in pre-settlement times. The Land Trust has spent many years working with the Cabarrus Soil and Water Conservation District and the Plant Conservation Program and the Suther Family, and it is so exciting to see this property finally protected.
Every New Year brings new opportunities to conserve our beautiful region’s important natural resources. Looking ahead, in November the CWMTF awarded TRLT just over $1.2 million for three new projects that will hopefully close in 2019. I am fortunate to work with some incredible landowners who are willing to conserve their properties for future generations. We rarely take a moment to consider their generosity when we walk a tract of conserved land that has been transferred to a public agency, or drive past a beautiful protected farm on one of our region’s scenic byways. Hopefully the stories of how those tracts were protected by landowners who had a vision far ahead of the present will be preserved as well, and others will be encouraged to do the same.
Three Rivers Land Trust, formerly The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, has named Sam Parrott as their Membership and Outreach Director. The Land Trust, headquartered in Salisbury, has conserved more than 26,000 acres in 10 central North Carolina counties. “Sam joined the Land Trust in 2017 as the Membership and Outreach Associate and has since shown incredible dedication and responsiveness to conserving our region’s natural resources,” states Associate Director Michael Nye Fulk. “His natural ability to communicate with all outdoor enthusiasts is especially important as we ensure all demographics are represented in our conservation efforts. We are extremely fortunate to have him on our team.”
Sam began work as the Membership and Outreach Associate in January of 2017. He was born and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina and attended his hometown university, Wofford College, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and Business in the spring of 2015. Prior to the Land Trust, Sam worked with conservation organizations in the High Sonoran Desert of Arizona, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the Piedmont Region of South Carolina. Sam is passionate about conserving the Carolina’s natural resources, including its land, wildlife, and heritage. His focus has been on increasing membership and support for the Land Trust’s conservation work and programs while broadening the organization’s outreach efforts across the Land Trust’s 10-county footprint through county chapters. “I am honored to serve as Three Rivers Land Trust’s Membership and Outreach Director,” states Parrott. “The Carolina Piedmont is my home and my love for the outdoors was developed here. I feel extremely fortunate to be a leader in conserving this region’s natural resources.”
Whether it’s getting a big grant submitted, paying my monthly bills, answering my emails, cleaning up before guests arrive, or leaving for work on time, I’m not one of those people who can wait to the last minute to do something. I don’t know if I missed the procrastination gene, or if I’ve just learned over the years that its better to do things before they start to stress you out, but I would rather get it done than waste time thinking about doing it. If you’re like me, you’ve probably already bought most of your holiday gifts for this year. But if you haven’t, and your friend or loved one enjoys spending time outdoors, here are a few inexpensive possibilities that are useful and won’t end up in the closet gathering dust.
When it comes to those who enjoy hiking, there’s nothing better than a good pair of socks. A nice blend with a high percentage of wool will help keep your feet warm in cold months and prevent dreaded blisters from forming. When I’m backpacking, I’ve learned to always take an extra pair or two. Unless your shoes are Gore-Tex and you wear gaiters, it’s more likely than not that at some point your feet are going to get wet. Having an extra pair of socks to change into as you crawl into the sleeping bag and before the next day’s hike is an invaluable commodity.
Especially in these winter months, toboggans and gloves are welcome accessories, as well. One of the few things I know how to knit, a handmade toboggan makes a great gift that shows a personal investment of time and thought. One of my friends came up from Florida last year and joined me for a hike and lost her toboggan, so I was able to knit a new one for her and send it to her for a holiday gift.
This time of year with hunting season going on I frequently wear an orange toboggan when out in the woods. For the hunter on your list, you could pick up a camouflage toboggan or fleece facemask to keep the chill off while they spend hours in a deer stand. And you can never have too many pairs of gloves – I’m always misplacing one and looking for a set as I head out the door. Now I leave a pair in the car so I have them on cold drives to work in the mornings.
If your friend is an avid birdwatcher, there are a variety of inexpensive gifts you can pick out for them. Bird feeders and birdseed are good gift options for the backyard birder, but for someone who enjoys spotting them while on walks in the woods, a pair of inexpensive waterproof binoculars is a good option. Although you can of course spend a lot of money on binos, there are some really good ones out there for as little as $40. Having just a little bit of magnification can really help out when you’re tracking these quick flying creatures.
A lot of nature-oriented organizations also print yearly calendars that make great gifts for outdoors lovers, and it’s a wonderful way to give back to the charity of your choice. The organization I work for, Three Rivers Land Trust, has a calendar for the second year this year featuring scenic pictures by local photographers taken right here in the central Piedmont, available at www.threeriverslandtrust.org. The National Parks Foundation also puts out a popular calendar every year with proceeds benefiting our national parks.
Other great small gifts for the outdoors people in your life include headlamps, water bottles, mugs, multi-tools, a compass, or a trail guidebook. The best trail guide for this area is the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, second edition, by Don Childrey, available at www.donchildrey.com. A trail guide is a great gift that allows you to plan your next trip out to enjoy time together, which hopefully a few days off around the holidays allows everyone to do. The gift of time is the best gift of all, and sharing time outdoors provides memories you can cherish from year to year.
On Black Friday this year, instead of holiday shopping, I decided to spend several hours hiking with some friends. We met at the Roy J Maness Nature Preserve near Troy and hiked on the Densons Creek Nature Trail. This trail is approximately 4 miles in length, but we hiked about 3 miles of the trail then turned around and hiked back, so we covered about 6 miles in total. It was a brisk but sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed the trail and the company.
The trail starts from the parking lot of the nature preserve and you walk a few hundred yards down a paved trail on the edge of a pond. The pond is a nice spot for fishing or kayaking. There is a trail of about 1 mile in length that circles the pond, but we did not hike that trail on this day. We went to the left once we got in the woods off the paved path, and you almost immediately pass a small dam on the creek.
The first thing we noticed in this section of trail was the tremendous amount of sand under our feet. Surely the two hurricanes we experienced this fall brought Densons Creek way out of its banks to deposit all that sand. Not much further along you could see small trees and tall grass knocked over and leaves and other debris piled up on the standing small trees and bushes, another sign that the water must have really rushed through this area. Not too much farther along you go by an old railroad trestle.
This trail basically follows the creek for the entire length we went on it, and there are some areas with handrails and other spots with steps and still other places with small footbridges, and even a couple of benches so you can pause and take in the scenery. There are a few tree identification markers, too. The creek is clear and fast flowing, and there were lots of places you caught glimpses of beautiful cascades.
The trail is not difficult because there is not a lot of gain or loss in elevation, but it is not easy either, as there are lots of rocks and roots and leaves. In many places it is hard to keep a sure footing, and all three of us caught ourselves from falling several times. I did actually fall in one place where there were some slick rocks, but was no worse for the wear. I wondered about taking my trekking poles with me but I was glad I had them.
As we neared the place where we planned to turn around, there were some steep rocky banks on the far side of the creek, which really made it look like you are in the mountains – which you are, the Uwharrie Mountains of course. There is one particularly interesting rock outcrop that one of my friends was looking for and we had missed it on the way in, but it was easier to see on the way out, and we stopped there and took some pictures.
After we were done with our hike, and in the spirit of small business Saturday a day early, we did visit the Front Porch Pickin’ Vintage Emporium in Troy, and then I stopped by a friend’s pottery on the way to see my grandma in Seagrove and picked up a few of the last of my holiday gifts. All in all, I was much happier spending my time outside this year instead of fighting the holiday shoppers at the big box stores. I hope to make a black Friday hike an annual tradition.
Three Rivers Land Trust, formerly The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, is excited to announce that they have partnered to bring Major League Fishing, the number one rated show on the Outdoor Channel, to the lakes of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River watershed. Major League Fishing showcases 52 of the world’s top bass anglers.
Major League Fishing began in 2009 when anglers and the Outdoor Channel came together and found a shared goal of showing competitive fishing at the highest level. The result emerged as a made-for-television tournament series. According to Major League Fishing’s website, these groups “wanted fishing fans – and sports fans overall – to view professional competitive fishing in the same manner that they see in other sport organizations, such as the NFL, MLB, PGA, NASCAR, etc.”
“The anglers wanted fans to see the difficult, very real challenges that exist when pros try to outwit and outlast other competitors. They wanted to create a whole new game.” The anglers decided they wanted “to take fans inside competitor boats for an up-close examination of how a professional bass tournament truly looks and feels.” The first Major League Fishing event was filmed at Lake Amistad, Texas, in 2011 and aired on the Outdoor Channel in 2012.
During all days of competition, MLF Anglers will fish 7.5 hours that will be divided into three periods, with 30-minute intervals between the end of a period and the beginning of the following period. All MLF Events shall utilize the MLF term “scorable bass.” A scorable bass is any bass caught that weighs one (1) pound or greater. There is no limit to the number of scorable bass an MLF Angler can catch and record during an MLF Cup Event competition day. Use of nets and grippers for landing Bass is prohibited. Only artificial lures can be used. All Bass must be caught in a conventional sporting manner.
Three Rivers Land Trust jumped at the opportunity to partner with Major League Fishing and to bring the competition to the central Piedmont of North Carolina. Bringing this popular television show to the region not only highlights the importance of our conservation work but it also showcases regions water resources. In addition, this event will help promote local tourism opportunities and the local economy. The Doughnut Dinette in Albemarle and Morgan Ridge Vineyards in Rowan County are providing meals for the anglers and production staff while they are filming.
Local Tourism Development Authorities (TDA) and Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB) across the region partnered with the Land Trust to bring this event to the region. Local partners include the City of Albemarle, Stanly County CVB, Rowan County CVB, Montgomery County TDA, Richmond County TDA, Novant Health, and Cube Hydro Carolinas.
“This region boasts of more than 40,000 acres of water, making the lakes one of our largest natural resources. The locals have known for a while that the lakes have great fishing and now 52 of the country’s top anglers will learn just how amazing our lakes are! Not only do we get to show off our natural resources to the anglers but we also get to show our regions natural beauty to a nationwide audience!”, said Chris Lambert, Executive Director, Stanly County CVB.
One of the main reasons for inviting the show to the region was to showcase the lakes of the Yadkin-Pee Dee watershed to a national audience. The Land Trust continues to fundraise for the permanent conservation of 4,700 acres of land and 76 miles of shoreline on High Rock Lake and Tuckertown Reservoir. When these lands are acquired they will be owned in fee by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission where they will remain as public game lands in perpetuity. The Land Trust has raised $5.7 million of $7.7 million to purchase the High Rock lake lands and has until September of 2019 to raise the remainder.
“The lands along the Yadkin have been available to the public as gamelands for decades,” states Three Rivers Land Trust Executive Director Travis Morehead. “They provide incredible public access and critical forested river buffers that enhance the water quality of the lakes they surround. If we are unable to raise the necessary funds for the state to purchase them, that public access and excellent water quality could be lost,” Travis states.
If you enjoy hunting and fishing these lands, please consider making a donation to their acquisition by visiting www.threeriverslandtrust.org/alcoa-lands-conservation or calling the Land Trust office at 704-647-0302.
If you would like more information on how you can assist Three Rivers Land Trust in our mission to conserve special natural areas, family farms, rural landscapes and historic places in our ten-county region, please contact Crystal Cockman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-647-0302, or visit our website www.threeriverslandtrust.org today.
by Crystal Cockman
I was given a few days off this week for working a couple of weekends, so I took the opportunity one day to paddle a new location with a friend. We went to Lake Lucas in Asheboro. Lake Lucas is under the authority of the City of Asheboro and is operated by Asheboro Cultural and Recreation Services. It is a beautiful lake and much smaller than Lake Reese, which I paddled for the first time earlier this summer. In about 3 hours, we were able to paddle around pretty much the entire lake at Lake Lucas.
Lake Lucas is located at 3158 Old Lexington Road in Asheboro. It is open March 1 through November 15 from 7:00am to sunset, but is closed on Wednesdays. From November 16 through the end of February, it is open 8:00am to 5:00pm, and is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. To launch a kayak here, there is a daily canoe/kayak launch fee of $3.50 for nonresidents and $2.50 for city residents with a rec card. We brought our own kayaks for this trip, but if you don’t have your own, you can also rent canoes and kayaks at this location at a rate of $6 for a day for a city resident with a rec card and $10.00 for a non-resident. read more…
by Crystal Cockman
Back in 2007, I visited for the first time a very special place in Cabarrus County known by local conservationists and biologists as the Suther Prairie. This property has been in private ownership by the Ritchie and Suther family for over 200 years. The reason this site is so significant is because it is one of few, and perhaps the only, remaining natural Piedmont Prairie known to exist in our state.
Now this unique site has been formally protected through a partnership between the landowners, Cabarrus County, and the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. The prairie itself covers only about 8 acres, but the drainage area to the site was also an important part of the purchase, which in all was about 78 acres. read more…