Tourists Keep Enjoying the View
A brilliant fall day and the bright hues of peak leaf season provided a fitting backdrop as the Conservation Trust for North Carolina announced a major and long-sought conservation success – the protection of 1,488 acres of prime Blue Ridge Parkway landscapes.
The property is owned by CSX Corp., which worked with CTNC and other partners for more than six and a half years to complete a conservation agreement that will keep the land in its beautiful, natural state forever. It includes 1.5 miles of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, as well as pristine mountain streams, mature forests and vital wildlife habitat.
State Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who represents McDowell County, where the property is located, called the deal “a win-win all around.”
“The protection of this property is a wonderful public-private partnership that saves the natural and cultural heritage of this region from hundreds of years ago,” he said. “And since the land will still be owned by CSX Corp., they’ll continue to pay taxes and employ local people, supporting our local economy.”
Safeguarding the scenery has tangible economic benefits: protection of jobs and promotion of tourism, a $17 billion industry – the state’s second-largest after agriculture – that employs 200,000 people.
Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis cited surveys that indicate scenery is the primary draw for most Parkway visitors – nearly 20 million people per year who contribute more than $2 billion to the regional economy. The year 2010 may be even better as the Parkway marks the 75th anniversary of the start of its construction.
“Protection of this property is critical to the future of the Blue Ridge Parkway, because it’s the spectacular views that keep bringing people here,” Francis said.
He also praised the inclusion of part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, the route followed by Revolutionary War militia on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780.
The official trail, managed by the National Park Service, runs through Tennessee, Virginia and North and South Carolina. Fewer than 60 miles are open for hiking.
The 1.5 miles of hiking trail on the CSX property has special historic value because the section is believed to be one of the few footpaths that follow the original route taken by the colonial soldiers.
“Once we are able to open it to the public, people will be able to actually walk in the footsteps of the patriots who came this way in 1780,” said Paul Carson, superintendent of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
CTNC has protected a total of more than 30,000 acres in 40 places along the Parkway, and hopes through its partnerships, such as the one with CSX Corp., it can continue to safeguard historic, breathtaking views for future generations to cherish forever.
Published June 2010
Photo by Rusty Painter, Conservation Trust for North Carolina