Conservation Recreation

Hike the Bear Den with Foothills Conservancy

Bear Den viewed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Joye Ardyn Durham

By Natasha Anderson

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina will host a guided hike on a newly acquired property along the Blue Ridge Parkway in McDowell County on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. The tract includes streams, cascades and a prominent mountain ridge in close proximity to the Parkway’s spectacular Bear Den Overlook.

“We’re so pleased to offer this opportunity for the public to join us for a hike on this beautiful property,” said Beth Willard-Patton, development director for Foothills Conservancy. The hike is moderate after a short but steep descent, and is expected to take two to three hours. Participants are asked to wear appropriate footwear and pack water and snacks or lunch.

The conservancy purchased the 208-acre property from the Moody family, who owned the land for nearly 70 years and wanted to ensure its future preservation. The land trust’s acquisition was made possible by a gift of $898,000 from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, a $22,000 grant from Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and a $590,000 loan from CTNC’s Mountain Revolving Loan Fund, which is also underwritten by the Stanbacks. The loan fund enables land trusts to respond quickly when critical conservation properties become available.

“Protecting regional treasures like Bear Den and facilitating public access to them are big parts of our mission,” says Willard-Patton. “This project is a particularly great example with its location in the viewshed of the Parkway and proximity to other public lands.”

The Bear Den property adjoins both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest and contains more than one-and-a-half miles of streams that drain into Honeycutt Creek. In addition to preserving scenic views from the Parkway, the property’s purchase protects water quality in the Honeycutt Creek watershed in the Catawba Basin’s headwaters in McDowell County. Its acquisition further protects critical areas amidst a complex of federal, state and privately owned conservation lands along the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Spruce Pine.

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is a nationally accredited, nonprofit regional land trust based in Morganton. The conservancy works cooperatively with landowners and public/private conservation partners to preserve and protect significant natural areas and open spaces. The conservancy plans to transfer the Bear Den property to the National Park Service for addition to the Blue Ridge Parkway lands after raising additional public and private funds to retire the loan.

The hike is free to Foothills Conservancy members and costs $10 for nonmembers. RSVP is required by Tuesday, April 18, by calling 828.437.9930 or emailing bwillardpatton@foothillsconservancy.org. Hikers will meet and carpool to the trailhead. Additional details, including the meet-up location, will be provided to those who register. Learn more about Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina at foothillsconservancy.org.

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