Conservation Outdoors

Conservation: Undiscovered Country

Upper Catheys Creek. Photo by Owen Carson

Cameron Family Donates Large Parcel in Rutherford to Foothills Conservancy

By Emma Castleberry

Rob Messick and an old chestnut oak. Photo by Owen Carson

Long-time environmentalists David and Martha Cameron and their son Rob Messick have donated 222 acres of land in the Thermal City area of Rutherford County to Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina. The remaining land on the property, an additional 101 acres that contains two homeplaces, will be donated to the conservancy in the Cameron’s estate. “The landowner family’s donation is integral to the mission of Foothills Conservancy to help people preserve significant areas, natural resources and scenic vistas under their stewardship,” says Tom Kenney, land protection director for Foothills Conservancy.

David and Martha purchased the property as part of a group in 1978 and, after several shifts in ownership, eventually became the sole owners. “In 1978, it was still undiscovered country,” says David. “We figured it’d be a growth area for the rest of our lives. We were right.” The Camerons always intended to leave the land undeveloped. “Giving it to the Conservancy meant we could enjoy it in exactly the same manner as we have been for 40 years and other folks could enjoy it in a controlled, safe manner with trails,” David says.

(Left) Wild turkey nest with eggs; (Right) Pinxter azalea. Photos by Owen Carson

The Cameron property is mostly undeveloped forested land in a mountainous section of the county that borders private conservation lands. The headwaters of Catheys Creek flow across the property and the white irisette, a threatened and rare plant, grows there. “High-quality natural areas and significant habitats, like this land parcel, serve a community of native plants and animals,” says Kenney. “Projects like this provide shelter for species considered uncommon, rare or at-risk in our state and nation.”

In the next several years, Foothills Conservancy hopes to implement a hiking trail for public use on the property, which can connect to NC’s Wilderness Gateway State Trail. “The Conservancy hopes to have an opportunity in the future to transfer the land for a passive, nature-oriented park,” says Kenney.

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