VALLE CRUCIS and BOONE, NC – The Mast General Store celebrates Land Trust Day with the Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) at the Original Store and Annex and the National Committee for the New River (NCNR) in Boone on Saturday, June 1st. Recognized for the eleventh year at Mast Store, Land Trust Day is a friend-raising event encouraging new memberships in local land trusts as well as an educational opportunity to learn how these groups are preserving our land heritage.
According to the Land Trust Alliance, “Saving land has given America the chance to know itself again. When we look into the mirror of our national identity, we can now see farms, urban gardens, historic sites, mountains and rivers—not just strip malls, bulldozers and traffic jams. Through land conservation, we give people the opportunity to taste something of what it is like to be authentically human: children rolling in the grass of an urban park; a grandfather teaching his granddaughter the quiet art of fishing; a fifth-generation farmer growing vegetables on his family’s homestead—nourishing his community with both fresh food and a farm stand where neighbors gather. We set out to save land, but, in the end, we build community, preserve beauty and instill hope.”
The land trust movement is not new. Some land trusts have been in place for over a century. In the past five years, the amount of land protected by local and regional land trusts has doubled nationwide.
Over the last 20 years, the Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) has permanently protected 16,000 acres of land in 180 places throughout northwestern North Carolina. BRC partners with private farmland owners to voluntarily protect working and productive farms. Annually monitoring 130 conservation easements allow farmers to continue working their land while ensuring it remains farmland forever. These farms remain in private ownership, can be sold, passed to heirs and remain on county tax rolls.
In addition to farmland preservation, the BRC also added 400 acres to Pond Mountain State Game Land for a total of 2,400 acres protected and added five acres to an existing conservation easement along the Watauga River in Valle Crucis.
In 2012, NCNR completed an extensive restoration and conservation easement project along Old Fields Creek, a high quality trout stream and tributary of the South Fork New River in Fleetwood, NC. The stream banks had been scoured for many years by waters rising from storm water runoff and from lack of woody shrubs and trees on some of its banks. For over a decade, various agencies tried to fund restoration of the creek where it meets the South Fork. NCNR was finally successful in securing funding from several public sources as well as the landowners to stabilize the creek.
The highly eroded vertical banks were stabilized, structures were installed in the stream to keep the main flow of the water in the center of the stream, and native plants and shrubs were planted along the banks to provide root mass to keep the bank from eroding and shade the water, keeping it cool for fish. The entire project area is now protected with permanent conservation easements ensuring that this popular trout stream, where it meets the New River, will remain as is for generations to come.
“Maintaining a good balance of open space is important to the vitality of any community and to its residents’ quality of life,” said Fred Martin, president of Mast General Store. “These open spaces provide opportunities for recreation, food production, safe water supplies, and leisure enjoyment…all of which contribute not only to the physical wellbeing of a community, but also its economic vitality.”
Representatives from the Blue Ridge Conservancy will be on hand at the Original Mast Store and Annex in Valle Crucis on Saturday, June 1st, to share with guests the activities they are undertaking to conserve the open spaces in the region. Volunteers from the National Committee for the New River will be at the Mast Store in Boone to share information about their activities that encompass three states. The Mast General Store will donate 20 percent of sales on that Saturday to the land trust activities of these two organizations. Visit the websites – www.blueridgeconservancy.org and www.ncnr.org – for more information on current projects and membership.