Blue Ridge Conservancy Protects Key Tract of Grandfather Mountain Ridgeline; Transfers Ownership to NC State Parks

Two years ago Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) acquired some of the most significant land on Grandfather Mountain in order to ensure the protection of the entire ridgeline. This October BRC transferred ownership of the 211 acres to Grandfather Mountain State Park. North Carolina State Parks considers this land ‘critical’ in its acquisition plans and now it will be managed by Grandfather Mountain State Park.

“Land protection in the Greater Grandfather Mountain Conservation Area has long been a priority of Blue Ridge Conservancy,” said Charlie Brady, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Conservancy. “This particular tract was targeted for acquisition approximately nine years ago. Transferring the land to State Parks so that it may be enjoyed by all the citizens of our state is an achievement to be celebrated.”

The land is located high on the northeast end of the mountain bordering Grandfather Mountain State Park and the National Park Service’s Julian Price Memorial Park. Grandfather Mountain is globally significant and is a unit of the United Nations’ Southern Appalachian Man and Biosphere Reserve. It is home to 16 different natural communities, or assemblages of ecological settings, including geology, soils, climate, and natural disturbance processes, along with the plants and animals inhabiting them. Several of these natural communities occur within the mixed hardwoods, hemlock and spruce-fir forests, steep slopes, and exposed rocks on the property with elevations over 5,000 feet. The acquisition also protects three rare plants including the Trailing Wolfsbane, Roan Mountain Bluet and Heller’s Blazing Star. The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program ranks this area 10 out of 10 in the Biodiversity Wildlife Habitat Assessment. Several headwater springs on the property flow from high off the mountain into the Watauga River.

The North Carolina Audubon Society has Grandfather identified as an Important Bird Area to monitor and protect significant bird populations. In the fall of every year the mountain is one of the locations used to count thousands of hawks and other raptors that migrate down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Grandfather Mountain State Park was created in 2009 to preserve this iconic mountain for future generations. The state park is 2,500 acres and includes 12 miles of hiking trails and Calloway Peak, the highest point in the Blue Ridge. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation manages the attractions including the mile high swinging bridge.

“The opportunity to protect and preserve such a valuable property is important to the State Park system. There are no immediate management plans for the tract,” said Sue McBean, Superintendent of Grandfather Mountain State Park.

Funding for the acquisition was provided by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Park and Recreation Trust Fund and a donation by Fred and Alice Stanback. Due to the generosity of the Stanbacks, Blue Ridge Conservancy sold the tract to North Carolina State Parks for approximately one quarter less than the appraised fair market value.

To date, BRC has protected 20,807 acres in 231 places. 13,607 acres in 144 conservation easements and 7,200 acres in fee simple land acquisitions.