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Park land around Jeffress Park set to expand

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Last Updated on April 19, 2023 1:31 pm

Conservation Trust for North Carolina recently purchased 408 acres of forestland near the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 421 at Deep Gap. The property adjoins the Parkway between milepost 272 (Cascades Parking Area) and 273.5 near Elk Mountain Overlook, at E.B. Jeffress Park.

This land adjoins the Blue Ridge Parkway along its western and northern boundaries and is located just below Tompkins Knob Overlook, near the Cascades Trail and E.B. Jeffress Park picnic area. It lies along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, with its higher elevations visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and parts of the popular Cascades hiking trail. It also provides a natural buffer for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway along the northern boundary of the property and the 0.6-mile Tompkins Knob trail to Tompkins Knob Overlook above the property.

This latest acquisition builds on continuing efforts to expand public land around Jeffress Park, named for a native North Carolinian who was instrumental in routing the Blue Ridge Parkway through Western NC. This newly protected property is a key part of CTNC and Blue Ridge Conservancy’s conservation work in this area. Jeffress Park is the largest block of protected land along the 55-mile stretch of Parkway between Moses Cone Park and Doughton Park. Millions of visitors to the Parkway (locals and tourists) will benefit from the expansion of this ‘conservation node’ that’s a popular destination for tourists and locals from Boone, North Wilkesboro, and Winston-Salem.

Expansion of protected land along the Blue Ridge Parkway enhances its importance and effectiveness as a south-to-north habitat migration corridor, enabling plants and animals seeking cooler climates to migrate to northern latitudes. This property also allows species to move upward from the foothills to cooler sites at higher elevations. The permanently protected forests on this property will continue to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Protection of headwater streams will help mitigate the impacts of downstream flooding during heavy rain events.

This conservation achievement was made possible by the generosity of the landowners who donated a portion of land value that reduced the overall purchase cost. This reduction enabled CTNC to purchase the property and secure another win for America’s most popular National Park unit.

We look forward to transferring this property to the National Park Service. With three other nearby and adjoining properties already transferred to the park service by CTNC, and another pending conveyance of 72 acres by Blue Ridge Conservancy, the amount of public land around E.B. Jeffress Park will collectively almost double.

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