ASHEVILLE, NC (Oct. 26, 2018)—Nine hundred acres of habitat-rich land in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are now permanently protected and open to the public, thanks to grant support from the Open Space Institute (OSI) to Conserving Carolina. The property scores as highly climate-resilient, meaning that it will continue to serve as a haven for sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes.
The “Little White Oak Mountain” property is named after a mountain on the property which rises more than 2,300 feet and is a local scenic landmark. Approximately 13 miles of streams flow through the property and into White Oak Creek and the Green River. The land, which was once slated for development, also harbors an endangered wildflower, the white irisette.
OSI supported protection of the land through its Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which has protected nearly 6,000 acres in the region since 2017.
“The conservation of Little White Oak Mountain demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said OSI executive vice president Peter Howell. “OSI is proud to have supported this project and we applaud Conserving Carolina, whose dedication, perseverance, and ingenuity saved this property for the residents of Polk County.”
Conserving Carolina transferred 600 acres to the state Wildlife Resources Commission to expand the Green River Game Lands and 300 acres to Polk County, for a local park. The land added to the Game Lands, including the summit of Little White Oak Mountain, will also be open to the public for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor activities.
The local park will connect to the county’s recreation complex, next to Polk County Middle School. Plans for the park include a network of seven to 10 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking — the first mountain biking trails in Polk County.
“We are very excited about the plans for the Polk County park at Little White Oak,” said Todd Murphy, the principal of Polk County Middle School. “Our students will benefit through hands-on learning experiences. Our classroom teachers will have access to the park for outdoor learning activities. Our clubs and athletic teams will also benefit through the use of the multi-use trail system.”
In addition to OSI, other donors to the project included Fred and Alice Stanback, Polk County, the NC Wildlife Commission, the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration program. Local donors also contributed $130,000 to protect the mountain.