Barber Farm II

The LandTrust is pleased to announce its participation in the establishment of the “Joyce Ann Barber Heritage Forest and Wildlife Perserve” on the Historic Barber Farm in Western Rowan County. This 70 acre mature hardwood forest has been protected with a very restrictive conservation easement that will ensure that the forest remains in a natural state in perpetuity. Rebecca Barber Floyd and Joyce Ann Barber grew up on the historic Barber Farm in the Barber community, and they had previously donated a conservation easement ensuring that their property would not be developed or subdivided in any way. However, the easement did permit commercial forestry operations. Joyce Ann and Rebecca decided they did not want the dense forest to ever be harvested.

When Joyce Ann Barber fell ill in late 2012, Rebecca Barber Floyd decided to move forward with protecting the forest in honor of her sister. Rebecca recounts, “Joyce Ann loved this farm so much, and she loved animals. She wanted to ensure that not only the farm, but also the forest, would continue to exist for future generations to get the same pleasure out of it that she had experienced.” Charles Floyd, husband of Rebecca and brother-in-law of Joyce Ann, noted “While the forest is really beautiful today, in 100 years, it will really be something unique in the state. I am really proud of Becky for her vision in making this commitment.”

Brown Farm

2001’s largest protected tract of land came through the generosity and concern of the family of Charles Brown of Rowan County. A telling of the Brown Family story reveals both a keen awareness of the necessity for conservation as well as a heart-warming story of a father’s dying wish.

During the year 2000 hunting season, Charles Brown III and his brother Arthur Brown made a commitment to one another that their family farm near Cleveland, NC would remain in its current natural and undeveloped state for generations to come. Regrettably, the two brothers would not have an opportunity to act upon their wishes together for Charles would meet his untimely passing just a couple of months later.

This past summer, in an effort to fulfill their father’s wish, Thomas Brown and Christina Snipes, in collaboration with their Uncle Arthur, have accomplished that which Charles could not. The Brown Family placed a conservation easement on their 250 acre family farm in Western Rowan County. This easement will insure the protection of their beautiful farmland and natural habitat along Third Creek.

The property protected by the Brown Family is distinguished by rolling hills, large pastures, an extended forest, scenic bluffs, and a stand out of Young’s Mountain. It also boasts significant frontage along third Creek, a major tributary of the South Yadkin. Andy Abramson, Director of Land Protection with LandTrust for Central NC noted, “the Brown’s donation to conservation is quite remarkable. Not only have they eliminated a tremendous tract of land from developmental consideration, but they have also acted as a wonderful role model for their neighbors.” With the Browns as the catalyst, two other landowners (including family members) in the immediate vicinity are considering making the same commitments on their land. If these landowners follow suit as expected, it will result in almost 350 acres receiving permanent protection, which would constitute the largest permanently protected tract in western Rowan County.

Barber Farm

Utilizing the North Carolina Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina assisted in the permanent preservation of two active family farms, representing 335 acres, in the past several months.

The first project completed (which was briefly mentioned in our last newsletter) came through the dedication of sisters Rebecca Barber Floyd and Joyce Ann Barber who acted to protect their family’s legacy farm in Cleveland, North Carolina near Barber Junction. Protecting this 242 acre National Register Historic Landmark in Rowan County reached “High Priority” status the moment it was introduced to The LandTrust in 1997. The farm truly allows for a step back in time – a living museum demonstrative of agricultural landscapes and equipment from days gone by. The pastoral beauty of the farm is matched only by the striking splendor of the mid-19th century home-place lovingly restored by Rebecca and Joyce Ann.

Executive Director Jason Walser noted, “Protection of the Barber Farm is an incredible victory for us. Not only have we preserved an important piece of Rowan County history with this project, we have also protected prime agricultural soils, scenic vistas enjoyed from Highways 70 and 801, important wildlife habitat, and a significant riparian buffer along Witherow’s Creek. In a way this project encapsulates all that the LandTrust is about – farmland, natural area, cultural heritage, and water quality conservation.”

While the use of the North Carolina Farmland Preservation Trust Fund does pay the landowners are still donating a much greater value than what they are receiving. That is, the value of what they give up far exceeds that amount of money they receive – typically by 70-90%.

Another interesting aspect of this project is that The LandTrust was also able to utilize funds from the Federal Farmland Preservation Program of the USDA. With help from the local Natural Resource Conservation Service, we were able to put together the first successful federal funds into Piedmont North Carolina for farmland preservation. Since the new Farm Bill allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to Farmland Preservation, this successful project utilizing both state and federal sources bodies well for our ability to tap into these funds again in the future. In fact, we will be reporting in the next newsletter about receiving a huge allocation from the federal program for this year as well, although details were not available as of press time for this publication.

To date, The LandTrust has accomplished 5 projects employing the state and federal farmland preservation programs. Combined, these two programs have helped us ensure the permanent protection of 934 acres. Due to current budget constraints the immediate future of the state program is uncertain. However, the LantTrust is optimistic the outlook will eventually improve and we will continue to move forward in preserving the southern Piedmont’s finest family farms.

Webster Family Farm

Don and Betsy Webster own a 40-acre farm in “downtown” Mount Ulla, the agricultural community located near the Rowan and Iredell County lines. The farm’s location also means that they are very close to the Mooresville/Lake Norman region, which consistently ranks among the fastest growing areas in the nation. Given their love for the property and concern about the encroaching development, the Websters have taken the necessary steps to protect their property by donating a conservation easement to The LandTrust.

The Webster’s farm is not your typical corn and soybean landscape as you might expect. Their combined love of animals has led them to open up a “retirement home” for llamas. They now have about 15 of the peaceful creatures roaming their pastures. Elsewhere they have numerous bird feeders where they enjoy watching their feathered friends. In addition, their barn cat, Misty, and family dog, Peanut, have the run of the place.

Though they’ve been retired since the mid-1980’s, they stay plenty busy. They operate a regional flower business, Mount Ulla Gardens, using flowers grown on their farm. They have also restored their home, which was originally built back in 1917.

Don and Betsy’s donation means that future generations will always be able to enjoy the scenic beauty of the farm. Despite all the growth that is rapidly coming their way, they wanted to protect their farm from being subdivided and paved over. The LandTrust is very pleased to have been able to help Don and Betsy protect their lovely piece of Mt. Ulla farm land.

Catawba College Ecological Preserve Expansion

As a boy, LandTrust Board Member John Wear, Jr. enjoyed the wild & rugged country along the South Yadkin River. It was here that Dr. Wear, now Director of the Catawba College Center for the Environment, discovered his passion for the outdoors, from camping out on a bluff overlooking the South Yadkin, to floating down the river face-down in a canoe to observe wildlife up close. This love of nature eventually led Dr. Wear to devote his life to protecting the environment and teaching others to do the same.

Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, this property will now be preserved as at the Catawba College South Yadkin River Wildlife Refuge. With matching funds from Fred & Alice Stanback, the Salisbury Community Foundation, the Cannon Foundation, the Proctor Foundation, and ongoing fundraising efforts, the property was purchased in December from Mr. Joe Stirewalt, owner of Piedmont Hardwood Lumber Co. Located along a tremendous bend of the South Yadkin River, the refuge will protect over 1.5 miles of river frontage, part of the Second Creek Wetlands (identified by Dr. Mike Baranski in his Natural Areas Inventory of Rowan County), and  nearly 300 acres of significant wildlife habitat. Equally important will be the use of the property by Catawba College’s Center for the Environment for the teaching of wildlife management and related topics such as ornithology, botany and ecology.

It seems only fitting that the place that inspired John Wear as a child will now be an integral part of the Catawba College Center for the Environment, a place that he and others have worked so hard to establish as a model for environmental education.

The LandTrust must raise additional funds to cover the total costs of the land purchase, which will be included as part of a larger campaign to finance the continued conservation efforts of The LandTrust. You can help us protect this important regional asset. Please send your tax-deductible gift to The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, PO Box 4284, Salisbury, NC 28145-4284.

Young Tract

Larry and Betty Young had been noticing The LandTrust’s acquisition of properties around their acre farm in northern Rowan County for several years. Most notably, they were excited when we purchased the acre South Yadkin Refuge for Catawba College in 1999 for purposes of establishing an outdoor learning laboratory for undergraduate students. This property abuts theirs directly to the north. They were thrilled to learn that the property would be protected against development and would retain its natural beauty for generations to come.

Then they found that we were purchasing the Crowther property that adjoined them to the south for purchases of protection, and they were even more excited. They knew that their beautiful and secluded property was going to forevermore be buffered against intensive development thanks to our acquisitions on two sides of their property.

Thus, when they began contemplating a sale of part of their property, they approached former LandTrust Board President and Director of the Catawba Center for the Environment John Wear about the possibility of incorporating their land in the outdoor learning laboratory concept. They offered to sell 28 acres of their property for the same price we had paid per acre for the adjoining tracts to provide connectivity between our two parcels. Without acquisition of this parcel, the only connection between the two tracts was a public game land area owned by Alcoa which was not available for purchase. Thus, the Young property provides a bridge between the 300 acre Catawba Refuge tract and the nearly 200 acre Crowther parcel, creating a 530 acre contiguous ecological preserve, learning center, and potential recreational corridor.

The land that the Young’s sold to The LandTrust is approximately 80% forested in mature mixed hardwoods. The remainder is currently in hay production and is extremely rich in native wildlife. The LandTrust intends to provide a hike on this property sometime this coming spring to show off its importance. The LandTrust feels very fortunate to have the support of friends and neighbors like the Youngs in continuing progress toward large scale contiguous conservation projects. We are hopeful that we will be successful in acquiring additional contiguous properties in the core of our “Two Rivers Preserve” conservation area at the confluence of the Yadkin and South Yadkin Rivers in Rowan, Davie, and Davidson Counties.

South Yadkin Wildlife Refuge

For more than five years, the LandTrust has been working with the Bittinger family to ensure protection of their 370 acre farm along the Yadkin River just north of the City of Salisbury’s water intake. Thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Clean water Management Trust Fund, The LandTrust was able to purchase the farm this past winter to protect its nearly one mile riverfront  buffer, its naturally significant bluffs, its mature hardwood forests, and about 80 acres of fertile hay fields.

This property jumped on the radar screen of The LandTrust in 1999 after its purchase of the 300 acre Catawba College Wildlife refuge property along the South Yadkin River. We quickly realized that there were several large tracts of undeveloped land in the immediate vicinity that also had remarkable wildlife resources. The Bittinger property, with its dense forests and river frontage, quickly became a top priority as we crafted what soon became a “Two Rivers Preserve” Strategic Conservation Plan. Conservations took place with the Bittinger Family, who had been incredible stewards of the property for the previous four decades. Dr. Isabelle Bittinger, who is a retired physician in Winston Salem, already knew that this corridor was special and agreed that it should be protected if possible. She and her daughters worked patiently and lovingly with The LandTrust to make sure that the bountiful wildlife and special natural areas of the property would forevermore be protected.

Jason Walser, Executive Director noted that this property is one of the premier outright acquisitions The LandTrust has ever made. “With extensive frontage along the Yadkin River just above Salisbury- Rowan water intake, this property needed to be protected in order to preserve the drinking water supply. It also sits adjacent to the Davis farm which was protected with a conservation easement last summer, and is bounded by only the other property that we hope to have protected in the not so distant future. Truly, this property represents just about everything The LandTrust is about – preservation of water quality, the incredible wildlife habitat, some working farm-land, and remarkable natural areas.”

Peter Hairston, Board President of The LandTrust and resident of Davie County added that “This property is in the heart of what is probably the most important natural area in our county. When combined with the other properties The LandTrust has helped protect in the immediate vicinity, it’s exciting to think that we may have more than 1000 acres of land managed exclusively for wildlife habitat and water quality. This Bitenger acquisition is a crown jewel in what I think will be one of the most important natural areas in all of Piedmont North Carolina.”

The LandTrust hopes to work with a variety of state and federal resource agencies to assist in the long term management of the Bitenger property for wildlife. In the interim, Catawba College Environment science students are already using the site for outdoor study along with their nearby 300 acre wildlife refuge.

 

Dunn’s Mountain

The area known as Dunn’s Mountains (Dunn Mountain by some accounts) just east of Salisbury is one of Rowan County’s most special places. Not only is it the second highest point in the county, but it is also one of the county’s most botanically interesting places.

A great diversity of plants can be found there, including parts of ecological communities known as Granite Flatrock, Piedmont Monadnock Forest, and Flatrock Woodland Glades. The flatrock communities are unique to areas of out cropped granite such as occur sporadically in small areas in the Piedmont of the southeastern United States. Many of the vascular plants are endemic to these communities; that is, they are found only in these communities of restricted occurrence. Flatrock communities, in general, are imperiled because of their rarity and vulnerability.

Granite outcrops have been heavily exploited by the quarrying industry in Rowan County for many years. Very little intact natural flatrock supporting viable outcropped communities exist in Rowan County and the region. Dunn’s Mountain has suffered the impacts of several massive quarrying operations (most recently, in the late 1990s), widespread dumping of trash, rock-building, establishment of exotic species, and clear cut logging. Despite this high level of past disturbance, the mountain still supports some of the best examples of outcropped communities in Rowan County and The Piedmont , and it is also home to several species of rare plants.

Some of the rare endemic species that occur there include elf orpine ( Diamorpha smallii), fame- flower (Talinum teretifolium), sandwort(Arenaria species), in southern anemone (Anemone berlandieri). Also found there are several species that are more typically at home in the Coastal Plain,suggested an interesting affinity to that region. A few rare species previously reported for the mountain have not been seen since the early 1970s and may be extirpated. A number of the above species are included on state and federal lists of rare species.

Time heals wounds in nature. Natural succession proceeds slowly on bare rock and thin soils, but given enough time, and maybe some effort at restoration, much of the mountain should eventually recover and support good representative natural communities. Some of the quarrying scars will remain, however, and will probably not be recovered in any time frame that humans can imagine.

Dunn’s Mountain has been visited and studied by biologists since by at least the 1950s. We have a decent record of biological information about the mountain. In 1994, I ranked Dunn’s Mountains among the top seven sites in Rowan County deserving protection for their natural area value. One of my students, Wes Knapp, completed an update on the biological status of Dunn’s Mountain in 2001 and concluded that it still contains enough elements of natural significance to make it worthy of protection efforts.  At least 154 species of vascular plants have now been recorded for Dunn’s Mountains, making it one of the most botanically diverse small areas in the county. But, even more significant is the fact that the mountain represents the largest remaining complex of granite outcroppings and associated habitats in Rowan County.

Crowther Farm

On a brisk fall day, Milton Crowther guides me on a tour around his property. After making our way through a dense bottomland forest with 100 year old oaks and sycamores reaching the clouds, we head to a farm fields.”These here are some of the finest tomatoes you’ll find in the county,” he says.”Since we’re so close to the water here, we have never been affected by the drought- a bumper crop year after year.” We move on to a sea of green and yellow.”Here, take some of these zucchini and squash with you. Oh there’s nothing like fresh picked vegetables.” Loaded up with more Vegetables than my wife Meredith (a vegetarian) and I will ever be able to eat, we head back to the house to chat.

In 1955, the New England native relocated to Salisbury to work as a chemical Engineer for proctor Chemical Company. With a keen interest in birds and wildlife, and a yearning to be surrounded by nature, the chemist and his wife Louise were drawn to a lush forest of 215 acres just ten minutes from down- town Salisbury. Another unique characteristic of the property that drew the Crothers to the site was the 1.5 miles of frontage along the South Yadkin River.

This feature is also what first caught the attention of The Land Trust. With our ongoing effort to promote water quality in this region, the densely forested river shoreline is extremely significant, especially in light of the fact that the Salisbury pump station, that supplies drinking water to much of Rowan County, lies adjacent. But the site is also ecologically significant for the functioning wetlands it is home to, as well as the locally significant “Pickler’s Bluff” (as identified by Dr. Michael Baranski in his natural area inventory of Rowan County.)

Another key factor that attracted the interest of The Land Trust to the property was its proximity to another permanently protected site on the river. The Crowther tract is situated just two small tracts to the south of the 300 acre South Yadkin Refuge purchased by The Land Trust in 1999. These two protected tracts will guarantee a 3.5 mile nearly continuous buffer along the South Yadkin River. And not only does this property represent the end of residential encroachment on the South Yadkin River at the water pump station, but the impressive hardwood forest hosts a unique variety of wildlife, game, and migratory and native waterfowl. In fact Milton, an avid birder, also participated in the inaugural turkey production program in the 1980s and 1990s which ultimately saw the release of countless turkeys into the wild. Today, Milton’s birds are known to inhibit many tracts in Rowan, Davie, and Davidson counties. And if you visit the Crowther Farm today, you’ll still see an eclectic collection of jungle fowl, Toulouse geese, multiple species of pheasant (Japanese Green, Silver, and Elliot), wood duck, peacocks, and numerous dove species.

Back at the house Milton says,” I’ve seen what’s gone on around us in some places and I just don’t want that to happen here. It’s too beautiful.” Speaking of the clear cut forests and unsightly development that has sprung up nearby, Milton and Louise want assurances that their land…their home, will be preserved for future generations.

These considerations lead the Crowthers to graciously sell the property to The Land Trust, so as to effectively extend the boundaries of the South Yadkin Refuge to 515 acres.

The Crowther’s steadfast commitment to conservation and preservation is matched only by the immense ecological value their land provides to the region. We are very fortunate to have them as part of The Land Trust family and cannot over-state our eternal gratitude for their cooperation and willingness to collaborate on this critical land protection effort.

This project is being made possible through a generous grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the late Elizabeth Stanback. Details of the large “Two Rivers” project grant from the Clean Water management Trust fund will be discussed more fully in the next newsletter when other exciting projects are publicly revealed.

Alexander Long Farm

Another protection project in Rowan County involved the enlargement of the previously protected Alexander Long House in Spencer. Tommy Thomas and his wife, Dr. Barbara Thomas, owners of the historic home, purchased an additional 33 acres situated adjacent to their existing tract.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1792, the residence is believed to be the second oldest residential structure in Rowan County constructed in 1783 and the one time home to famed Salisbury Confederate Prison doctor, Alexander Long.

“We were very excited to learn that we could enlarge the protected site to a total of 68 acres. The more natural and open space we can permanently protect around the 18th century historic home the better,” said Tommy Thomas regarding their recent addition.

Along with extending the buffer around the home, the easement also protects significant wildlife habitat and serves as a safeguard for water quality, as the property is adjacent to Grant’s Creek near its confluence with the Yadkin River. The Alexander Long House, once the seat of a several hundred acre plantation is the second oldest house in the county, built in 1783.

Earnhardt Property

Also in Rowan county, Harold Earnhardt, his wife, Helen, and children Mark Earnhardt, Cristy Mc Kinney, and Leslie Hedrick, took measures to insure their property will forevermore look as it does today. The 130 acre property on Potneck Road, which is now protected by a restrictive conservation Easement, includes a thick forest consisting of a mixture of hardwoods and pine trees, a large lowland meadow, a significant wetland area, beautiful steep bluffs, and a small stream feeding into Second Creek, a tributary to the South Yadkin River.

“We’re very happy to be able to participate in land conservation at the local level. With natural wild spaces disappearing at such a rapid rate, the time is now to protect what we still have left,” said Harold Earnhardt.

Director of land Protection, Andy Abramson noted, “The Earnhardt Family is to be commended for their contribution to Rowan County. Their property is going to protect substantial wildlife habitat and will also have a significant positive impact on water quality for the region.” According to Abramson, the property has over 4000 feet of frontage along Second Creek that will now remain in its natural state, thanks to a very restrictive easement that provides a 300 foot vegetated buffer to the creek.

“The Earnhardt tract is yet another key piece to a larger puzzle we continue to work on. It is of great importance as it lays adjacent to two properties previously protected by County Commissioner Steve Blount and his wife Melanie, and Dr. Donald Lomax and his wife Marie,” said Jason Walser, Executive Director at The landTrust. With this most recent addition there now exists over 325 acres of contiguously protected land on Potneck road and along Second Creek next to Alcoa gamelands and just upstream from 300 acre Catawba College wildlife Refuge.

Fox Farm

The 690 acre Fox Farm purchase is our most recent Two Rivers Preserve success, one which we are particularly excited about for a number of reasons. This peninsula property not only represents one of the largest privately held tracts of land in Rowan County, but also houses a rare 14 acre perennial floodplain pool. This unique hydrologic occurrence is believed to have resulted from a major flooding event which caused a shift in the normal flow of Fourth Creek. The natural pond is also the reason the site was listed as a statewide significant property in the Natural Heritage Inventory for Rowan County, North Carolina, performed and written by Dr. Michael J. Baranski page 111-112 (1994).

The floodplain pool hosts a variety of resident and migratory waterfowl and at one time accommodated a pair of nesting bald eagles. In the past, both the sensitive pool and extensive river frontage have been available to 100-200 head of cattle that roamed the pastures and entered the river for drinking and bathing. With the LandTrust’s acquisition of the site, this practice will end, which will result in an immediate reduction of fecal coliform entering the river, as well as improved stabilization of previously degraded stream banks.

Historically, the Fox Farm served a variety of functions. Prior to its most recent use as a cattle farm, Fox Lumber Company managed the site for timber production. In the early 1950s and prior, the site was owned by Erwin Mills Corporation, the original lifeblood to the Town of Cooleemee. Fortunately, the most recent owners, Conley and Belle Fox, were willing to work with the LandTrust to insure that both the historical and natural integrity of the site will be preserved for the future.

Protecting the Fox Farm and all other Two Rivers Preserve projects have been the product of a coordinated effort including public awareness and education campaigns, identification of key parcels of land, and nurturing relationships with landowners. To this end, The LandTrust recently hosted several regional meetings held in Rowan, Davie, and Davidson to inform area residents of the importance of land and water conservation in the Two Rivers Preserve area. Many of the latest Two Rivers Preserve projects now on the table have come about from these well attended meetings.

Grant’s Creek

Grant’s Creek flows through the heart of Rowan County. Originating near Landis, the Creek bisects China Grove, Salisbury, and Spencer before emptying into High Rock Lake. Previous years have witnessed the decline of the Creek’s water quality to critical levels. DENR’s Division of Water Quality lists Grant’s Creek as threatened due to both fecal coli form and turbidity. Today, there is hope that Grant’s Creek will be restored and protected into the future.

After hiring Rowan County native Kevin Redding to spearhead the now 2 year old Grant’s Creek Corridor project, the LandTrust completed its first purchase of property last fall. This 50 acre tract, formerly owned by Clyde Hall, was originally identified as a cornerstone for the entire project. Through the coorporation of Mr. Hall, the Land Trust was able to permanently protect over a mile of Grant’s Creek riparian buffer. The property houses a dense stand of bottomland vegetation and provides an invaluable buffer against adjacent development. Our sincere thanks go out to Mr. Hall for his patience and cooperation in the protection of this land.

A few other Grant Creek projects completed in 2001 were made possible through the assistance of Mr. & Mrs. Mike Rusher, Mr. & Mrs. Rodney Owens and Rowan county. Together, they represent 60 acres fronting the Rowan County waterway that are now permanently protected.

The Grant’s Creek restoration and protection project is an ongoing restoration effort made possible through a $2.2 million dollar grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. To date, approximately 25,000 feet of creek frontage have been protected with another 30,000 expected to come under protection in the next several months.

Michael Braun House

The Rowan Museum recently donated a conservation easement on the historic Michael Braun House and the more than twenty-two acres surrounding it. The Michael Braun House, which is also known as “Old Stone House”, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1766 by German immigrant Michael Braun, it is widely considered the oldest house in the county. In the 1950s the home was in desperate need of repair when the Rowan County Museum stepped in and began a six year overhaul which resulted in a magnificently restored treasure. This site is open for tours on weekends. The structure serves as a prime example of stone architecture from the eighteenth century.

Located in the town of Granite Quarry, the house is an important reminder of the role German immigrants played in the settlement and development of Rowan County. Michael Braun, who arrived in America in 1737, built ­the house for his family, and it remained in his family after his death until early 1900’s. it has been owned by the Rowan Museum since 1959 and is currently open to the public as a museum on weekends.

With all but five acres in forest, the property retains the integrity of its natural setting. Edward Norvell, who sits on the board of the Rowan Museum and was instrumental in getting this property protected by easement, said “We owe a lot to the Brown-Fisher family and Mr. E.L. Hardin who all worked throughout the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s to restore this Piedmont treasure. I am proud that the current Rowan Museum board had the foresight to further protect the property surrounding the house so that the Michael Braun House will forever retain its frontier setting, even as new residential subdivisions surround it. The Hezakiah Alexander house in Charlotte, the only other 18th century German stone house in North Carolina, once had a similar frontier setting, but you would never know it based on the way the surrounding area has developed. We are proud to know that the Michael Braun house will not suffer the same fate.”

Kannapolis Phase I

After several years of facilitation, The LandTrust is very excited to announce the first phase of the Kannapolis Project has closed. On October 10, 2006, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) acquired 1,100 acres of the 2,843 acres from the City of Kannapolis. The LandTrust or WRC will acquire the property in five phases that will culminate in a total of 2,843 acres protected. The N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, the Cannon Foundation, and The LandTrust provided funding for this first leg of the project.

As you likely recall, The LandTrust became involved after the sale of two nearby, smaller properties owned by the City. Public outcry over the potential sale of this larger tract led to a diverse group seeking protection for this center piece of western Rowan County’s agricultural landscape. After a series of negotiations and public meetings, a deal was struck that would allow The LandTrust to acquire the property and protect it against otherwise imminent development.

The entire property drains into Second Creek, which further downstream is listed for possible inclusion on EPA’s 303(d) list of impaired streams. The LandTrust is hopeful that improved buffers along miles of streams traversing the property will positively impact the downstream water quality enough to avoid its listing. The City of Kannapolis has also retained a water intake near the northeast corner of the property that serves its citizen’s water needs. A leading reason for the City’s agreement to sell the land to a conservation entity was the understanding that the quality of waters available at this site would be maintained or improved.

Local farmers who have relied on this land for years to support their operations will continue to tend the land. Their crops of corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains will provide food and habitat for the abundant wildlife. As a result of The LandTrust’s involvement, the farmers, sportsmen, and wildlife of this area can continue their pursuits well into the future.

Sally Murphy: Cowan Farm

With the protection of the Cowan-Wagoner House, which was built circa 1810, The LandTrust has now protected three of the oldest properties in Rowan County. The other two properties are the Alexander Long House, built around 1783, and the Michael Braun House, built around 1766.

The historic Cowan-Wagoner farm and frontier property was received by John Cowan in 1774. Sally Murphy now owns the 121 acres around the Cowan-Wagoner House, where she grew up and still lives today. The historical importance and her strong family ties to the land led her to place a conservation easement on this significant property.

The Cowan farm is nestled in an important area where a lot of exciting conservation activities are occurring. This property nearly borders the Kannapolis Lands Project, which the LandTrust and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are acquiring. The farm is also within several miles of other farms protected by The LandTrust. In addition, the Piedmont Research Station is just two miles west of it.

This beautiful farm was recognized by Land and Farm Magazine as one of the outstanding properties of Rowan County. The importance of this land is also evident by how highly the property ranked on our Land Protection Criteria, which indicates its high conservation value. The LandTrust has been working with Ms. Murphy since 2002, and she continues to be a strong voice for land and water conservation in her local community.

Adams 2006

Dr. Richard Adams has now completed his second conservation easement donation to The LandTrust. Dr. Adams recent conservation easement donation totaling 346 acres compliments the donation he made last year and brings the total size of protected property to 531 acres. However, Dr. Adams does not plan to stop his efforts there.

In all, Dr. Adams owns over 2,400 acres in northwestern Rowan County, with a portion spilling over into Iredell County. This impressive property contains nearly eleven miles of stream frontage, six of which are on the South Yadkin River. He plans to work with The LandTrust to protect the remaining acreage in the near future. Once completed, this will be the largest conservation easement held by The LandTrust. Each property that Dr. Adams has so graciously protected is distinctive, but the network of protected lands he is developing promises to provide an important large-scale habitat truly unique to the region.

Pence Property

A section of the beautiful rolling farmland and hardwood forest in northwestern Rowan County was permanently conserved in December thanks to a conservation easement donation by Carla and Eric Pence. Eric, a full-time farmer, and Carla, a physician practicing in Statesville, donated a permanent conservation easement on a 126-acre tract near Chenault Road just north of Cleveland. Aside from protecting a scenic viewshed, the donation also protects prime agricultural soils; wildlife habitat for turkey, deer, and other small game; and over 2,200 feet of vegetated frontage along a perennial tributary to Fourth Creek.

“We are extremely excited to work with the Pences on the conservation of a portion of their farm,” said Andrew Waters, The LandTrust’s Operations Director who worked with the family on their conservation easement donation. “In addition to the conservation values of the tract itself, this easement donation was made in a part of Rowan County where there are several other conserved properties, making it an important and emerging project area for The LandTrust.” Other conservation properties nearby in northwestern Rowan County include the 248-acre Brown Farm conservation easement, the 35-acre Berger Third Creek tract, and the Adams Farm project, now totaling almost 831 acres.

Adams 2007

Following up on his second donation last year, Dr. Richard Adams has now completed his third conservation easement donation to The LandTrust! This most recent easement protects 300 acres, with portions of the property located in both Iredell and Rowan Counties.

Located off Cool Springs Road, a portion of this year’s donation possesses stream footage on the South Yadkin River, which has been identified as important for drinking water supplies, migratory wildlife, public recreation, and also for Native American history.

This most recent donation brings the total acreage Dr. Adams has protected to an amazing 831 acres, including a state significant natural heritage site, a Piedmont/Coastal Plain Heath Bluff identified as the South Yadkin River Heath Bluff in the Rowan County Natural Heritage Inventory. Dr. Adams hopes to donate conservation easements on even more of his wonderful properties in the future. These will compliment these previous donations and conserve a wonderful large-scale habitat for wildlife for generations to come.

Gilliam Farm

On October 20th, Ezra and Marian Gilliam placed a conservation easement on their 75-acre farm in eastern Rowan County. The tract is entirely comprised of either prime farmland or soils of statewide importance. For 2/10th of a mile, the property borders an unnamed tributary of High Rock Lake on the Yadkin River, and it is adjacent to Alcoa lands. The easement protects the property in its current state and allows for one more residence to be built by a family member.

It was Ezra’s father, Coke Gilliam, who planted the conservation seed, the spark of inspiration. The Gilliam’s desire to see their family’s farm preserved and kept intact was also Coke’s wish, who bought the farm before the Depression. He was a blacksmith, and they moved here from Jersey City (a community of Salisbury on Kerr Street). Marian remembers Coke Gilliam telling her that he was looking for a farm “so the children could learn to work and wouldn’t grow up in the streets.” In 1922, he bought the farm for $3,200.

They raised corn, beans, apples, cucumbers, pumpkins, peanuts, sweet potatoes, grapes, peaches, and they had chickens and hogs. They were a poor family and lived through the Depression, but they always had food on the table and meat all year long because the farm sustained them. His parents had 8 children, and could have divided the farm equally amongst them, but his father firmly believed that the farm should be kept intact, as a family farm that could support them in case of future depression times. According to Ezra, “We had everything, but we were very nearly poor. During those years we heard about the Depression but never suffered, and it was all because of the basic philosophy of my mother and father.” So, Coke gave the greater portion of the farm to Ezra, and gave his other 7 children other assets of equal value that wouldn’t divide up a piece of excellent farmland. During a time when food security wasn’t a buzz word, the Gilliam family believed in it. They believed that if you take care of the land, it’ll take care of you.

The LandTrust received funding from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), a $10,000 grant that paid for a survey and stewardship of the property. Barry Williams with CTNC enjoyed working with the Gilliams. “This is a great project, and I cannot say enough what an amazing couple the Gilliams are,” says Williams.

Ezra has lived his life guided by 4 guiding principles his parents encouraged: “righteousness, value of work, integrity, and dependability.” He is a community leader of days gone past, a principal at the all black Dunbar High School, as well as an active community volunteer with civic and agricultural groups. He recently rotated off as an advisor to the Farm Service Agency, and is a member of the Farm Committee of Cooperative Extension. He is an active Board member of the Nazareth Children’s Home and of the Dunbar Alumni Association. “The conservation easement is protecting a piece of prime farmland, but it is also protecting a way of life that is disappearing, the small family farm,” says Michele d’Hemecourt, Land Protection Specialist with The LandTrust. “This farm and the Gilliam family’s philosophy are an example of how the farm can be kept together through generations, and how a piece of land can sustain a family. I hope their story inspires others as much as it has inspired me.”

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