Open Space Conservancy Makes $1.8 million Loan for Creation of Hickory Nut Gorge State Park in western North Carolina

NEW YORK, NY - August 16, 2006 - Earlier this month, North Carolina's Hickory Nut Gorge State Park grew by 271 acres, with the protection of land atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment near Lake Lure, 15 miles southeast of Asheville, NC. The Open Space Institute's Land Acquisition Affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy (OSC), lent the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) $1.8 million to purchase 110 acres from the McCraw family, and the State of North Carolina directly purchased the other 161 acres for the park from the McCraws for $2.7 million. Both parcels will become part of North Carolina's newest state park.

The acquisitions build on key transactions in the past year that laid the foundations for the new park, which was authorized by NC General Assembly in May 2005. With financing assistance from OSC and Self-Help Ventures, CMLC teamed up last year with The Nature Conservancy's North Carolina Chapter to purchase the 1,568-acre World's Edge tract. The McCraw tracts adjoin and lie immediately below the overlook on the World's Edge; the acquisition of these tracts will protect habitat for numerous rare and endangered species; provide recreational opportunities; and preserve spectacular panoramic views of the Pidemont. The area is under intensifying development pressure from construction of second homes, resorts and golf courses.

“We are pleased to help with the ongoing creation of the Hickory Nut Gorge State Park,” said Peter Howell, OSI's Vice President. “This conservation effort represents a model example of partnership between the State of North Carolina and conservation nonprofit groups.”

“With growing development pressure in this region, we must move quickly and work in partnership with many groups and individuals who share our mission to protect these extraordinary landscapes,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director of the Hendersonville-based Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “We greatly appreciate OSI's continuing financial assistance and their support of our vision.”

The state's Division of Parks and Recreation will oversee for the park the creation of public education programs, the interpretation of the area's natural history, and the construction of professionally-designed trails to enable public access while protecting water quality and other natural resources.

The McCraw loan was OSC's second in North Carolina since creation in 2005 of its Southern Appalachian Conservation Loan Fund to facilitate the protection of threatened landscapes in the region, including parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama (Click here to view map of focus areas). The fund, which is coordinated by Marc Hunt in Asheville, NC ( Click here for press announcement), provides short-term, low-interest loans to land trusts and other conservation organizations working to permanently protect working farms and forests, as well as other ecologically sensitive landscapes in the region.

The loan fund is an outgrowth of a comprehensive study of threats and conservation opportunities in the Southern Appalachians (Click here for executive summary and regional overview). The study was commissioned by OSI and funded by the Lyndhurst, Z. Smith Reynolds, and McClure Foundations and the Merck Family Fund, which currently support the fund's operations. The fund is the fourth focus area of the Open Space Institute's Conservation Finance Program, which provides low-cost capital for priority land transactions. OSI also provides conservation loans in New Jersey, western Massachusetts and the Northern Forest (Click here for more information on OSI's conservation loan funds). To date, OSI has provided 24 loans totaling over $24 million to protect over 910,000 acres.

Open Space Institute, which provided the loan to CMLC, protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats and sustain community character. OSI achieves its goals through land acquisition, conservation easements, special loan programs, and creative partnerships.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy helps local landowners protect the land and water resources vital to our natural heritage and quality of life. As a non-profit dedicated to saving the places you love, CMLC is creating a regional network of more than 12,500 acres of mountain land.



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View of the McCraw Property acquired by the State of North Carolina and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy with the help of a loan from OSI.
Courtesy of CMLC


Click to view enlarged map

Photo credit: Map of Acquisition Courtesy of CMLC

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