Additional progress has been made to conserve the Bobs Creek Natural Area in McDowell County.

On Thursday, Oct. 30, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation closed on the purchase of 2,200 acres in McDowell County in the second phase of land acquisition for the Bobs Creek State Natural Area. The first phase of the project, about 1,500 acres, was purchased in January 2019. The third and final phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, according to a news release from the Foothills Conservancy.

Once complete, the Bobs Creek State Natural Area will total about 6,000 acres of public conservation lands, managed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation for passive (low-impact) recreation, water quality protection of numerous streams, and preservation of rare plants and diverse natural ecosystems documented by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program.

Conservation of the 2,200-acre tract protects water quality along five miles of source streams that drain to North and South Muddy creeks through an extensive network of riparian buffers on the property. The Muddy Creek watershed is one of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s priorities for stream and water quality improvement.

The second phase acquisition for Bobs Creek State Natural Area will expand public access and passive recreation opportunities including hiking, wildlife observation and scenic enjoyment of stream cascades after trails are designed and constructed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, according to the news release.

“We are thrilled to complete this natural area expansion with N.C. State Parks that will offer residents and visitors of Marion and McDowell County convenient public recreation opportunities less than five miles from I-40,” said Foothills Conservancy Land Protection Director Tom Kenney. “Western North Carolina’s significant outdoor recreation economy continues to grow thanks to great natural assets such as Marion’s Catawba River Greenway, Fonta Flora and Wilderness Gateway State Trails, Pisgah National Forest and Catawba Falls.”

Funding for the second phase of the project included a grant of $1.2 million from N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which also assisted with the purchase of phase I; $1.75 million in federal Land & Water Conservation Fund monies awarded by the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund; Conservation Trust for North Carolina; and Cannon and Stanback Foundations grants.

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is a nationally accredited regional land trust that protects the fabric and character of western North Carolina’s landscape forever and for the benefit of all. The conservancy preserves the natural and cultural heritage of our region by conserving scenic and recreational landscapes, productive farms and forests, healthy watersheds, rich biodiversity, and vital wildlife habitat.

A 501©(3) nonprofit, Foothills Conservancy serves eight counties: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell and Rutherford, in three major river basins, which include the Broad, Catawba, and Yadkin.

North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation manages more than 237,000 acres of iconic landscape within North Carolina’s state parks, state recreation areas and state natural areas. It administers the N.C Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, including its local grants program, as well as a state trails program, North Carolina Natural and Scenic Rivers and more, all with a mission dedicated to conservation, recreation and education. The state parks system welcomes more than 18 million visitors annually.

Information about Foothills Conservancy, including ways to support its work, can be found online at www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.

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