Alexander’s Ford opens tomorrowPublished 6:36pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The process that led to the opening of the nature preserve began in 2005 when Tryon Arts and Crafts (TAC) purchased the property to save it from going to a developer. At that time, TAC made plans to use the site for a cultural and historical center.
After later dropping plans for the center, TAC decided to sell the land and sought a buyer that would preserve the property. Polk County commissioners agreed to buy the land but were not sure how fast they could raise the funds and did not want to use any taxpayer money for the purchase.
In 2006 the board for the Marjorie M. & Lawrence R. Bradley Endowment Fund (held by the PCCF) stepped forward and agreed to purchase the land to make sure it would be permanently preserved. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Bradley’s home was used to purchase the Alexander’s Ford property. Bradley Fund board members at the time said the Bradleys would have been pleased to see the collaborative project that benefits the community through the purchase and preservation of a historic tract of land. The Bradley Fund not only purchased the land but also established permanent easements and agreed to turn over ownership to the county when it raised enough money.
Polk County commissioners appointed Mills as the project manager and grants were obtained for the purchase and for improvements to the rustic tract. In addition to the donated land value ($377,500), grant funding was received from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund ($274,000), the N.C. Heritage Trust ($200,000), the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund ($500,000), the Polk County Community Foundation ($18,000), the Bradley Fund ($80,000) and a U.S. National Park Service Grant ($20,299).
Mills announced to commissioners in August 2012 that the enhancements were complete and the project came in under budget.
Polk County’s vision for the property has always been to create a nature preserve that will be low maintenance and low cost to the county.
“I think we’ve protected a priceless treasure for generations to come,” Mills told commissioners in August.
Overmountain Victory Trail history
The Alexander’s Ford property, located off County Line Road near Grays Chapel Methodist Church, includes the historic trail and campsite used by the Overmountain Men en route to a key victory in the Revolutionary War. The U.S. National Park Service has identified the Alexander’s Ford property as a potential national park site.
The property includes the site of the Overmountain Men patriot militia encampment and one mile of the Overmountain Men Victory Trail that ended at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. The trail runs from Abingdon, Va., and Elkin, N.C. to Kings Mountain and draws many visitors each year.
The Polk County land includes a key section of the trail. The Overmountain Men camped at Alexander’s Ford on the night of Oct. 4, 1780. The next morning, a messenger rode into camp to tell the Patriots that the Loyalists had changed direction and were headed to Charlotte, N.C. The militia turned, met the British at Kings Mountain, and won a battle there that Thomas Jefferson declared “turned the tide” in the American Revolutionary War.