PAC announces trail closure

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

With great sadness, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) is announcing that the Weaverbarton Shuford Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary trails will be closed to the public as of Aug. 31.
Since the passing of Robert Shuford in 2011, the land has been managed by the executor of the estate. Although the conservation easement, protecting the property in perpetuity, allows for private and public nature trails, it does not require the owner to keep the trails open.
PAC is hopeful that the trail system will be reopened in the near future and regrets the current situation and loss of this beautiful, much enjoyed, public natural area.
PAC is working hard to find a conservation buyer for the property who will reopen the public hiking trails, but it is very early in that process.
A long beloved property
Helen Shuford, Robert Shuford’s mother, loved her Columbus home and she had a profound love of birds. Upon her husband’s death in 1965, she decided to donate her property to the Carolina Bird Club (CBC) as a memorial to her husband and as a sanctuary for birds and wildlife.
For over 30 years, CBC used the property for Christmas bird counts and for educational excursions. The initial generation of bird club members took an interest in the property and built trails for bird watching and nature walks.
In 1998, a year after Mrs. Shuford’s death, CBC made plans to sell the 82-acre property. Robert Shuford, who lived in the family home adjacent to the property, was devastated to learn of CBC’s plans. Due to its location, he feared that the land would be sold for development, destroying his mother’s wishes for the land, “that the property remain an island of green,” never to be sold or developed. Therefore, Robert made an offer to purchase his family land from CBC, taking on great financial burden and spending countless hours arranging for the land to be preserved as a wildlife sanctuary. Robert dreamed that the land would be used forever by nature and bird lovers, honoring his mother’s wishes.
In 1999, CBC agreed to sell the land to Robert with the understanding that a conservation easement, granted to PAC, would be placed on the property, protecting the land as a wildlife sanctuary forever. Indeed, a conservation easement was placed on the property the very same year and protects it in perpetuity, as Mr. Shuford and his mother intended.
Early in 2006, at the request of Mr. Shuford, PAC began to establish trails on the property to make it accessible to the public for bird watching, plant and tree identification and general enjoyment of hearing wind in the trees and water in the streams.
In October 2007, PAC held the official opening of the Weaverbarton Shuford Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary. It was a wonderful celebration with more than 50 community members and several county commissioners in attendance.
This trail system was an important asset to this part of the county, offering the public easy access to nature trails in the Columbus. It provided 2-miles of trails, a self-guided nature trail, allowing visitors to learn about and appreciate their surroundings, and in 2009, it was accepted as a site along the North Carolina Birding Trail. The trail system adjoined St. Luke’s Tom Raymond Fitness Trail and linked to the Isothermal Community College hiking trail, offering visitors a variety of hiking options. Finally, the Shufords’ dream had been realized.
PAC will work hard to find a conservation buyer who will re-establish the intentions and purposes for the land in fulfillment of the Shufords’ dream for it and for our community.

-article submitted
by Pam Torlina

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