Little White Oak Mountain matching fund challenge

Published 9:30 pm Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), your local land trust which protects land in Polk County and surrounding counties, extends a Matching Fund Challenge to the residents of Polk County and the surrounding region to financially support the recent $2.38 million purchase by PAC’s sister organization, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), of the almost 1,100 acre Little White Oak Mountain tract.

Once slated for heavy development as Foster Creek Preserve, this iconic landmark in Polk County will now be permanently protected to provide watershed protection, habitat for our native plants and animals, and recreational opportunities to the community. PAC will match every dollar contributed toward the purchase of this property up to $200,000. This total of $400,000 will help reduce the outstanding loan on the tract.

In 2014, Margaret (Maggie) Miller Bennett of Tryon bequeathed to PAC a generous portion of her estate. Because Maggie and her husband, Bill, were committed to the protection of wildlife and unspoiled natural lands, PAC now honors her memory by using her bequest as the Challenge Fund for the preservation of this beautiful property for the benefit of the community.

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The Little White Oak Mountain tract is a completely undeveloped, natural gem in our county. It is located off of Houston Road and Highway 108 in Columbus, contiguous to Polk County Middle School and the Polk County Recreation Complex. CMLC purchased this property with the intention of providing for recreational opportunities, for protection of plant and wildlife habitat, and for the preservation of scenic views. In addition, CMLC and PAC are working with a Hendersonville non-profit to develop the lower portion of the tract as workforce housing. All of these possibilities will potentially attract more visitors to the area and support the local economy.

For over a decade PAC has considered this property a conservation priority. Babs Strickland, Dot Moyer, Renée McDermott, other PAC board members, and PAC staff had worked with the previous owners to protect parts of this tract with a conservation easement. During this process, both PAC and CMLC met with the owners, the American Land Fund, and their representative Jeff Reader. In 2015, because of the efforts of CMLC’s executive director, Kieran Roe, and the assistant director for programs, Rebekah Robinson, the American Land Fund agreed to sell the entire tract to the CMLC at the end of 2016. The purchase was made possible in part by a generous gift from Alice and Fred Stanback of Salisbury, N.C., and a $1.86 million loan from the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. 

To repay the loan, CMLC needs our community’s support to secure the purchase of this tract for the enjoyment of future generations. Consider a tax deductible donation of any amount to the Matching Fund Challenge; every dollar received will be matched by a dollar from PAC up to $200,000. Call 828-859-5060 for further information and payment methods.

– article by Steve King