We hosted another successful volunteer workday in the Highlands of Roan, made possible by a generous grant from the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. Funding from this partnership has helped us accomplish land stewardship projects over the past several years.
Organized by our AmeriCorps Project Conserve Stewardship Associates and Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, 33 gracious volunteers gathered to get their hands dirty on our National Trails Tract.
After a brief introduction from Executive Director Carl Silverstein and Don Barger of the National Parks Conservation Association, who manages the corporate relationship with Nature Valley, teams split up to hear safety talks and get to work on several critical projects on the property.
The main objectives of the workday centered around the vision for the tract to be used for hiking and camping enjoyment, and its capability of providing excellent habitat for the threatened Golden-winged Warbler. One team of volunteers improved a scenic area near the property entrance, removing dilapidated and rotting structures to enhance the beauty of a picnic spot next to rushing Roaring Creek.
Also working to improve visitor accessibility to this gateway property, three teams of volunteers tackled a much-needed trail-rerouting. The pre-existing trail loop, which leads to a breathtaking waterfall, contained gravel sections that were degraded and steep. The trail was unsustainable and eroding quickly. With loppers and digging tools, the Nature Valley work crew re-routed a section of trail down a more gentle slope with a more sustainable tread.
Another team helped control some non-native, invasive plant species to enhance the quality of breeding habitat for Golden-winged Warblers. The beautiful sweeping meadows and mosaic of scrub and early successional habitat on the property naturally provide suitable habitat for these threatened neotropical migratory songbirds.
The crew enjoyed lunch in a meadow overlooking a scenic view of the surrounding landscape, including several other tracts that SAHC has helped to protect. Trustee Jay Leutze highlighted major land protection efforts and successes in the area as everyone enjoyed the beautiful autumn weather. Later, volunteers enjoyed hiking to the incredible waterfalls on the property to end a successful day. It is our hope that visitors and Golden-winged Warblers alike benefit from the workday for years to come!
National Trails Tract
The aptly-named National Trails Tract is a gateway to the Roan area and central to an expanding network of conservation lands. It is highly visible from the Appalachian Trail on Roan Mountain and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (which traces the route of patriot militia through VA, TN, NC & SC). Because of the property’s connection to such important historic and scenic trails, its notable conservation values — pristine wild trout waters, bird habitat, and adjacency to Pisgah National Forest — it was identified as a high priority for conservation. SAHC purchased the 113-acre property in 2008 to protect it from development and later transferred 73 acres to the state of NC, retaining
40 acres for long-term management.