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CTNC partners to help shape Princeville’s resilient future

N.C. State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab Prepares a “Floodprint” in cooperation with the Town of Princeville. 

When CTNC shares resources, funding and expertise to help communities, we can create tangible change across the state. That’s exactly why we have partnered to co-create a vision for a resilient future for the citizens of Princeville, N.C.

Princeville, which is nestled just southeast of a bend in the Tar River, has been devastated by flooding for 100 years. A number of efforts over the years have outlined options for the town, but few have been community-driven and come through with committed resources.  That is where CTNC and our partners within the Common Ground collaborative come in. We found that researchers at North Carolina State University had earned the trust of the community through some community processes after Hurricane Matthew hit the town in 2016. They also had a model approach to planning that fit our vision and the town’s needs.

So CTNC and our partners garnered funding to support N.C. State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab in preparing a “Floodprint” in cooperation with the Town of Princeville. A Floodprint is a robust guide to strategic resilience planning – designed to achieve four goals: 1. to mitigate the impacts of flooding in Princeville, 2. to allow the public to access community assets, 3. to engage the local community, 4. and to create “excellent” design in the town. It is as much a process as a product.

This map details the flooding problem that devastates Princeville every year

Resilience planning is about being mindful of potential flood risk where areas have been historically impacted. When city and community planners develop strategies to assess and mitigate flood risk, they can develop a road-map to rebuild in a way that minimizes the damage to homes and other structures when flooding inevitably occurs again. 

A story of resilience for people, place, and culture. The challenges posed by the frequency and strength of hurricanes impacting communities across Eastern North Carolina are daunting for years after the water recedes. Due to its location in the crook of the Tar River, these flood events have left Princeville’s homes, schools, churches, and the Town Hall completely devastated. Princeville has been rebuilding for years, welcoming its people back home.  In January 2020, after a three-year hiatus, a newly renovated and flood-proofed Princeville Elementary School reopened to its approximately 200 students.

According to the N.C. State scientists leading the project, Andy Fox, Travis Klondike, and Madalyn Baldwin, the Floodprint project is “focused on design and programming strategies for celebrating and building community capacity around cultural and heritage-based tourism.” 

Cultural and heritage-based tourism is right. Princeville is filled with places that educate us all about its rich history and culture. From Freedom Hill, where formerly enslaved people first heard of their legal release from bondage, to a cemetery and numerous schools, those who’ve called Princeville home over the years treasure that material legacy.  Previous work by N.C. State students resulted in the construction of a mobile museum to share and protect the town’s historical legacy.

‘All great achievements require time.’

Maya Angelou

Princeville Town Manager Dr. Glenda Lawrence-Knight draws on this quote when referring to the budding relationship with CTNC. “Partnering with Chris Canfield and his team has been very uplifting. Despite it being challenging, it is understood that recovery is a process. A process that requires patience, time, energy and efforts toward great achievements.”

Dr. Knight added, “CTNC continues to mutually share with the Town in the recovery process of auspicious outcomes. Out of many, the most critical contribution is the immediate benefits of the floodprint plan that will grant the Town an opportunity to build a firm foundation with specific recovery guidance, address and tackle challenges during the research phase, promote collaboration, increase buy in into a shared vision for the future, ignite revitalization and most importantly, generate citizenship morale with recovery resilience. So, to this partnership derives greater hope, a clearer vision, resources, and results.

The Floodprint process is underway and expected to be finished in the fall of 2021. As it has already done, the project will continue to press forward with the approval, input and collaboration of community stakeholders and leaders.

“Princeville, for much of its history, has been so concerned about survival that historic preservation has been almost impossible,” said the Town of Princeville in an online statement. “Maybe the recent spotlight on Princeville will encourage the public (and potential funders) that the town is worth preserving.” 

Those words already seem to be ringing true. In January 2020, the town got word of $40 million in federal funding to improve levees around the town.  That work won’t solve all the threats faced by the town but it will likely encourage further investment to protect its history and future.

As an organization, CTNC’s board, staff, and partners are committed to standing alongside our Princeville friends as we work collaboratively to achieve lasting community resilience. Climate resilience is part of our lifeblood, as is community enhancement and the betterment of all people, especially those who have been traditionally excluded from the benefits conservation provides. We’re inspired and honored to continue this journey at the banks of the Tar River. 


The Floodprint effort is made possible with generous funding by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and Duke Energy Foundation in partnership with The Conservation Fund and CTNC. If you are inspired by our community resilience work and want to make an investment in this future, please consider making a gift.

Are You Ready to Go Upstream?

Learn all about a new initiative to keep water sources around the Triangle safe and useable!

It’s because of clean water that small businesses can thrive, local farms are nourished and, above all, we all have clean water to use, drink and play in. So, how can we ensure it remains clean? To answer that, we have to look upstream.

Whether you need water to wash your dog or to have a nice refreshing drink, the one thing we all know is that our water needs to be clean. Clean water is a vital part of our everyday lives and through Upstream Matters, we can bring greater awareness to Raleigh’s water sources so we can keep it safe and clean for our communities. One of these water sources comes from the Upper Neuse River Basin, and making sure it’s well protected keeps our water clean for eating, drinking and playing.

Thankfully, there are programs and partnerships like the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative that work with local and state governmental agencies and landowners to keep our water clean and healthy.

Thanks to City of Raleigh water ratepayers, an average of about 57 cents of their water utility bill goes toward funding those programs that ensure our water remains clean.

Regardless of what your use for water is, you can be assured there are organizations actively working together to keep the upstream clean – and together we can continue to make it possible for them.

To learn more about why Upstream Matters, visit upstreammatters.org.

Upstream Matters is a collaborative campaign made possible by the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative partners including Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Eno River Association, The Conservation Fund, and Triangle Land Conservancy. 

Bikes, Water & Conservation

A group of young bikers engage in community, conversation and reflection along the Neuse River

If you can say you’ve biked 700 miles in 14 days, you’re in a pretty elite group. Last summer, 14 young adults accomplished that extraordinary feat as part of Triangle BikeWorks’  Spoke’n Revolutions “Bikes, Water & Soul” tour. Following the path of the Neuse River from its headwaters in Durham to the Atlantic coast, the teens explored some of our state’s robust natural resources 🏞 as well as its complex cultural heritage for people of color.

A video celebrating the “Bikes, Water & Soul” tour and all the young riders who took part in the journey

Triangle Bikeworks, a group that encourages youth of color to build community and courage through cycling programs, 🚲collaborated with Conservation Trust for North Carolina and Triangle Land Conservancy to take teens on the trip of a lifetime. Along the way, riders visited historical sites and spaces preserved by North Carolina land trusts. They also reflected on the connection between land, water and community resilience. 

A Triangle Bikeworks rider sports an “I am Revolutionary” tee shirt to commemorate Spoken Revolutions and the bike tour.

The CTNC team was proud to work with the young riders and help empower them to protect the land and water in their local communities. We understand that, in order to serve all communities through land conservation, we must invest in the power of people. 🙌🏻

Throughout the ride, the riders visited cultural and natural heritage sites along the Neuse River. They reflected on the complex relationships between land, water and people in the American south. 

Triangle Bikeworks riders learned about natural heritage along their journey.

Itza, a tour coordinator with Triangle Bikeworks, calls these types of trips “bike therapy.” 💕☀️

“There’s a lot of reflecting,” she says, “And sometimes you’re processing things you didn’t even know you had to process.”

Cindy, a student who participated in the bike tour, says it was an experience in independence. 

“A lot of my life has been doing what other people expect of me, like taking AP classes or trying out some clubs that I’m not really interested in,” she said during the tour. “This is something I really want for myself.”

Coach Lisa, a volunteer with Triangle Bikeworks, put it best:

“You guys don’t even realize how amazing you are,” she told the team of students. “Nobody’s going to push you, nobody’s going to pull you. Every hill, every valley, you’re going to be by yourself.” 

The Spoke’n Revolutions tour is only the start. We’d love to keep you updated on future CTNC partnerships and collaborations through our emails. So what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty!🚴🏽‍♂️🌿

Eat your veggies!

Conservation Corps North Carolina members assist a community garden; help build unity in Durham.

Typically, teams working with Conservation Corps North Carolina spend a lot of time building and improving hiking trails and outdoor recreation spaces in rustic locales. But this assignment was community-based as the crew worked to benefit an urban farm in the heart of Durham. Durham’s Urban Community AgriNomics program (UCAN) partnered with Conservation Corps North Carolina (CCNC) to take on an unconventional project: giving the growing space a little extra ❤️.

The CCNC crew spent over 1,255 combined hours working at the UCAN farm. They helped build a new chicken coop to replace a dilapidated one. 🐔They also repaired an “intergenerational sharing deck” to be used as a community gathering space, complete with a wheelchair ramp, safety railing and properly secured posts for structural integrity.

A work in progress: construction of UCAN’s intergenerational sharing deck, which will foster community and conversation among Durham residents who visit the farm.

“I wanted some land in Northern Durham where I could bring community together and help people,” UCAN founder Delphine Sellars said. “Because I know that a lot of the kids, for example, are being bussed from inner city Durham. And they bring their drama and their traumas.” 

The team worked safely, efficiently and with dedication to enhance a space that would engage the surrounding community, build relationships and enable UCAN to better support Durham residents – because when people gather around fresh food and good conversation, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish. 🌶🥕🥦

Happy gardening! The CCNC crew stands with UCAN founder Delphine Sellars (middle) on the Catawba Trail Farm site.

Conservation Trust for North Carolina is proud to support strong, resilient communities through Conservation Corps North Carolina work. Because, when our lands and communities are experiencing threats, we need conservation solutions powered by people. And if we’re searching for rejuvenation in our communities, there’s not much fresh air, good food and a little exercise can’t accomplish.

If you’d like to see the team in action and learn how their work with CCNC has enhanced their personal and professional community, check out this video.

And, as always, we’d love to see you join our own community and keep you updated! Consider signing up for our email list to receive future updates about our work.

A Story of Community Resilience

This article originally appeared in Saving Land Magazine.

During the summer, staff of the accredited Conservation Trust for North Carolina visited the small town of Princeville that has been repeatedly devastated by floodwaters. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused the Tar River to rise and the town was submerged. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew brought heavy flooding again. Princeville has yet to recover from either catastrophe.

This story is similar to the plight of many towns in North Carolina and across the country. Princeville is unique, though, in being the oldest town incorporated by African Americans in the nation. They were given few options for land on which to settle after emancipation. Since 1885, the people of Princeville have weathered many storms, and not just meteorological ones. Their resilience is deep, yet its limits are strained.

The town lies at the intersection of three issues that have been growing in urgency for CTNC: climate, community and equity.

Every piece of land we hope to protect is being affected by a more volatile climate. Not just hurricanes, as in Princeville, but also droughts, fires, infestations and other extremes. We have already incorporated climate resilience models into our planning. We must go further. Land conservation can help  with the rising climate crisis by storing carbon to reduce long-term effects and by providing increased natural resilience to inevitable changes.

We are inspired by the many land trusts who already make innovative connections between community needs and conservation. We commit ourselves to leading with questions before answers, and to working alongside neighbors often given no voice in decisions affecting them. The process of building trust will take years of work and lots of humility.

Humility also requires us to admit the limitations of conservation. Our system of land ownership and use has too often excluded and disregarded entire communities of people. Again, Princeville is symbolic. Our work must honor the stories of black, indigenous and other people of color who have felt the loss of access to productive land for living, farming and for preserving their heritage. Land is at the core of racial and other inequities. We must ensure that we don’t worsen those realities and ultimately help change the system for the better.

Our staff and board embrace this new strategic vision. It builds on CTNC’s history of bringing together uncommon alliances. Our goal is to conserve land in ways that inspire and enable people to build resilient, just communities. Led by our values, we will continuously learn, share, admit and care.

Many of our plans are new and yet to be verified. So we’ve entered our experiment mindful that it will often be more about how  we work than what  we do.

History dictated that Princeville be in the floodplain of a river. We can’t change history. But, using the power of community and conservation together, we can change the future.

Chris Canfield is the Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. Jamilla Hawkins is Chair of CTNC’s Board of Directors.

AmeriCorps Members have a unique opportunity to serve the public and engage with natural spaces around North Carolina.

Building Community, One Board at a Time

Conservation Corps North Carolina serves the public through a trail restoration project with Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association

Hammer? Check. Nails? Check. A hardworking crew? Conservation Corps has that, too. 

This July, a team of six Conservation Corps crew members and two team leaders worked with the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA) to complete a much-needed trail reroute project. They performed maintenance on an existing trail boardwalk – and built an entirely new one! 😱  – in the 17-Acre Wood Nature Preserve in Durham. 

“Right now, we are in a generation that, for the first time in human civilization, is a really indoor generation. I love the way [the Conservation Corps program] puts people into nature, into the outdoors, and makes them aware of nature in a way that they feel like they’re contributing to the public…”

–Jan Pender, program manager for Conservation Corps N.C.

Together, the group assembled and installed new signs and replaced old signage at two nature preserves: ECWA’s Beaver Creek Nature Preserve and Glennstone Nature Preserve. 🌿

Can you guess how many service hours the team contributed to ECWA during the project? 

627 hours! One person would have had to labor more than 26 days around the clock to make that happen. But team work … makes the dream work. 😉

The team at UNC-TV produced a phenomenal spot on this hardworking crew. Take a look!

During their “hitch” – that’s what AmeriCorps crews call their service outings, which last around nine days– the Conservation Corps North Carolina crew members learned a lot about themselves and each other.

CTNC was proud to fund the project through a grant with the Duke Energy Foundation. 🔌⚡️ Trails of public lands statewide wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without the dedication of these hardworking Conservation Corps service teams and the nonprofit organizations with which they partner. 

Jan Pender, Program Manager for Conservation Corps North Carolina, says that the Conservation Corps program is “important for our state’s future.”

“We have a rapidly growing population of young people, and of diverse young people,”  she says. “We want to serve all those people and get them connected to our state’s great public assets and help people understand the importance of stewarding them and preserving them.”

Conserving Whole Communities

CTNC partners with local leaders and nonprofits to create positive change in Princeville 

In 1885, a group of formerly enslaved African-Americans claimed a portion of land in Edgecombe County as their own. It was a somewhat swampy space next to the Tar River that had been largely ignored by their white neighbors. They were a people largely unwelcomed in the county seat of Tarboro, which lay just across the water. The area, now called Princeville, N.C. after a respected freed slave named Turner Prince, became the first town in the U.S. to be incorporated by African Americans. 

The space that African Americans called “Freedom Hill, little more than 1.5 square miles in size, has rightfully obtained a monumental place in the African American cultural memory. But this largely overlooked parcel has experienced two 100-year floods in the last 17 years. The strength of hurricanes Floyd (in 1999) and Matthew (in 2016) caused the Tar River to overflow into Princeville homes, business and community centers. 

The damage caused, and community members displaced, serve as a reminder of racism and inequality that permeates the heritage of North Carolina land and stretches back to the town’s founding more than 130 years ago.

Where Climate, Community and Equity Intersect

Community Development Initiative Tyran Hill discusses how organizations can find common ground to address communities’ needs.

Our work focuses on conserving land that will help communities adapt to a changing climate, seeding equity and inclusion throughout conservation, and working alongside communities to identify where conservation can meet their greatest needs. Each of our guiding priorities intersects within the town of Princeville. 

Chris Canfield, left, and Jamilla Hawkins, right

“We commit ourselves to leading with questions before answers, and to working alongside neighbors often given no voice in decisions affecting them.”

— Jamilla Hawkins, Vice Chair of CTNC’s Board of Directors and Chris Canfield, Executive Director of CTNC//

Through the Common Ground collaborative, Conservation Trust will partner with the NC Community Development Initiative and The Conservation Fund to work alongside the Town of Princeville and its people to plan for and eventually deliver smart land conservation.  These efforts must be paired with larger community-driven initiatives aimed at bringing true restoration and resilience to the community. 

By conserving land along this stretch of the Tar River, we can restore some of the natural floodplain of the region. That can help absorb water during flood events that might otherwise inundate homes and businesses.  

We must deliver land conservation in ways that honor the past of Princeville while strengthening its future. We will continually advocate for land access and inclusion and grow our understanding of existing injustices within the conservation sector. And we will support work that further develops the economic, social and cultural assets of the community.

Climate change is sadly inevitable, and the effects of climate change and extreme weather events will continue to impact Princeville and its people.

But Princeville is also a place with deep resilience among the people themselves. We promise to work beside and behind our Princeville neighbors with respect, humility and a willingness to learn. Because each time the water rises in Princeville, it meets a courageous group of people that calls the land “home.” 

Partnerships and collaboration like this emerging one in Princeville can create transformative change to promote a more just and resilient future for all North Carolinians.

A New Vision for Conservation

Our land is facing new threats.

It’s time to offer new solutions. 

From the Blue Ridge Parkway to the eastern coast of our amazing state, the Conservation Trust is working alongside communities to conserve land in ways that build resilient, just communities throughout North Carolina. 

We are committed to finding land-saving solutions that benefit all people. 

We need you to join us.

A bold new approach 

CTNC has developed a courageous new vision for conservation that is powered by the people of our state. Our work now focuses on addressing communities’ greatest needs: climate resilience in a changing state, conservation that is led by communities, and seeding an equitable sector that benefits all people regardless of race or economic status. 

CLIMATE: Climate change has increased the ferocity of extreme weather events like floods, mudslides, and fires, but it has also increased our drive to combat those effects. Our climate resilience strategy mitigates the effects of climate change by conserving land in North Carolina’s most vulnerable spaces.

EQUITY: CTNC is dedicated to seeding racial equality throughout every project, every investment, and every hire. Because all North Carolinians, regardless of race, should share in the benefits of healthy land. 

COMMUNITY: What does success look like? At the end of the day, saving land should help communities thrive. Securing more funding and support for land protection will strengthen the health, heritage, and economic ecosystems for all our communities. 

We need you 

Our conservation work needs to be relevant to the times we live in, meaningful to the people we work with, and effective for the future. We’re building a conservation movement powered by the people of North Carolina.

This new journey begins with you.

Will you join us?

Asheville Riverside Park

An Equitable Vision for Conservation

CTNC strives to seed equity and inclusion throughout the conservation community 

We’re born on the land. Eat food grown in it.  Drink water that flows over it. Build our communities within its hills, valleys, plains and rivers. There’s not a single aspect of our lives that’s not touched by land.

While land connects us all, it has also been used historically to separate us. Entire communities of people – especially people of color – have been intentionally displaced and excluded. That shared history of inequity means that collectively our conservation work does not benefit all people as we intend it to. 

If CTNC is to be successful building resilient, just communities, we must emphasize how racial equity can be seeded throughout our work.

From Diversity to Equity

For over a decade, we have focused on increasing the racial diversity within the conservation sector of North Carolina through the Diversity In Conservation Internship Program. The program was founded to create a pathway for rising leaders of color to find careers in conservation. Our work has not only connected many young people of color with a professional conservation network, it has also helped organizations understand their own role in promoting race equity in their culture and practice. 

“It’s really important for us to build these connections for youth of color in conservation because there isn’t a network like there is for other populations in conservation.”

Dawn Chávez, Asheville GreenWorks 

We all benefit from greater inclusion. 

While CTNC is proud of the strides made over the past decade, our collective history and the current state of conservation indicate that there’s still so much to be done. Our work must not only create pathways to employment for rising leaders of color, but also change our culture and practices. We must honor the stories of black, indigenous and other people of color who have felt the loss of access to productive land for living, farming and for preserving their heritage. 

CTNC understands that the historical legacy of conservation must be acknowledged in order to build more resilient, equitable communities for the future.

The stakes are high.

A conservation movement powered by people must include all people, not just those who have traditionally been seated at the head of the table. That’s why CTNC is committed to promoting equity through our work. Our vision is for all communities, regardless of race or economic status, to have a seat at the table.

Conserving land can be one facet of a larger effort to protect the stories, natural, and cultural heritage of historically marginalized communities across the state. 

Conservation Led by Climate Solutions

Average temperatures are rising. Extreme weather events have become the new normal. Our state has incurred billions of dollars in damages from natural disasters including hurricanes and mudslides. We’re calling for more rational and human approaches to rebuilding communities in a way that readies its people for future disasters.

The land calls us to conserve forests, wetlands, river floodplains and agricultural lands as vital to lessening the impacts on human and natural communities. We will incorporate the long-term implications of climate change throughout our work and help build a more sustainable environment and economy for our state.

Our Commitment: CTNC will partner with communities who can help identify ways their land can better support people and protect them from extreme weather events in the future.

North Carolina needs a sound resilience planning and implementation strategy where solutions benefit those who have been most impacted by climate catastrophes – communities of color and those with limited economic resources. By convening leaders from conservation to community development and affordable housing, to local governments we can conserve land in ways that are safer, healthier and more just for communities and people impacted by climate change.

Conserving land with the best chance to adapt to a changing climate can restore natural protections for communities.

We have a history of conserving places like Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, informed by sound science and our commitment to furthering climate resilience. Waterrock Knob is the 16th highest 🏔 peak in the eastern US. which will offer a solution for wildlife to migrate as temperatures slowly rise while offering an outdoor recreation destination that attracts millions of hikers and nature enthusiasts to the region.

Our work continues. By the end of this year, we will acquire another 240 acres of forested land at the headwaters of the Yadkin River that hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents rely on as a source of clean drinking water.

Investing in the power of people

We acknowledge our environment is shifting and we’re facing new challenges. But conserving natural lands can offer new solutions. Won’t you join us in this effort to build resilient communities across the state and address the urgent issue of climate change in North Carolina?

This new journey begins with you.

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