View of Calloway Peak from protected property. Credit: Rusty Painter

Uninterrupted – Florence Boyd Home & Asutsi Trailhead Protected!

Protecting the Florence Boyd Home / Asutsi Trailhead Property in Watauga County was a final wish of a generous family.

This tranquil plot is 41 acres just north of the Caldwell County line and full of purpose. Nestled in the area nicknamed “The Little Parkway,” the forested land can be seen from Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 221.

While these acres have conservation value, it is also a piece of North Carolina history. This property is named for native daughter and nurse Florence Boyd. This is where she founded the Florence Boyd Home for Crippled Children, a nature-based therapy center for physically-challenged children who had few treatment options in the 1930s and ’40s. Ms. Boyd served as the only medical professional and midwife in the area for years, and old-timers will regale you with stories of her courage and compassion. In addition, the remnants of her roadside store and cabin remain on site.

Protecting this property means safeguarding our clean water. The creeks flowing from the property meet up with the Boone Fork. We can reduce the impacts of floods exacerbated by climate change through forever preserving this land. The protected forestlands also offer carbon sequestration.

This land deal also ensures that the Asutsi Trail is uninterrupted. A-Su-Tsi is a Cherokee term meaning “to bridge,” which accurately describes this 0.4-mile connector from Hwy. 221 to the Tanawha Trail and the Grandfather Mountain State Park trail network. The Asutsi Trail offers access to popular hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is the only entry point to the network of trails on the east side of Grandfather Mountain during winter closures of the Parkway.

“Successful conservation of the Florence Boyd tract honors the legacy of Ms. Boyd, protects water quality in a pristine stream, eliminates the risk of unsightly development, affords protection to 41 acres of forestland, and preserves an opportunity for additional recreation amenities. We are grateful to our generous supporters and the Blue Ridge Parkway for ensuring permanent protection of this unique property,” said Chris Canfield, CTNC Executive Director.

CTNC intends to transfer the Florence Boyd tract to the National Park Service, so it may someday provide a larger and safer parking area for users of the Asutsi Trail that begins on Park Service land just a few feet from this property.

Funding for this project was made possible by the NC Land and Water Fund and support from Fred and Alice Stanback. Special thanks to partners The Florence E. Boyd Home Foundation, the Hughes family (Linville, NC), Blue Ridge Parkway.

Thank you to everyone who made this conservation project possible. If you’d like to learn more about adding your property to a legacy of conservation contact Land Protection Director Rusty Painter.

Expanding & Preserving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Land trusts like CTNC are critical partners in quickly moving to preserve land for expansion of park boundaries.

As 2021 draws to a close, we have another accomplishment to share for those who want to preserve the wild, scenic, and beautiful vistas of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Through the generous support of our donors, CTNC recently transferred the 31-acre Bear Creek property and the 10-acre Scott Creek Overlook tract to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Blue Ridge Parkway boundary. These two tracts contribute to the multi-partner, landscape-scale conservation effort that is expanding recreation opportunities and protected land around Waterrock Knob.

View from Scott Creek Overlook property. Credit: Rusty Painter

We can all agree that preserving private land for conservation is important. However, it is also incredibly important to expand our federally-protected lands at the same time. Land trusts like CTNC are critical partners in quickly moving to preserve land for expansion of park boundaries. Often, threatened properties can only be saved by rapid action that’s simply not feasible for our government partners.

In this case, CTNC held these parcels in conservation protection for eight years while the Parkway worked through the proper channels to accept them into the federal system for permanent conservation. Without a land trust partner, these transactions wouldn’t be possible, and without your support, land trusts couldn’t continue this important work.

“This acquisition is an important gift to future generations. I appreciate all of the effort on the part of Conservation Trust for NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway staff to get us to this point.”

Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout

“We extend our sincerest thanks to CTNC for holding onto these properties for the past eight years! We’re on track to accept several more CTNC properties this year. We’ll have more to celebrate in the coming months.”

Alex Faught, Realty Specialist, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

Our successes are not always instantaneous, and it’s through the unwavering support of our conservation and community partners that we’re able to preserve and protect the best parts of our state.

CTNC’s long-standing relationship with the National Park Service, and generous donors, makes it possible to expand the Parkway boundary to include more trails and open space, protect critical headwaters, inspirational views, and slow the impacts of climate change by conserving forested land.

Thunder Hill Overlook, Watauga County

CTNC Acquires 229-acre Thunder Hill Overlook Property

Conserved land will impact clean drinking water for nearly 1 million North Carolinians downstream of the Yadkin River headwaters

Thunder Hill Overlook, a 229-acre tract of land on the outskirts of Blowing Rock, N.C., will be permanently free from subdivision, development and logging after being acquired by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC). CTNC plans to donate the Watauga County property to the National Park Service (NPS) for incorporation in the Blue Ridge Parkway park boundary.

The Thunder Hill Overlook property is highly visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 290 and 291, and can be viewed from both the Thunder Hill and Yadkin Valley overlooks. This is a significant acquisition for the region with numerous unnamed streams and Martin Branch, one of the primary streams forming the headwaters of the Yadkin River.

“As the surrounding towns of Boone and Blowing Rock continue to grow, conserving parcels of this significance is increasingly important. The land not only supports significant wildlife habitat, but also holds the headwaters of the Yadkin River, a water system that supplies provides drinking water to almost one million North Carolinans across 21 counties and 93 municipalities,” said CTNC Executive Director Chris Canfield.

CTNC’s purchase of the property was made possible by a generous price reduction offered by the sellers, Howard B. Arbuckle lll, Corinne Harper Arbuckle Allen, Anne McPherson Harper Bernhardt, Lee Corinne Harper Vason, Mary Gwyn Harper Addison, and Albert F. Shelander, Jr., heir of Betty Banks Harper Shelander, and significant contributions from a number of private donors including Fred & Alice Stanback and other local conservation enthusiasts.

Finley Gwyn Harper, Sr., was born in 1880 near Patterson, Caldwell County, in the scenic Happy Valley area of North Carolina. He grew up in his birthplace with his 5 siblings, and, except for time spent earning his college degree in Raleigh (now N.C. State University), he lived his entire life within 25 miles of Patterson. His grandfather had given land for the founding of Lenoir and many descendants were active in the business, civic, and social activities of northwestern North Carolina. In 1905 when he was 25 years old, Gwyn Harper, Sr., acquired the first of several tracts which form the Harper lands in Blackberry Valley. Two years later, he married Corinne Henkel who also grew up in Happy Valley and Lenoir. Through the years he continued to purchase additional adjoining parcels, some of which were original land grants from the state. The last deeds for his assemblage are dated in the late 1940’s shortly before his death in 1951. Gwyn Harper, Sr., and his wife, Corinne, loved the rolling hills, rivers, ridges, valleys and views of the Blowing Rock area. Their story reflects the sentiments of the extended family who also have treasured these pristine mountain lands and waters. The direct descendants of F. Gwyn Harper, Sr., have continued to hold his acreage for 68 years since his death.

“We, the current owners, are pleased and humbly grateful to convey the Harper lands to the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for protection by the National Park Service as a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway while also providing permanent protection to wildlife and water quality in this beautiful region of western North Carolina,” the sellers shared in a joint statement. “We express our sincere, heartfelt thanks to the Piedmont Land Conservancy, Foothills Conservancy, and, in particular, Conservation Trust for North Carolina for working cooperatively, collaboratively, and professionally to make preserving this unique property a reality.”

For more information on Blue Ridge Parkway land protection efforts visit protecttheblueridgeparkway.org.


Conservation Trust for North Carolina works to inspire and enable people to build resilient, just communities throughout our state. We work to conserve land that enhances climate resilience, provides a community benefit, and seeds equity and inclusion in conservation. More information about CTNC is available at www.ctnc.org or @ct4nc on Facebook and Twitter.

For media inquiries related to this project please contact Communications Director Mary Alice Holley.

1,000-Acre Conservation Project Promises Clean Water and Pristine Parkway Views

Wildacres Retreat, a 1,076-acre property adjacent to Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway, is now permanently protected thanks to a collaborative partnership among Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and Wildacres Retreat.

Wildacres Retreat, located in northern McDowell County near Little Switzerland, is a nonprofit conference center governed by a board of directors. The center offers its facilities and surrounding woodlands to nonprofit groups for educational and cultural programming, and for board and staff retreats.

The property is protected under two conservation easements. A state-held Clean Water Management Trust Fund easement will protect stream buffers and critical natural heritage areas, while a second easement held by Conservation Trust for North Carolina will preserve a key portion of forested lands connected to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. Together, the easements will safeguard wildlife habitat and protect water quality in five miles of streams of the Armstrong Creek watershed in the headwaters of the Catawba River.  Foothills Conservancy will monitor and steward these conservation easements on a contractual basis.

“Protection of these lands fills in a very important piece of the puzzle to permanently conserve extensive forests and habitats in the very high-quality Armstrong Creek watershed of the Catawba,” said Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director for Foothills Conservancy. “Wildacres adjoins a Wildlife Resources Commission fish hatchery and more than 10,000 acres of federal Pisgah National Forest Service lands. All this conservation helps ensure Lake James has a very clean water supply protection source.”

There are nearly six miles of hiking trails on the property for public use, including one trail into the property from Deer Lick Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The project was primarily funded by a $1 million grant from North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded to Foothills Conservancy and a $26,000 donation from Philip Blumenthal, director of Wildacres Retreat. In addition, CTNC secured a Duke Water Resources grant, $50,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation, a $100,000 grant from the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, and $177,240 from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which is made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Resilient Landscapes Initiative seeks to build the capacity of land trusts working to respond to climate change. A grant of $34,779 from the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund, administered by the NC Community Foundation enabled CTNC to pay off a loan secured to purchase the easements.

Clean Water Management Trust Fund Executive Director Walter Clark described the organization’s reasons for contributing to the project to conserve what he calls an “incredible piece of property.”

“The Clean Water Management Trust Fund supported the Wildacres project for multiple reasons, including its protection of five miles of high-quality trout waters, which contain headwater streams in the Catawba River Basin,” said Clark. “The project also protects multiple forest communities important to North Carolina’s natural heritage.” Since its establishment in 1996, Clean Water Management Trust Fund has protected over 500,000 acres, including 2,500 miles of streams.

“The Wildacres Retreat property has been among CTNC and Foothills Conservancy’s highest priority projects for years,” said Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director. “Conserving its ecologically diverse habitat between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest achieves the type of landscape-scale conservation that’s one goal of our Blue Ridge Parkway conservation plan. Successes like this would not be possible without the commitment of champions like Philip Blumenthal and the Wildacres Retreat Board of Directors.”

Blumenthal added, “It’s been a long-term goal of the Blumenthal family to ensure the ecological integrity of this unique property for the benefit of Wildacres Retreat visitors and all who enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’re fortunate to have land trusts like CTNC and Foothills Conservancy who work tirelessly to save places we all love in North Carolina. They ensure our state’s most valuable assets will be protected forever.”

“Permanent conservation of the Wildacres property marks a major milestone for the protection of habitat in North Carolina,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Conservation Capital & Research Programs. “As the climate changes, this highly resilient property will provide a long-term haven for sensitive plants and animals. The Open Space Institute is proud to have supported this project and we applaud Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina for their collaboration and tireless work to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Federally-protected land in this region is fragmented and thousands of acres are still vulnerable to development. Western North Carolina land trusts frequently partner to preserve National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway lands for the benefit of all North Carolinians.

For more information, contact:

Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director, Ph: 828-437-9930, tkenney@foothillsconservancy.org

Mary Alice Holley, CTNC Communications Director, Ph: 919-864-0428, mholley@ctnc.org

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30 Acres Protected Along Parkway and Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Last week, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) purchased a 30-acre property along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County. The Elk Mountain tract shares a quarter-mile boundary with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because of the close proximity to the Parkway, the Elk Mountain tract is a high priority for acquisition by the National Park Service.

Portions of the property are visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 274, just off Highway 421 near Deep Gap. Conservation of this tract complements CTNC’s recent protection of an 86-acre property, just across the Parkway below Elk Mountain Overlook. The conserved forest region protects water quality in a tributary of Gap Creek, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail passes within feet of this property, ensuring a more desirable experience for hikers.

CTNC is working with Blue Ridge Conservancy to donate this land to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Parkway’s official boundary. The addition of the Elk Mountain property to the Parkway will help increase the connectivity of protected lands in the area to preserve the natural corridor and scenic vistas. Conserving land along the Blue Ridge Parkway also enhances the landscape’s resilience to our changing climate by providing protected places where ecological diversity can resist damage and recover quickly.

“Protection of properties like this contributes to the integrity of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which attracts millions of visitors to the High Country each year,” said Margaret Newbold, CTNC Interim Executive Director. “The addition of the Elk Mountain property also enhances the experience of hikers along this section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail near Boone and Blowing Rock.”

“My concern for preservation dates back a number of years as a member of a local preservation task force, hoping that others would be able to experience the beauty and joy of the world, especially being on the Parkway,” said property owner Bill Asti. “Working with the National Park Service, I learned so much about preserving the surrounding environment and in particular the ‘visual watershed’ as an integral component of conveying the history of places and events. Conserving more land is so important to the future of our country.”

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has now conserved 63 properties on the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 33,166 acres. Blue Ridge Conservancy has conserved 221 properties in Allegheny, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties, totaling 20,008 acres. The New River Conservancy, based in West Jefferson, also conserves land in Watauga County. For more information on Blue Ridge Parkway land protection efforts visit www.protecttheblueridgeparkway.org.


The Orchard at Altapass, Iconic Blue Ridge Parkway Destination, Wins Permanent Protection

CTNC recently protected the Orchard at Altapass, ensuring that the land will remain a working apple orchard and vibrant Blue Ridge Parkway visitor destination long into the future.  CTNC and the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) purchased conservation agreements (easements) on the 125-acre orchard that will ensure its permanent preservation.  The Orchard nestled below the Parkway between mileposts 328 and 329, lies within more than 3,500 acres that CTNC has already protected.

“The Orchard at Altapass is truly one of the most special places along the Parkway.  Its combination of scenic beauty, rich history, Blue Ridge mountain culture, and outright fun can’t be beat, ” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods.

The orchard is open from early May through October,  hosting approximately 50,000 visitors who can enjoy 150 musical performances and clogging, experience Revolutionary War history and local storytelling, purchase fresh apples, fudge, and ice cream, and take part in hayrides and environmental education activities.  The property contains a portion of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, the route walked by patriot militia to the pivotal Revolutionary War battle at Kings Mountain.

Kit Trubey bought the 276-acre orchard twenty years ago to prevent development of the unique property. CTNC began working with Ms. Trubey and her brother Bill Carson 15 years ago to protect forever the Orchard’s land, apple trees, trails, vistas, and cultural heritage.  In 2001 CTNC purchased 132 acres of the orchard property upslope of the Parkway and donated it to the National Park Service for inclusion within the Parkway’s official boundary.

CTNC continued working with Carson and Trubey to ensure the long-term existence of the orchard, culminating in the conservation easements signed on March 26th, 2015.  Carson and Trubey agreed to sell the easements at a generously discounted price, and CTNC purchased the easements with funding provided by CWMTF, Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, and many other individual donors.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that all of the ‘good stuff’ at the Orchard at Altapass – the apple trees, music and dance hall, scenic vistas, hiking trails, and values of the community – will be protected for future generations to enjoy,” said Orchard at Altapass co-owner Bill Carson.

Help Save the Orchard at Altapass

Give generously today to help CTNC conserve this authentic Blue Ridge Parkway destination!

The Orchard at Altapass is a place where 50,000 people each year take in stunning mountain vistas, dance to local music, study monarch butterflies, hike trails, take hayrides, and eat fresh apples, fudge, and ice cream. And they hear poignant and hilarious stories about the families that lived in these hills generations ago. The storyteller? Orchard owner Bill Carson, the funniest former NASA rocket scientist you’ll ever come across.

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina is working closely with Bill and his sister Kit Trubey to conserve forever the Orchard’s land, apple trees, trails, vistas, and cultural heritage.

Bill and Kit are dedicated to protecting this iconic Parkway landmark. They bought the 276-acre property twenty years ago to prevent development of the views and worked with the Conservation Trust to conserve almost half the land in 2001. Now, they want to guarantee the preservation of the rest, for the days long after they’re gone.

Our plan is to purchase a lasting conservation agreement on the property that will protect the orchard’s vistas and enable all of the current activities to continue. But it’s not a simple path to get there. This is a complicated project because of all the orchard’s activities, our long-term stewardship responsibilities, and the need for substantial state funding.

We need your help to ensure that we can get the job done this year. We need to raise $30,000 by June 30th to cover our transaction costs and leverage public funds to complete the project.

If we fail, the orchard’s future could be bleak. A future where inappropriate residential or commercial development rules the day, and ruins this priceless destination. That would be nothing less than a tragedy.

We hope you will give generously today to help us conserve this national treasure. Your support will help us prevent any changes that would ruin the natural beauty, mountain culture, and local economy that the orchard supports. Let’s keep the Orchard at Altapass the truly amazing place that it is.  Thank you!