CTNC is proud to welcome Cynthia Satterfield as the new Executive Director of our organization.
Cynthia joins us with a strong background in community-driven conservation. Her dozen years at the Tar River Land Conservancy as the Director of Development and at the Eno River Association as Director of Development and Outreach ground her in the land conservation work central to CTNC. Her most recent role as State Director of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club expands her strategic leadership skills. Cynthia holds an English and Anthropology Bachelor’s Degree, Master of Business Administration, Certificate in Non-Profit Management and Equity Training.
Cynthia’s personal commitment to CTNC’s values of collaboration, boldness, inclusiveness, compassion, authenticity, openness, and curiosity inspired confidence in the CTNC Board.
“Cynthia’s personal commitment to CTNC’s values of collaboration, boldness, inclusiveness, compassion, authenticity, openness, and curiosity inspired confidence in the CTNC Board”, said CTNC Board President Brandon A. Robinson. “We are fully confident that the wealth of experience Cynthia brings will lead CTNC to new growth and new opportunity, making it possible to fulfill our mission of building resilient, just communities by delivering conservation solutions across the state.”
Cynthia will join CTNC officially on December 11th as Chris embarks on his retirement journey. We are excited to begin this new chapter as an organization and enter the new year as a strong-knit group of staff, board members, donors and supporters.
The town of Princeville knows that well, as do many climate-impacted towns in North Carolina. A spot of historic and devastating flooding as well as every-day challenges resulting from nuisance flooding, this town invested in building natural stormwater capture devices while enhancing once-vacant land throughout the community.
In the summer of 2023, CTNC spearheaded a project to install green infrastructure with wetland enhancement projects on vacant, town-owned parcels along the Tar River. These are now sites where stormwater can naturally flow and reduce nuisance flooding that causes inconveniences to residents, roads, and neighborhoods in populated areas. The project created 6,000 square feet of stormwater retention strategies, including bioretention cells and rain gardens designed to hold 27,740 gallons of water per rain event.
Princeville elected leaders worked with residents and partners to identify three locations throughout town where standing water was already creating safety hazards following large rain events. By turning these sites into managed wetland areas with trees, shrubs, and pollinator plants, each site can now absorb stormwater and address standing water issues. This is all while beautifying each plot with seasonal colorful blooms and leaves, supporting native wildlife, including birds and other pollinators.
GARDENS ARE READY TO BLOOM
Site 1 is located at Town Hall and Freedom Hill to help add stormwater runoff at a high-traffic intersection of Princeville. The site includes NC native pollinator plants including Soft Rush, Walker’s Low Catmint, and Black-eyed Susan.
Site 2 is located at the corner of Church and Walston Streets, and Site 3 is located at the corner of Beasley and Walston Streets. These locations were selected due to their proximity to the elementary school rain garden installations completed in 2020.
The project is continuing with an important science component. The Town of Princeville seeks to incorporate community education into every conservation project that takes place. In the case of the stormwater infrastructure improvements, CTNC received funding from TELUS to purchase sensors that track the water absorption rate of the wetland areas. These sensors are offered by Temboo, a technology company that utilizes data to engage communities in understanding their environmental impact locally. The sensors will be installed this summer and will collect data that will be shared with town leaders, educators, students and families to showcase the importance of conservation as a natural solution to flooding and other climate-related issues being experienced by Princeville and surrounding communities.
RAIN GARDENS & WETLAND ENHANCEMENTS OFFER A CLIMATE SOLUTION
Communities across North Carolina are experiencing greater occurrences of precipitation and rain events that cause minor and major flooding. Conservation solutions, like installing rain gardens and other stormwater management techniques, are a great way to manage flood water while benefiting communities and residents. These types of installations are beautiful, offer a benefit to wildlife like birds and pollinators, effectively manage stormwater, naturally filter contaminants from water flow before it reaches a river or stream, and are low maintenance options for long-term care. CTNC supports natural solutions like stormwater infrastructure to benefit communities seeking to build resilience to flood challenges exacerbated by our changing climate.
The stormwater designs and plant selections were created by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab based on recommendations from the Princeville Community Floodprint. It was informed by input from Princeville residents and approved by the Town of Princeville Board of Commissioners. The project will be installed by M&M Landscaping – a local contracting partner participating in the conservation projects being funded through CTNC.
Funding for this project was generously provided by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation EJ4Climate grant.
Princeville Collaborative Shared with Top Environmental Officials
CTNC’s community-led projects are inspiring the nation to build stronger communities in the face of climate change.
In July, as a recipient of the EJ4Climate grant fund, CTNC staff were invited to Mexico to discuss the accomplishments and plans of the Princeville Collaborative with government leaders from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. CTNC’s Chris Canfield and Mary Alice Holley traveled to Merida, Mexico, for the 29th Annual Session of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Council and Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) Public Forum. The invite-only Forum was attended by the top environmental officials from the three North American countries, as well as youth, Indigenous groups and local communities.
At the event, the CTNC team added meaningful experiences to the “Community-led Environmental Education for Sustainable Development” theme. North American grantees shared their activities with communities directly impacted by our changing climate.
“What really stayed with us were those side conversations that gave us new perspectives about the challenges conservation and environment leaders are facing across our three countries. These encounters brought us a deeper appreciation for the work we get to do here in North Carolina. Perhaps what was most heartening about our visit was the affirmation that what CTNC aligned to support a few years ago in our new strategic plan – community-climate-equity – is what each country in North America, each in its own way, is embracing, too.”
-Mary Alice Holley, Director of Community Innovation
The 29th Council Session of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation addressed many of the most pressing environmental challenges facing North America’s communities, particularly vulnerable communities and Indigenous Peoples. This is a joint meeting between Canada, Mexico, and the United States (CUSMA, T-MEC, USMCA), led by their respective environment ministers as part of each country’s commitment to the Environmental Cooperation Agreement.
“I was proud to share that North Carolina is on the leading edge with our newly underway $20 million effort to build a statewide flood resilience model and plan. I’ve been collaborating with state officials on the process and am heartened by the holistic, community-driven approach they are undertaking. Flooding is not just a coastal issue, as the devastating recent events in Eastern Kentucky remind us. And conservation plays a crucial role in mitigating that threat.”
Michaella Kosia, AmeriCorps Program Director, comes to CTNC from an unexpected field: public health. She graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in Public Health and her background comes from other areas of public health, such as addressing health disparities amongst marginalized communities in community health.
She’s bringing her unique perspective to CTNC by supporting our Resilience Corps NC host sites and members during their service term by coordinating training, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability.
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? I probably first realized the real and present impacts of climate change back in the early 2000s. I remember Al Gore bringing attention to global warming. As a child, I didn’t realize the severity of it until years later, into adulthood. Because I’m a naturally curious person, I decided to begin educating myself on environmental issues such as global warming and the effects of climate change. Once I stepped into this area of awareness, I started to notice the changes in weather patterns. Now, it has been over 20 years since I was exposed to the topic and it has unfortunately worsened over time. I wish our country would have taken it more seriously earlier by being more proactive.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? With North Carolina being a coastal state, hurricane season in NC has become more active and it’s occurring earlier. Water levels are rising with more flooding on the coast, summers are extremely hot, and I even read that sharks are migrating closer to our shores due to the waters getting warmer.
What does climate resilience mean to you? To me, resilience can be seeded through education on climate change, spreading awareness through that knowledge, supporting organizations who are focused on making a change and voting for elected officials who explicitly support addressing the climate crisis.
What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action? It takes all of us! Although our individual efforts are necessary, we can truly move mountains as a collective.
What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient?
Make sure to include marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. I’ve observed that marginalized populations such as Black, Indigenous People of Color, immigrants, and those with special needs/disabilities tend to be left out of the conversation when they are experiencing higher/damaging levels of climate change. This can be done by having educational material in other languages, partnering with other organizations within said communities, making the educational material accessible (braille for those visually impaired, audible for those hard of hearing) etc.
Implement more options for staff in these organizations to work from home. Working from home would save on gasoline and greenhouse gas emissions.
Implement more educational programs about climate change in our schools. Like Whitney Houston said, “..the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. We always want to leave the world better than we found it and this can be done through the next generations.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?
I do my best to prioritize my mental health whenever I feel overwhelmed. Walking our local trails, practicing mindfulness, eating well, and being intentional about spending time with friends and family.
As we conclude the first phase of executing recommendations outlined in the Princeville Floodprint, the collaboration is turning our attention to Phase II. This phase will further lay the groundwork toward establishing an effective model of community-driven climate change adaptation that can be replicated in communities across the state. Throughout North Carolina, rural communities established along rivers, the coast, and lakes face repeated flood events. With the increasing threat of climate change, more communities will experience these impacts.
Phase II focuses attention toward converting vacant and underutilized land. The Town of Princeville, North Carolina State University Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, Conservation Corps NC, and Temboo Software will work to complete another round of conservation projects designed to better manage flood and stormwater, establish recreation opportunities for residents, build a model community garden to support locally-grown food operations, and connect youth and adults to environmental education opportunities. This phase focuses on transforming underutilized town-owned lots and property that FEMA has determined to be at risk of future flooding into absorbing flood impact while making them usable spaces for the community.
Over the next two years, this partnership will work to complete:
Installation of 6,000 square feet of rain gardens and managed wetlands on vacated lots to hold up to 28,000 gallons of water per rain event
Opening of a 24-bed model community garden on vacated lots to promote local, low-carbon agriculture
Planting of trees and native plants for 250,000 gallons of water absorption and 2,900 pounds of carbon storage per year
Creation of trails with educational and health-benefit elements at Princeville’s riverfront Heritage Park
“Our town has already seen the rewards from our collaboration with Conservation Trust, NC State, and all our partners,” said Princeville Town Manager Dr. Glenda Lawrence-Knight. “This next phase will only further prepare our town for the next flooding incident while showing a true investment in the health and well-being of our citizens.”
In tandem with the on-the-ground work, CTNC and our partners are writing an effective model for building a resilient community. We hope this community-based model can be replicated to benefit others facing similar challenges.
“Communities across North Carolina will benefit from the lessons learned as a result of the partnerships and outcomes in Princeville,” said Andrew Fox, FASLA, PLA of NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab. “It’s exciting to see people benefit from the principles that we’ve studied and developed.”
This work will be carried out with financial support from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the Anonymous Trust, and generous donors who have made an investment in resilience through CTNC and our partners.
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.
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.
CTNC strives to seed equity and inclusion throughout the conservation community
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.
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.
“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.
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
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.
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 Carolinians across 21 counties and 93 municipalities.”
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.”
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.