LandTrust works to keep Spencer Woods the way it is now

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SPENCER — Thanks to concerned local residents and a land preservation group, a 40-acre hardwood forest in Spencer could be saved from clear-cutting.
The LandTrust for Central North Carolina wants to create a natural public park there in honor of Fred and Alice Stanback, long-time conservation advocates in Rowan County.
Executive Director Jason Walser said the group will need the community’s help to buy the property by the end of this year.
The LandTrust is $100,000 away from purchasing the 40-acre tract — called “Spencer Woods” by neighbors — that runs along South Rowan Avenue between 17th and 11th streets.
It was set last year to be clear-cut, graded flat, and re-planted in loblolly pine trees. The Post had a story about it in February 2010.
“When I came to the office on Monday morning after the article ran, I had eight voice mails on my phone related to the story in the paper, and three more emails,” Walser said in a written statement. “Every single one of them asked us to try to get involved to save the trees if at all possible.”
If snow and rain had not delayed logging efforts, they may not have had a chance. Landowner Craft Development, a Charlotte-based real estate development company, had scheduled the clear-cutting one week before the Post story was printed.
Buddy Gettys, former mayor of Spencer, said he contacted Walser to see if something could be done.
“It’s beautiful. I’ve been there all my life, and I didn’t want anybody to cut it down,” Gettys said. “If they were going to put something in there that’s valuable, that’s OK, but they weren’t.”
David Cuthberson and Scott Twiddy of Craft Development were willing to find a way to conserve the woods, Walser said. The LandTrust talked with them and agreed to put $10,000 down toward an option to purchase the property.
Mayor Jody Everhart said he and the Spencer Board of Aldermen have been working with the LandTrust to help it buy the land and create a passive recreation park.
“It would be an added attraction, not just for Spencer, but for Salisbury and northern Rowan County,” Everhart said. “Where else can you go in town that has 40 acres of natural woods and trails you can walk through?”
Joann Gobbel, who lives on West 17th Street in Spencer, said saving the trees would be “absolutely wonderful.”
“I would just have a dying fit if somebody came down and cut that out,” Gobbel said. “It’s the only bit of forest we even have left.”
Jackie Cernohorsky said she is glad the area won’t be clear-cut but has concerns about the idea of changing it into a public park. Her property on South Rowan Avenue borders the woods.
“To be honest with you, I sort of like it just like it is,” Cernohorsky said. “It’s very private this way. … It’s real natural-looking, and I think it’s pretty.”
Walser said there are no set plans for the project, and local residents will be invited to share ideas and take ownership of their community park.
The LandTrust was hoping to receive a grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, but the state redirected nearly all of the available funds this year to help balance its budget.
Walser said Julian Robertson Jr. contributed to the project earlier this year in honor of Fred and Alice Stanback. Other private donors, including friends of the Stanbacks, have given since then.
To raise the remaining $100,000 needed to buy the property, The LandTrust will hold a public fundraising campaign later this summer and into the fall.
“We are going to need the support of everyone who enjoys these trees and this beautiful property to ensure that the ultimate goal is realized,” Walser said.
For more information, or to make a donation toward the conservation of Spencer Woods, email landtrust@ or call 704-647-0302 .