Fred and Alice Stanback crucial in conservation of parkway, Mount Mitchell lands

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2016

Staff report

Recently announced major expansions of Mount Mitchell state park and the Blue Ridge Parkway could not have happened without the generosity of Salisbury philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback.

At Mount Mitchell, the Conservation Fund has announced it will resell to the state a pair of tracts that together add up to 2,744 acres.

The acreage is located on the western slope of the Black Mountains northwest of Marion and includes Cattail Peak, which is 6,584 feet in elevation. This new acreage added to Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s first state park dating back to 1916, will more than double the size of the park.

The Conservation Fund paid $8.6 million for the two tracts and will be selling them to the state for $3.2 million.

According to reports, contributions from the Stanbacks, the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund are making the deal possible.

On the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, the Nature Conservancy announced this month it will give a gift of 1,654 acres to the parkway near the Plott Balsam Mountains in Jackson County.

The Stanbacks and an anonymous donor had donated this property to the Nature Conservancy in 1997, and at the time it was the largest unprotected tract along the parkway.

According to reports, the Nature Conservancy had worked to enhance the tract for the past 19 years until the opportunity arose to transfer it to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the most visited site in the National Park Service.

The 469-mile parkway had roughly 15 million visitors in 2015.

The donated property on the parkway can be seen from Waterrock Knob Overlook near Milepost 451.2. It is about a 45-minute drive southwest of Asheville and includes a summit of 6,292 feet, the highest point in the Plott Balsam Mountains.

In this area, some 5,000 acres in all have been conserved and will become Waterrock Knob Park — a park within the parkway, much like the Julian Price and Moses H. Cone parks on different sections of the parkway.

The Conservation Fund and the National Park Service celebrated the National Park Service’s centennial and the protection of lands around Waterrock Knob this past week. The Conservation Fund previously had donated 2,986 acres to Waterrock Knob.

In all, the conservation of land in this area was a longtime collaboration by the Conservation Fund, Blue Ridge Parkway, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and private landowners.

The Asheville Citizen-Times said money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund leveraged private funding from Fred and Alice Stanback, Brad and Shelli Stanback and other private supporters who had helped to purchase the tracts being donated to the National Park Service by the four land trusts.