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What Catawba students got done at Dunn’s Mountain

GRANITE QUARRY — Catawba College biology and environmental science students recently spent an unseasonably warm February afternoon cleaning up Dunn’s Mountain Park.

A true local gem, Dunn’s Mountain is an important ecological and historical preserve a few miles west of Catawba College near Granite Quarry.

The 82-acre preserve is operated by Rowan County Parks and Recreation and is a frequent field-trip destination for Catawba College botany and ecology classes. Because of the site’s ecological and historical significance, the LandTrust for Central North Carolina purchased the property in 2001 and permanently protected it under a conservation easement.

Dunn’s Mountain, like many other granitic monadnocks (small hills or mountains made of bedrock) in Rowan County, has been heavily quarried in the past for Salisbury Granite, the pink stone so prominently displayed in local cemeteries as headstones and as a building material in Salisbury and Granite Quarry. Evidence of major quarry operations remains at Dunn’s Mountain. In some areas, piles of refuse from the illegal dumping of rubbish before the site was protected persist.

Despite the human impact, the mountain is still an important preserve because it is the only formally protected granitic flatrock community in this region of the Piedmont. Several of the state’s rare plant species that grow only on rock outcrops exist there as well.

Adam Broome, a junior Catawba College environmental studies major, marveled at the widely spaced and stunted chestnut oak forest surrounding the outcrops.

“It’s amazing that this type of unique forest and plant community is right here in Rowan County,” Broome said. “It feels like you are up in the western mountains, or at least in the Uwharries.”

Twenty Catawba College students from the Tau Eta chapter of Beta Beta Beta, an undergraduate biological honor society, and members of Jay Bolin’s natural resource ecology and management class participated in the cleanup. Students collected and bagged piles of discarded roof shingles, abandoned appliances, parts of a classic car, and hundreds of discarded bottles and cans. Staff from the Rowan Parks and Recreation Department collaborated with the cleanup and hauled the trash bagged and piled by the college students for recycling or disposal.

After the cleanup, the students hiked to the top of the mountain to view the High Rock Mountains and the Uwharries to the east and the faint skyscrapers of Charlotte to the south.

“What took years to build up only took hours to clean up,” said Stephen Beaver, a Catawba College environmental studies senior. “It was nice to finally clean this outcrop up after visiting so many times.”

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