Three Rivers Land Trust, Spencer expand Fred and Alice Stanback Educational Forest and Nature Preserve

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, March 14, 2023

SPENCER — As part of its mission to expand public lands, Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT) transferred nearly 38 acres to the Town of Spencer on March 13 to expand the Fred and Alice Stanback Educational Forest and Nature Preserve.

This new property already has hiking trails on it that connect to the existing trails at the original preserve. This new addition also has a beautiful hardwood forest, and is home to a rare species of plant known as fork-leaf toothwort (Cardamine dissecta).

“Our organization has three focus areas: expanding public lands, saving family farms and protecting local waters. This project touches on two of three focus areas; expanding public land and protecting local waters,” TRLT’s Executive Director Travis Morehead said. “We pride ourselves on adding land to the public trust and are excited about the transfer of this land to the Town of Spencer because it provides critical open space and recreational opportunities for so many. A special thank you to all involved, but especially Fred and Alice Stanback and the Wallace family for making this project possible.”

The original acquisition that started the preserve was purchased by Three Rivers Land Trust in 2011 and was 42 acres. Since that time a few other tracts were added after that original purchase bringing the total size to 53 acres. With this new addition, the preserve totals 91 acres.

“In addition to this land being owned by the town of Spencer and available for the public to enjoy, there are conservation easements on all these acres as well that ensure that the hardwood forest and natural resources here will be protected and maintained in their natural state in perpetuity,” states Associate Director Crystal Cockman. “It is exciting to know that this beautiful forest so close to town will remain as it is for future generations to enjoy.”

This project was made possible thanks in part to a grant from the NC Land and Water Fund, in combination with a grant from Duke Energy, private donations from Fred and Alice Stanback, and donations from other land trust supporters. The Wallace family provided a generous bargain sale of the land to make this purchase possible. Special thanks to Dyke, Stephen and Tim Messinger for the donation of a lot that also transferred to the town as part of this project in memory of their mother, Mary H. Messinger.

TRLT and the town of Spencer will be hosting a ribbon cutting event open to the public to celebrate this property transfer on March 24 at 10 a.m. at the Fred and Alice Stanback Educational Forest and Nature Preserve located at the end of 11th Street in Spencer. TRLT staff will lead a hike on the new addition following the ceremony.

To learn more about how to conserve your own lands or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust in their conservation mission, please contact Emily Callicutt, Land Protection Specialist at Three Rivers Land Trust by calling 704-647-0302 or by email at