From the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation:
Waterrock Knob Land Management Planning Begins
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and Pigeon River Fund provide grants to evaluate public use opportunities and natural resource protection
(ASHEVILLE, N.C.) – In the summer of 2016, the Blue Ridge Parkway acquired 5,329 acres near Waterrock Knob, milepost 451, for the largest expansion of the park unit in 60 years. In an effort to implement opportunities for the public while protecting the fragile natural resources, a collaborative process involving the National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, neighboring communities, land trusts, nonprofits, and additional stakeholders is underway to envision the future of this pristine landscape.
The Waterrock Knob region of Western North Carolina is one of the highest points along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is one of the most rare and biodiverse landscapes in the East. Elk, rare salamanders, flying squirrels, and slowly disappearing high elevation spruce-fir forests all inhabit this breathtaking landscape also known as the Plott Balsams. The area is also home to vital watersheds and rich Cherokee and Appalachian cultural history.
“This land is a remarkable and fragile environment,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “As a region, we must come together to take extra care to protect its future, and this careful and inclusive planning process is the initial step toward that goal.”
During a workshop this fall in Waynesville, the National Park Service and community and state stakeholders gathered to lay the foundation for a report that will begin a long-term collaborative effort to develop the area to protect the resource while encouraging public enjoyment and use. The report, “Waterrock Knob Regional Vision Plan: A Collaborative Regional Vision for the Heart of the Plott Balsam Mountains,” will be drafted by Equinox, an Asheville-based consulting, planning, and design firm with a focus on conservation, sustainability, and environmentally responsible land development projects.
The plan represents a regional approach to conservation that extends beyond the specified acreage, taking into account the connections and needs of neighboring spaces and communities. The public will be invited to give their input and take part in the planning process during an open house in January.
This project is made possible by grants from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and the Pigeon River Fund at The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.