The Blue Ridge Forever coalition has just released its “Conservation Vision for Western North Carolina,” a report spotlighting 28 areas in North Carolina’s 25 western counties deemed to be in critical need of protection.
As part of its overarching goal of setting aside 50,000 acres of land by 2010, the coalition’s 13 partners—regional conservation organizations—used criteria such as rare ecosystems, high-quality waters, linkage to already-protected habitat and exceptional views to prioritize parcels and draft funding proposals for locking each one into a conservation easement.
“With population and development growing at unprecedented levels in Western North Carolina, land trusts are having to take a broader look at where they invest their limited resources,” says Phyllis Stiles, Blue Ridge Forever’s campaign director. North Carolina leads the nation in loss of farmland, and an estimated 100,000 acres of other natural land are also developed each year, the coalition reports.
The coalition’s list includes areas that are important to tourism, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains and the DuPont State Forest. Other areas, such as the New River headwaters, the North Fork of the Catawba River and upper Linville Gorge, were selected for their value in protecting water quality. “The recent drought has awakened everyone,” Richard Rogers, executive director of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, said at the Sept. 4 launch event.
Farming communities in Spring Creek, Fairview, Sandy Mush, Pisgah Ridge and Bethel also made the list. Working farms are “something we don’t want to see in a museum,” Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair David Gantt said during the event.
Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Philip Francis was also on hand to praise Blue Ridge Forever’s preservation efforts. “If we don’t take care of this, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be here in the future,” he said about the Parkway’s famous views.
To learn more, visit www.blueridgeforever.info/conservation_vision.html.
The view from on high
The Cliffs at High Carolina will feature the first (and, so far, only) U.S. golf course designed by superstar Tiger Woods. His only other custom-designed course is located in Dubai, where it will serve as an amenity to a cluster of multimillion-dollar palaces.
Having the stamp of Tiger Woods’ design on Buncombe County’s largest residential development, which will span 3,000 acres between Fairview and Swannanoa, has ignited widespread interest. The Cliffs’ calculated marketing approach doesn’t hurt either, ensuring that glossy ads for high-elevation living are inserted in magazines addressed to targeted households and on international flights to key destinations. Cliffs CEO Jim Anthony says 130 people have already put down $10,000 apiece to reserve their homesites (there will be up to up to 1,200 in all).
On Sept. 5, several Cliffs representatives, including Anthony himself, joined a group of neighboring residents, local elected officials, AdvantageWest representatives and the media for a tour of the property. Tommy Jenkins of AdvantageWest praised the project: “After you have the build-out, there’s a spillover economically that will be phenomenal. People will be coming from all around the world. It’s going to be good for the business community, for service communities, all your retail outlets and plus, it’s going to make a tremendous addition to [the tax base].”
But Fairview and Swannanoa residents questioned the massive project’s water usage, traffic impacts and effect on views. Francois Manavit, who lives on the Fairview side of the property, fears it will damage local water resources, worrying that polluted storm-water runoff or chemicals applied to the golf course could have adverse effects downstream.
“If we were to affect your stream, it would be a legal liability,” Anthony told Manavit. “And I’m not too crazy about legal liabilities, so you don’t have to worry.” According to a fact sheet provided by The Cliffs, Asheville’s water system will supply all the homes and amenities at High Carolina, with a total flow projected at 600,000 gallons per day. Residents will be required to install cisterns or rain gardens. The golf course will be irrigated with effluent from an on-site wastewater-treatment plant, which the state Division of Water Quality has not yet approved. An on-site pond, plus water collected in cisterns, will also be used for irrigation.
Manavit distributed a thick packet of comments submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by residents, the WNC Alliance, an attorney from the Southern Environmental Law Center and others, expressing concern about the development’s impact on the more than 6,000 feet of stream on the property. Although AdvantageWest representatives lauded the project for its environmental sensitivity, many local environmentalists are concerned about the ecological impacts of this enormous gated community.