Big Strides in Preservation

12/19/99 by Staff Writer

From December 19, 1999, issue of the Salisbury Post

It’s been said that one day North Carolina will have only two types of land: developed land and protected land. Fortunately, the inventory of protected properties is growing at a healthy rate in central North Carolina.

Add nearly 300 pristine acres in northern Rowan County to the list. On Wednesday an impressive array of conservationists gathered at Catawba College to share their good news. They were buying 300 acres just seven miles away to establish a wildlife refuge for the college.

You would have heard a lot more buzz in the public if, instead, someone had announced the location of a gigantic new shopping mall. That excites the consuming public. But to people concerned about preserving open spaces and natural resources, this step forward in non-development makes front- page news.

For one thing, the refuge carries Catawba College another step closer toward realizing the ambitious dreams of Dr. John Wear Jr., director of Catawba’s Center for the Environment. He and his colleagues are creating a unique program that will educate future generations about man’s impact on the environment. The refuge will give them even more space to carry out student projects and experiments in authentic settings – not in pretend laboratory situations. Eventually, public tours and outings will be offered. In addition, this land will be under permanent conservation easement, which means it will remain untouched by development. Tucked away in the woods off Old Mocksville Road, it may look safe from bulldozers and subdivisions now. But population growth and sprawl know few boundaries in the Piedmont.

Officials of the LandTrust for Central North Carolina and Catawba believe the creation of this refuge will encourage other nearby landowners to consider conservation easements, creating a larger refuge of tremendous significance.

As it is, this first refuge will help protect the Yadkin River and Salisbury’s water supply. The tract lies along a large bend in the river, just north of Salisbury’s water intake. By keeping this land in a natural state, the college will protect the river from chemical run-off and other problems that could come with development. No wonder the Clean Water Management Trust Fund kicked in $500,000 of the $850,000 purchase price.

So what about the other $350,000? Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, guardian angels of conservation, have promised to match all gifts to the project dollar-for-dollar until the full purchase price is raised.

The whole community has a chance to help.

For some time now, Salisbury and Rowan have enjoyed a reputation for saving cultural resources like old homes and historic courthouses. This move toward preserving natural spaces complements that effort. By encouraging reuse of buildings and properties that have already been developed, Rowan should be able to preserve more of its farmland, woodlands and open spaces. Other communities didn’t appreciate theirs until they were gone. That will not be said of Rowan.

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