Thanks to tremendous support from local government, community businesses and private donors, Blue Ridge Conservancy recently purchased 152 acres on Paddy Mountain in Ashe County. A land preservation victory seven years in the making, the purchase protects the viewshed of West Jefferson from development in perpetuity. Part of the ecologically rich Amphibolite Mountains, this tract adjoins 445 acres of protected land managed by the NC Plant Conservation Program. The Paddy Mountain purchase is part of BRC’s strategic conservation plan, and future plans for the land include hiking trails and a potential trailhead for the Northern Peaks Trail.
“The acquisition of Paddy Mountain is a monumental land conservation success made possible because of the broad coalition of support from local government, businesses and concerned citizens,” says BRC Executive Director Charlie Brady. “It is inspiring to see a community rise up to conserve such an important and iconic local natural resource. Blue Ridge Conservancy has devoted substantial effort since 2014 to acquire Paddy Mountain. Eric Hiegl, BRC’s Director of Land Protection, has worked tirelessly through those years to protect the mountain. This acquisition will ensure that the mountain will forever remain in a forested natural state and, just as important, will now be available for public access and recreation. Conserving Paddy Mountain is an investment that will grow to be even more valuable in the future.”
Notable about the Paddy Mountain project is the overwhelming amount of community support. The Town of West Jefferson, Ashe County, Blue Ridge Energy, Skyline Telephone, Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, LifeStore Bank, Conservation Trust of NC, and several private donors came together quickly to secure the purchase. BRC and the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce are running a “Round Up for Paddy” campaign in Ashe County through December, as a way for individuals to access information about the project and donate by “rounding up” purchases at local businesses.
“It’s so exciting to know that Paddy Mountain is going to be protected and become a public space. Not only will the scenic backdrop to downtown West Jefferson be forever preserved, but Ashe County citizens and visitors will enjoy the new outdoor recreation opportunities,” says Todd McNeill, Chairman of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners. “Also, I am so proud of the collaboration between Ashe County Government, the Town of West Jefferson, Blue Ridge Conservancy, and other local partners that has made this dream become a reality!”
Brantley Price, Town Manager of West Jefferson, says: “The preservation of Paddy Mountain has been a top priority for the Town of West Jefferson’s elected officials for a long time. This will be a huge asset to the area with the potential of the hub of the Northern Peaks Trail in West Jefferson that someday will connect a walking trail to Boone. It is great to see collaboration between the Town, County of Ashe, Blue Ridge Conservancy, and all the private donors that made this purchase possible. I look forward to seeing trails with locals and visitors alike enjoying the mountain. I believe (original landowner) Herb Francis would be pleased.”
Former landowner Emmett Cox agrees that Francis’s legacy is secure: “Herb spent his whole adult life in West Jefferson and he loved it, this is a good thing for the town and county. He was always sitting on his porch, looking out at that mountain, at the deer and bears and nature everywhere. We had several development offers, but we just didn’t want that to happen. We wanted to honor him, we wanted to always look out the window and see what he saw.”
For more information about the “Round Up For Paddy” or to donate to the project, visit: https://blueridgeconservancy.org/round-up-for-paddy-mtn