After a three-year process, Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) recently added 65 acres to Elk Knob State Park.This steep tract, with elevations from 4,100 to 5,200 feet, includes the prominent south ridge of Elk Knob and is identified as one of the most important areas for biodiversity conservation in the state by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. Funding for the project came from Fred and Alice Stanback and from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF).
“Adding this land to Elk Knob State Park is a long-awaited conservation win for North Carolina,” says Eric Hiegl, BRC’s Director of Land Protection and Stewardship. “Surveys indicated that the area is rich in pristine natural habitat, and its proximity to Elk Knob State Park made it a natural choice for protection. We are grateful to the Stanbacks and PARTF for recognizing its conservation value.”
Elk Knob Superintendent Tracy Minton agrees, and stresses the importance of the partnership between the NC Division of Parks and Recreation and the Conservancy: “Acquisition of this tract is critical for viewshed protection and the preservation of rare flora and fauna. I appreciate the efforts of Blue Ridge Conservancy and the previous landowner in adding the tract to Elk Knob State Park. BRC has a rich legacy of land acquisition for conservation purposes and remains a critical partner to the State Park system.”
Despite the relatively small size of the property, numerous untouched natural communities flourish here due to the elevation change, including Rich Cove Forest, High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Northern Hardwood Forest, and High Elevation Birch Boulderfield Forest. Due to the threat of development, it was of paramount importance to BRC that this area be protected in perpetuity and added to Elk Knob State Park. This land adds to the 570 acres that were previously secured by BRC for the park.