Jan. 24, 2014. Blue Ridge Conservancy staff, a team of ASU student volunteers, and AmeriCorps Project Conserve members began site preparations on a 1.7-acre property located on the Watauga River in the Sleepy Hollow community of Foscoe as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.
Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) acquired the property in 2002, when the prior owners, Cliff and Ann Bridges, donated it to ensure the land would remain permanently undeveloped. For several months, BRC’s Land Protection Director, Eric Hiegl, has been working on a plan to clear the property and put a permaculture garden on it with Lauri Wilson, the Executive Director at Blue Ridge Seeds for Change and a resident of the Sleepy Hollow community, Wendy Patoprsty, an Extension Agent at the Watauga County NC Cooperative Extension, and “M” Mueller, a local citizen.
“It wasn’t until we began digging a shallow trench to make a permaculture hugel from the downed trees that we realized how good the soil structure was,” said Mueller. “With careful cultivation and biodynamic or other organic inputs to further build up humus, the dry land should bear well.”
Volunteers cleaned up trash, cut brambles, and assisted with invasive species removal. BRC hopes to have the garden completely cleared and ready by early spring. GDS, Inc. donated dumpsters for the clean-up.
“The headwaters of the Watauga River flows through this property which supports trout and many other aquatic organisms that indicate clean water,” said Watauga County NC Cooperative Extension Agent Wendy Patoprsty. “Volunteers from the MLK Challenge picked up at least a dump truck load of trash from this site that had the potential to leach or flow into the river during rain events. Every piece of litter collected helps protect our valuable water resources so this was a good day for the river.”
This site will be able to serve as a community-learning site, teaching people of all ages about land restoration, food cultivation, invasive species prevention, and the importance of land.
“Conservancy land, especially small acreage in a convenient location like this, provides a setting where the community can be involved in maintaining and restoring the land. At this site, a section of wetlands can be preserved in their optimal natural state, and a section can be used for cultivating food and medicinal plants that prefer a wetland environment,” said Blue Ridge Seeds of Change Executive Director Lauri Wilson. “This site has the potential of being a site for education on the importance, use and maintenance of land conserved for future generations.”
BRC plans to continue with major stewardship projects on their protected lands. “Stewardship of our protected lands is part of our mission at Blue Ridge Conservancy,” said Eric Hiegl, BRC’s Director of Land Protection and Stewardship. “We feel this garden project will truly enhance the property as well as the surrounding community.”
Blue Ridge Conservancy is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina. Since our founding, we have protected close to 18,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties. In addition to protecting working farmland, BRC’s efforts have resulted in the creation of state natural areas like Beech Creek Bog, Bear Paw and Bullhead Mountain. We continue to help Elk Knob State park expand its borders and in 2008 we led the way in establishing a 2,400-acre State Game Land preserve on Pond Mountain in Ashe County.