By: Frances Costello and Brett Ellison
Imagine yourself on a cool morning in the High Country. The morning brings fog that seems to drape over the mountain treetops like a blanket. You take a sip of your morning roast; everything is perfect. The birds are singing and the sun begins to make its way through the clouds. Many of us have experienced this deep appreciation of the environment that surrounds us, but the preservation of these lands that we hold so dear would not be possible without the work of the Blue Ridge Conservancy.
Blue Ridge Conservancy, or commonly referred as the BRC, is dedicated to protecting land all along the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, funding is an ever-pressing issue. As Nikki Robinson, the BRC’s Communication and Outreach Associate, said, “we are a non-profit, so we rely very heavily on private donations. Every year the question is, can we raise enough money to do what we do?”
Blue Ridge Conservancy started its journey in 1995 as the High Country Conservancy and joined with the Blue Ridge Land Trust on May of 2010 to officially form the BRC. Since it’s conception, the BRC has ensured the protection of more than 20,000 acres of land in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains. The land owners who work with the BRC sign documents that ensure the preservation of the land or donate the land so that it may be protected by the BRC. During an interview, Robinson expressed her appreciation for the unique environment that surrounds us here in the High Country.
“This is a very interesting part of the world, ecologically speaking. Our temperate rainforest climate houses some of the richest biodiversity in the world. We live among endemic salamanders, provide refuge for migratory birds and insects, and celebrate native species of brook trout that people flock to the mountains to fish for. We have such a diverse range of fauna and flora, and I just love that about this place.”
“You can hike to the top of Grandfather and look out at the Blue Ridge Mountains and it’s just something special, and you don’t get that other places.”
When asked about the future goals of the BRC, Robinson explained that one of their most exciting projects involves unlocking land for public recreational use.
“Something that we’ve been hearing more and more from the community, is how we can get more involved in public access: conserving land that people can use, public land that they can hike on, that they can fish on, so we’re really trying to push this recreation component, which is really exciting.”
One of the Conservancy’s biggest projects ever is currently underway. This project is known as the Middle Fork Greenway, and will connect Blowing Rock and Boone with a 6.5 mile paved trail. This greenway will be a place for pedestrians as well as cyclists to safely and peacefully enjoy the beauty that the outdoors has to offer.
The conservancy has some access to public grants but requires far more funding in order to grow and protect more land. “There is always more land to conserve, so the projects never end.”
To combat the ever-increasing need for funding, the BRC continues to collaborate with local businesses. These collaborations not only raise money for the conservancy, but raise awareness and appreciation for the work that they do every day. One of the most recent collaborations has been with Appalachian Mountain Brewery (AMB). This was the BRC’s and AMB’s second beer collaboration which resulted in a delicious blueberry sour ale that was made using the blueberries harvested from a farm protected by the BRC.The
“The AMB collaboration, is really special because I think creating that beer with local ingredients from a farm that we hold a conservation easement on…it just really is this perfect example of why the farms up here are needed, so we can have these local fresh ingredients. And celebrating that those types of resources are here is something that I don’t’ think everybody realizes. But when you have something like a brewery make this beer and put that story out, I think that opens a lot of people’s eyes to that concept” says Robinson.
The most recent local BRC collaboration is with Hatchet Coffee. Hatchet Coffee began its journey at StickBoy Baking Company, where Jeremy Parnell and Jeremy Bollman were bread bakers. Their passion for coffee, the outdoors, and the Boone community fueled them to begin to roast their own coffee and start an outdoors and nature-focused coffee company.
Recently, Hatchet Coffee developed and released a Blue Ridge Dark Roast in collaboration with the BRC. The richness of the new Brazilian coffee parallels the rich and abundant environment of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This sweet and robust coffee will be an ongoing fundraiser for the BRC and a vessel for spreading its mission.
AMB and Hatchet Coffee have become hubs for the community and a place where people gather to share their love of what brings them all together, the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“This is such a unique and special community to live in, because everyone is so passionate about living here that it draws this collectively great group of people together” says Robinson.
The Blue Ridge Conservancy encourages anyone who loves this area to help the cause of protecting nature’s gifts. To get involved with the Blue Ridge Conservancy, please visit their website at https://blueridgeconservancy.org. Online, there is helpful information about volunteering opportunities as well as info on upcoming events. If you wish to call the BRC call (828)-264-2511. Or visit the friendly bunch at 166 Furman Rd Suite C, Boone, NC 28607.