By Tim Gardner
The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina recently closed on 17 acres of bog land in the Jonas Ridge community, which is located in both Avery and Burke counties. The bog land borders the Pisgah Loop Scenic Highway.
Southern Appalachian mountain bogs are rare and contain vulnerable ecosystems.
At the highest elevations in Burke County, Jonas Ridge Bog is habitat to unique species of plants, animals and insects.
The bog is also home to cranberries, a species typically associated with New England, and, in North Carolina, it is a threatened species as defined by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
The bog property drains to headwaters of Upper Creek, a high-quality trout stream as designated by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
The conservancy purchased the property from landowner Hazel Shell with funding from Clabough Foundation, North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and a private donor.
The land’s original owner, Lester Shell, purchased the property and divided it between his two children: Johnny, Hazel’s late husband, and Sue Ann. The County of Burke contacted Hazel about purchasing the property for conservation and eventual public use.
“It means a lot to me to have that land protected,” commented Hazel Shell. “It isn’t being used, and I think Jonas Ridge needs something that residents of Jonas Ridge and all people of Burke County can enjoy.”
There are three bogs within the state parks system in Western North Carolina: Pineola Bog, Beech Creek Bog, and Sugar Mountain Bog. Foothills Conservancy is just one group of many that are helping to protect the remaining natural bogs in the mountains.
In partnership with Burke County on the Jonas Ridge project, Foothills Conservancy officials have indicated that they intend to donate the property to the county to own and steward with a N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund conservation easement.
Future plans for the bog include an interpretive trail along which hikers can learn about the significance and importance of bog ecosystems.