Blue Ridge Conservancy Secures 2.3 Acres for Watauga River Access Site at Guy Ford Road

Published Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 10:30 am
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The property is located between two existing river access sites; one known as Watauga Gorge Park, owned by Watauga County, and the other at Tester Road, owned by American Whitewater, a non-profit organization conserving and restoring America’s whitewater resources.

A small group of passionate paddlers took an ambitious dream and made it reality. Their determination, organization, and patience created a unique opportunity for Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) to purchase a 2.3-acre river access area on the Watauga River at Guy Ford Road in Sugar Grove.

Blue Ridge Conservancy was able to complete the purchase, below appraised value, through strategic partnerships and community support.  The property is located between two existing river access sites; one known as Watauga Gorge Park, owned by Watauga County, and the other at Tester Road, owned by American Whitewater, a non-profit organization conserving and restoring America’s whitewater resources.

“The Guy Ford Road Access advances BRC’s mission of protecting and expanding public recreational access to land and water resources in Northwest North Carolina,” said Blue Ridge Conservancy’s Executive Director, Walter Clark.

“We received a tremendous amount of support from partnering organizations, volunteers, and donors who all have a personal connection and love for the Watauga River.  These passionate supporters are dedicated to see the river remain accessible for everyone who enjoys canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming,” said Blue Ridge Conservancy’s Director of Land Protection and Stewardship, Eric Hiegl.

The Guy Ford River Access is part of the 21 mile Watauga River Paddle Trail, which traverses through Valle Crucis, a National Rural Historic District, and continues into Tennessee.  Local businesses, tourists and citizens currently use Guy Ford Road as a river access point.  The property will be enrolled in the Public Fishing Access Program managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

“We were pleased to be able to help with funding for the purchase of the Guy Ford Road property.  This river access point is another fantastic addition to the existing paddle trail access points in the Boone area, including the Watauga Gorge access, the Pine Run access, the Green Valley access and others,” said Wright Tilley, Executive Director of the Watauga Tourism Development Authority.

Successful planning and fundraising efforts were attributed to the project’s enthusiastic and collaborative partnerships. Financial support for the acquisition includes the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, Tennessee Valley Authority and 140 private donors.

“Protecting and enhancing public lands and waterways takes partnerships and public engagement – and Tennessee Valley Authority is proud to be a part of this partnership with the Blue Ridge Conservancy and Watauga County to increase access to a beautiful section of the Watauga River,” said TVA Director of Natural Resources, Bucky Edmondson.

The river access site will serve as a put-in for the Watauga Gorge with class IV-V rapids, as well as a take out for Section III, consisting of class II-III rapids beginning at the Upper Gorge Park. These sections of river draw paddlers from all over the Southeast.  In addition, this property will provide river access for fishing, swimming, picnicking, and other activities for residents and visitors alike.

“The Watauga County Board of Commissioners is excited to see Blue Ridge Conservancy’s success in acquiring the Guy Ford River property,” said Deron Geouque, Watauga County Manager. “The property will serve to enhance the outdoor recreational opportunities available to residents and visitors of the High Country area.  The addition of this property will complement the Watauga Gorge paddle access already established and heavily used.  The Board looks forward to working with the Blue Ridge Conservancy in making this property one of the premier access points to the Watauga River.”

The local community and dedicated organizations will manage the access point for the benefit of tourist based river activities and community members.  Future plans for this access point include parking, signage, information kiosks, and support facilities as outlined in the Watauga County Recreation Plan.

“If we want to continue to enjoy these experiences, the preservation of beautiful, wild, untamed, natural areas like the Watauga River Basin must be a priority, not just in our thoughts, but in our actions,” said Edgar Peck, lead volunteer and Physical Education Activity Director at Appalachian State University.

About Blue Ridge Conservancy
BRC is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina.

BRC has protected over 18,800 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 State Natural Area and Bullhead Mountain.

We continue to help Elk Knob State park expand its borders and established Pond Mountain Game Land in Ashe County.  More information about Blue Ridge Conservancy is available at www.blueridgeconservancy.org.

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