Conservancy aids acquisition of critical watershed at South Mountains State Park

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina has partnered with the state parks system, the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund and others to conserve what was one of the largest remaining unprotected watershed tracts in the South Mountains.

Streams on the newly acquired property feed the pristine Jacob Fork River in the state park.
Streams on the newly acquired property feed the pristine Jacob Fork River in the state park.

Together, the conservancy and the state parks system purchased a 2,207-acre tract known as Simms Hill on June 4. Of the total acreage, 757 acres were acquired for addition to South Mountains State Park, bringing the largest state park to more than 19,500 acres.

Foothills Conservancy will use the remaining 1,450 acres to establish the regional land trust’s new South Mountains Headwaters Preserve for the protection and enhancement of water quality, biodiversity and wildlife habitat. A permanent conservation easement protecting 300-foot streamside buffer zones on 624 acres of the property was conveyed to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, And, Foothills Conservancy acquired an additional 43-acre tract earlier this year, which will also be part of the new preserve.

“This latest acquisition by Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina will protect a Significant Natural Heritage Area in South Mountains State Park as well as water quality in the park’s pristine streams,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “It’s a great example of the conservancy’s commitment and our proven partnership to safeguard natural resources for future generations.”

More than 16 miles of headwater streams lace the rugged, heavily forested mountain tract and feed the designated outstanding resource waters of the Henry Fork and Jacob Fork rivers. These rivers converge downstream to form the South Fork of the Catawba River, a major tributary of the Catawba River that ultimately supplies clean drinking water to more than two million people.

The watershed property and preserve are northeast of the Clear Creek area of the park.
The watershed property and preserve are northeast of the Clear Creek area of the park.

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