Multiple entities aligned for environmental win
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the public/private partnership that ensures the protection of its namesake mountain for generations to come. This storied North Carolina "island in the sky," which was named a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations because of its 16 distinct ecological communities and 72 rare or endangered species, was privately owned until 2010.
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Unrivaled fall colors are present at Grandfather Mountain every year due to the diverse tree varieties that thrive at various elevations on the mile-high mountain. Photo credit: Courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
The future of Grandfather Mountain as an ecological preserve was never guaranteed until the family of Hugh Morton, who owned the mountain and died in 2006, worked with the state of North Carolina to forge a creative deal that protected the land while guaranteeing public access to the rugged trails, mile-high swinging bridge and habitats for bear, cougar, elk and other wildlife.
The 2010 deal between the Mortons and the State of North Carolina provides a roadmap for others seeking to protect the environment. North Carolina bought 2,600 acres of the back country, but gave the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation an easement that enabled the trails to stay open to the public and true to their rugged history (at points, hikers use ladders and cables to scale rocks, which isn’t typical of state parks). The Foundation also maintained ownership of the land where attractions were located, including the swinging bridge, while agreeing to a conservation easement that limited future development.
"Grandfather Mountain is a national treasure that is protected today because the Morton family and state officials worked together to set it aside for the enjoyment of future generations," said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. "This year we celebrate this historic agreement while using the occasion to encourage others to find creative solutions to protect more of our natural world."
Altogether, four different entities have helped Grandfather Mountain stay protected: the State of North Carolina, The Nature Conservancy, The Blue Ridge Parkway (part of the National Park Service) and the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
"Even when there are complex issues to resolve, working toward the conservation of ecologically sensitive areas is always worth the effort," Pope added.
October and November are especially good months to visit Grandfather Mountain. Unrivaled fall colors are present every year due to the diverse tree varieties that thrive at various elevations on the mile-high mountain. During the winter, weather patterns are more similar to a Canadian ecosystem than a southern one, due to the elevation.
About the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation inspires conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.
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Frank Ruggiero, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
(828) 733-2013, ext. 811, firstname.lastname@example.org