In 2021, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased 150 acres adjoining Roan Mountain State Park, protecting habitat resources and streams in the Doe River watershed. This important natural area at Sugar Hollow in Carter County, TN, was transferred to the State of TN to be added to the park in 2022, providing potential to expand trails and create backcountry camping sites.
“I’m thrilled that we are helping our partners at Tennessee State Parks expand one of the most beloved parks in the state,” says Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director. “From the higher elevations on the property where you can enjoy views of the Roan Massif to the beautiful stretch of stream, this property offers exciting opportunities for people to connect with nature.”
The tract contains richly biodiverse habitat and mountain wetland areas. Five species of state-listed rare plants have been identified on the property, including Round-leaf Bittercress (Cardamine rotundifolia) and Roan Mountain Sedge (Carex roanensis). The forested property adjoins the state park along the eastern edge, rising to a ridgeline approximately 2,000 ft. behind the Roan Mountain State Park visitor center and stretching from Sugar Hollow Road to Hampton Creek Road.
“The Sugar Hollow addition to Roan Mountain State Park will provide park visitors an opportunity to reach a view of the Roan Highlands via trail access from our visitor center and will protect, in perpetuity, critical habitats for sensitive species found throughout the property,” says Daniel Chuquin, real property manager at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “This valuable acquisition was made possible through a partnership with SAHC, who worked diligently to raise funds and secure the state’s interest in the property. SAHC’s ability to support the state through this acquisition is a key example of how their passion for land conservation will help protect land for the enjoyment of numerous generations to come.”
The route of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail passes along the lower edge of the property, and both Sugar Hollow Creek and the main branch of Hampton Creek run through it. In the spring, exceptional displays of wildflowers emerge across the property; it has a little something to interest everyone. Reflecting on her favorite experiences while visiting the area, Pugliese describes views of the surrounding Appalachian grassy balds from the higher elevation spots on the tract, near the existing park border, as well as the relaxing environs of the stream area at the lower elevation.
“I can just imagine the Overmountain Men on their way to the historic Revolutionary War battle at Kings Mountain in 1780 trekking right by this property, perhaps even stopping to rest and refill their water or maybe even catch some fish,” she adds.
Protecting Land for Future Generations
The landowners had decided to sell the property and listed it on the real estate market, which caught the attention of Roan Mountain State Park Manager Monica Johnson. She reached out to staff with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which manages Tennessee’s 56 state parks, as well as partners at SAHC to find a way to preserve the land.
“This was a great opportunity for SAHC and Tennessee State Parks to work together to secure what will become the first major addition of land to Roan Mountain State Park since it opened in 1959,” Johnson says. “We could not have done it without the help of SAHC and its members, and we look forward to protecting and preserving these 150 acres for future generations to enjoy.”
Understanding that they needed to move quickly to purchase the land for the park or else risk losing the fleeting opportunity, SAHC and several partners worked together to find a solution. Philanthropic leaders Brad and Shelli Stanback along with other generous SAHC members contributed a portion of the funds for the acquisition. The nonprofit land trust also obtained a loan from a conservation-minded lender in order to finance the balance of funds needed for the purchase price. When SAHC transfers the property to the State of Tennessee to be added to the park, it will use those proceeds to re-pay the loan and interest.
“We are so pleased to be able to help our partners secure land for the state park, and grateful to all the generous supporters of conservation who made it possible,” says Pugliese. “With a complex, time-sensitive project and the popularity of the park area for outdoor recreation, the outcome could have been very different. Development of this tract could have been devastating, marring views from public lands at Roan Mountain and the Appalachian Trail. We are all indeed fortunate that this land has been conserved for posterity.”
Update! In February of 2022, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy transferred the 150-acre Sugar Hollow tract to become part of Roan Mountain State Park!
About Roan Mountain State Park:
The park encompasses more than 2,000 acres of rich hardwood forest. The park’s elevation ranges wildly along the rugged landscape and ridges. The park’s mission is to protect and preserve unique examples of natural resources and the rich cultural heritage of the Southern Appalachian Highlands for this and future generations through careful resource management, while creating possibilities for visitors to connect intellectually and emotionally to those resources by providing well-planned interpretive programs, quality outdoor recreational opportunities, well maintained facilities, and park safety.