On April 28, 2018, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Nature Valley partnered with us for a volunteer work day at our Big Rock Creek Preserve, surrounded by national forest land and public recreation hotspots in the Highlands of Roan. In addition to the area’s rare habitats and unique species, SAHC’s Big Rock Creek Preserve – once the home of TrailRidge Mountain Camp — provides a great space for people to connect with protected conservation lands. A total of 35 volunteers showed up for the work day and tackled a variety of tasks around the preserve to help better connect people with nature. The crew of volunteers represented programs from across the region, including Western Carolina University, East Tennessee State University, AmeriCorps Project Conserve, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, and Asheville Women Outdoors.
The volunteers broke into smaller groups to work on tasks, which included building a quarter mile loop trail, deconstructing an old camping platform, transplanting rhododendron, and seeding an open area with native grasses.
Jeff Hunter of NPCA led one of the trail crews to clear and grade the first segment of the trail. Jeff has extensive experience in building trails and volunteers learned a lot by working with him.
“Building the trail was an eye opening experience, I have hiked on trails for years and years, but had no idea the amount of work and love that goes into making and maintaining them. Now, when I am looking at a trail I can identify the mineral soil, what is a good slope, and where water may end up pooling; all things I never would have noticed prior to the Big Rock Creek Workday. It was definitely a Saturday well spent!” -Emily Adler
The trail crew also built two sets of steps and cleared fallen trees. By the end of the day, all major obstacles had been cleared from the trail, creating a strolling path for SAHC’s educational programs and guests to use to explore the property.
On another portion of the preserve, volunteers worked in the open area surrounding our new camping platform. Volunteers cleared the area around the platform, then spread seeds and transplanted rhododendron along the border. We hope to see this area sprouting native grasses and wildflowers in the next few weeks.
In only 5 hours, all of the tasks were completed and everyone took a walk on the newly built trail together. We shared stories about what led us to volunteer and reflected on the importance of environmental stewardship. Thank you to everyone who participated or supported this work day. We couldn’t do it without you!