Cataloochee Ranch: A Success Story in Haywood County

Spectacular fall colors on Hemphill BaldIn the 1990’s, 67-year-old Maggie Valley resident Tom Alexander realized that he would have to do something to be able to hand down his beloved land, 1,000 mostly undeveloped acres adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, intact to his children. The land had been in his family for 60 years, but development in Haywood County had greatly increased over the past few decades and the value of his land was doubling in value about every three to four years.

When it was valued at $10 million, Alexander saw little chance his children would ever be able to receive the land intact because his estate would have to pay about $4 million in taxes, which would be impossible without selling portions of it. When development seemed inevitable, he called the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy for help. SAHC was able to put a conservation easement on Hemphill Bald, 222-acres of his property, which blocked future development from ever being able to take place and reduced the land value by 78%.Spectacular Photos

“We have a strong sentimental attachment to the land, and we didn’t want to see it sold off or go into the hands of developers,” Alexander said in a July 1998 article in the Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.

After the initial Hemphill Bald easement, Alexander and the other owners, Judy Coker and Alice Aumen, went on to put five more sections of their property into conservation easements with SAHC. Because of the easements, Alexander was able to will his land to his children just the way it was a century before.