Near the head of Dutch Cove in Haywood County, only a few miles south of the heavy traffic on I-40, but seemingly a world away, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently purchased a secluded cove with sweeping mountain views, forested slopes, and historic log structures in a pastoral setting. We are grateful for the many generous supporters who enabled the preservation of the natural and cultural resources of this special place!
Advertised on the real estate market as a “wooded and pastoral tract with creeks, and amazing long range views,” this tract was poised to attract developers seeking the allure of a “unique opportunity … only 30 minutes from Asheville.” It could have easily been lost to development, transforming the natural landscape of the scenic cove.
“Multiple neighbors contacted us asking if we could secure it,” says Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter. “This is one of those cases where word of our conservation work has spread in the community, and folks who love these mountains asked us to help protect one of the places they love.”
The new preserve contains headwater tributaries of Dutch Cove Creek, which flows north to its confluence with Hominy Creek near the base of Chestnut Mountain. The property forms a bowl along Dutch Cove, rising to the county line with Buncombe County, adjoining land that will become the future Pisgah View State Park. This ridge is part of an important wildlife corridor that runs along the upper reaches of the mountains.
“I’ve always thought Dutch Cove was a very special place,” continues Hanni. “Growing up in Haywood County, it means a lot to me to be able to help preserve these unique areas. The remote pastoral setting of this property sets it apart; you can feel as if you’ve stepped back in time and imagine what life was like over 200 years ago – and that experience is becoming more rare in this region.
From a conservation standpoint, preserving large contiguous tracts of land like this that are larger than 100 acres is more efficient and provides better protection of habitat for diverse plant and animal species. This tract has significant forested land and high elevation ridgelines, which are both important for wildlife. Connecting conserved habitat along the ridgeline secures corridors for wildlife movement and improves resilience to climate change. Plus, protecting the ridgelines is great for preserving scenic views!”
The land has been passed down by landowners in the same family for generations. Historic structures still standing on the property provide a vivid reminder of their past, but the history of the land dates far back beyond the structures remaining on the surface. The Dutch Cove area is part of the ancestral land of the AniKituwahGi [commonly referred to as the Cherokee]. The tribal nations today that have ancestral connections to the land that we call Haywood County are the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and the Catawba Indian Nation. SAHC is exploring relationships with folks from the Center for Native Health and UNC Asheville, in which we are learning about the cultural history and significance of places like Dutch Cove. Our goals include listening, learning, developing friendships, and amplifying the cultural significance of sites in western North Carolina and east Tennessee as we work to conserve and share them.
“This property and the structures on it are particularly interesting because they are like a snapshot in time,” said Jennifer Cathey, Restoration Specialist with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. “When I first visited the property with SAHC, it was striking to see the historic house and two barns intact on the landscape, seemingly untouched. They are tucked away, and it is exciting that they are situated in this way, without a road or modern structure in direct view. I see a lot of farms in my profession, but usually they have been updated or modernized in some way. So it is really exciting to come across structures that appear unmodified from the time they were built. I would estimate that they were built sometime between 1870 and 1900, but without having more historic documentation, it would be hard to say. The main structure appears to be a wood frame house with field stone chimney. One of the barns is a dog trot style building [two pens linked with a single roof] and the other is a crib barn style building. Knowing more about the family that owned the land at the time, and how it was used, would help us understand more about the structures. Moving forward with conservation of the acreage, it would be great to see preservation planning for these structures included in that effort, alongside conservation of the landscape.”
We are grateful to the SAHC members who contributed so generously to enable us to purchase and own the property, including Brad and Shelli Stanback and Vaughan Hedrick. Vaughan has a longtime connection with Dutch Cove and the Pisgah View Ranch, and is enthusiastic about supporting SAHC’s efforts to add land to the future park and protect land in its vicinity. We are thrilled that our conservation work in Haywood County and surrounding areas has inspired people to support our critical land protection efforts.
Thanks to your commitment to conservation, this special part of the landscape will remain preserved for future generations!