On Saturday, April 23, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., the Town of Canton will host a public opening for the Chestnut Mountain Nature Park on Hwy 19-23. Situated as a park-within-a-park, the mountain biking Berm Park will simultaneously open the public. The family-friendly grand opening event will include live music, outdoor retailers, a kids pop-up bike park, and food and beverage available to purchase from local vendors.
“We cannot think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than the opening of this incredible conservation and recreation project,” says Nick Scheuer, town manager. “The importance of Chestnut Mountain Nature Park cannot be overstated and its impact on wildlife protection, quality of life improvements and economic development will impact generations to come. None of this would be possible without our incredible partners at Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.”
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased the 450-acre Chestnut Mountain property in 2020 in an ambitious endeavor to pair permanent protection of habitat and water resources with creation of a conservation-friendly, community-centric space for outdoor recreation. The Town of Canton engaged Equinox Environmental to lead a master planning process for the park, including community input sessions, and Elevated Trail Design worked on trail design for the property. Seth Alvo, creator of the Berm Peak YouTube channel and Seth’s Bike Hacks, galvanized his followers to support development of Berm Park — a mountain biking oasis and park-within-a-park at Chestnut Mountain Nature Park.
“Berm Park is a free, public bike park,” says Alvo. “While it’s just a tiny part of Chestnut Mountain, it will be a big part of the community. Funds to build Berm Park were provided by sponsoring companies and crowd-sourced from Patreon and YouTube followers, who watched the park come to life, week by week and stage by stage, on the internet. The collaboration between recreation and conservation here at Chestnut Mountain will remain an example for other communities in how working together can make big projects come to life. Chestnut Mountain and Berm Park now serve as assets to the area, strengthening the community’s health through recreation, and enriching the lives of many.”
Located in an important wildlife corridor, the large property includes diverse ecological communities, streams that flow into Hominy Creek, and the top of Chestnut Mountain. A portion of the tract was once slated for a motorsports speedway. Although that project never developed, grading work done for the speedway created a space well-suited for mountain bike and hiking trails. Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy partnered with the Town of Canton and an excited group of partners and funders to bring to fruition this vision — a nature park in which habitat and water resources are permanently protected by conservation easements, with areas open for people to enjoy, explore, and learn about nature.
“Forested ridgelines and coves provide diverse habitat for plants and animals,” says Hanni Muerdter, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s conservation director. “This land contains a mosaic of habitat types, with pockets of mature hardwood forest with laurel and rhododendron, forested slopes facing a variety of directions, and an open field and early successional edge area beneficial for birds. We look forward to continuing to study patterns of wildlife movement across the land with our partners at The Wildlands Network. We’re also excited about the potential for the property to be an educational outdoor classroom. The Berm Park biking skills course was placed in a good location because that area was already disturbed, and the majority of the rest of the property will be reserved for forested habitat and single-track trails.”
This year the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is transferring ownership of the land to the Town of Canton, but the nonprofit land trust will continue to monitor the conservation easements permanently protecting the tract in perpetuity. Conservation easements held by the State of NC and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy ensure that the natural resources of the land will remain protected for future generations.
On Saturday, April 23, approximately 35 acres of the total 450-acre tract will open to the public, and will be open for day use afterward. This area includes the mountain biking skills course at Berm Park and a mixed use (hiking and biking) trail that climbs approx. 350 ft. from the parking lot and pedestrian bridge which forms a gateway into the property. The Town of Canton continues to secure funding and plan for infrastructure development outlined in the Chestnut Mountain Nature Park master plan along with other pertinent information. Future hiking trails, recreation areas, and park amenities will open over the next two years.
“While we are excited to open up Chestnut Mountain in its first phase,” continues Scheuer, “this park is very much a work in progress, and we look forward to unveiling trails and amenities throughout the park that every user will be able to enjoy. The Town of Canton is partnering with Haywood Waterways Association on a stream restoration project along Hominy Creek. The next phase of park development will include hiking and biking specific trails, picnic pavilion, kids bicycle playground, scenic overlooks and more. There’s a lot to be excited about this month and in the future.”
The April 23 Chestnut Mountain Nature Park Grand Opening event will include music by Life Like Water and food/refreshments available for purchase from Woof Street Bistro, Pig in a Basket BBQ, Pelicans of Asheville, and Papertown Coffee.
Vendors and organizations hosting activities for the event include: Squatch Bikes, Youngblood Bicycles, Rolls Right, Cognitive MTB, Pisgah Area SORBA, Asheville on Bikes, KidCycle Club, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
The Pigeon River Garden Club’s Earth Day celebration will take place at the Chestnut Mountain Nature Park Grand Opening. The Pigeon River Garden club (PRGC) will be present along with the following organizations: Haywood County Extension Master Gardeners, Haywood Waterways Association, Haywood County Parks & Recreation, Haywood County Public Library, Canton Historical Museum, and Lake Logan – Camp David.
For more info about the Chestnut Mountain Nature Park grand opening, visit CantonNC.org, find Chestnut Mountain Nature Park on Facebook, or contact Brandy Proctor, Town of Canton Communications Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Town of Canton:
Nestled in the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountains on the Pigeon River and a mere 20 miles from downtown Asheville is Canton, NC, a historic mill town with unmatched character and pride. The Town of Canton boasts a relatively mild climate, a fascinating history & picturesque surroundings full of recreation opportunities for the young or the young at heart. More info at www.CantonNC.com.
About Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy:
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is a nationally accredited, non-profit land trust conserving land and water resources in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Since 1974, SAHC has protected over 80,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland, scenic views, and places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation. SAHC’s acquisition of the Chestnut Mountain property was made possible with funding from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, the NC Attorney General’s Office’s Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, The Pigeon River Fund of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, many private donors, and loans from the The Conservation Fund and from Hudson Land and Timber LLC. More info at Appalachian.org.
About Berm Park:
Berm Park is a free, public bike park made possible by the town of Canton, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and most critically, people from all over the world who donated to fund the park. Half of funds to build Berm Park were contributed by sponsors: Diamondback Bicycles, Competitive Cyclist, Athletic Brewing, Dror Bezalel, and Park Tool Company. The other half of funds to build Berm Park were crowd-sourced from Patreon and YouTube followers, who watched the park come to life, week by week and stage by stage, on the internet. Berm Park was designed and built by local professional trail contractor Elevated Trail Design. More info at Youtube.com/c/SethsBikeHacks