Oshun Mountain (OM) Sanctuary in Asheville, NC, founded in 2012, is a non-profit holistic education and nature-sensitive retreat center that offers overnight stays, classes, lectures, trainings and other programs.
After three years of dedicated effort, OM Sanctuary’s 42-acre urban forest was recently protected by a conservation easement with SAHC. Overlooking the French Broad River, Interstate 26, and Riverside drive, the easement protects a bluff containing cove forest, oak forest, and low montane pine forest with mixed hardwoods. The tract also contains pools in the river floodplain that provide likely habitat for wildlife like salamanders, amphibians and reptiles.
“Nature is integral to our well-being — you can’t separate people from their environment,” says Shelli Stanback, OM Sanctuary Founder and President. As part of OM Santuary’s open house in June, SAHC gave a brief introduction to conservation, followed by a guided 0.6-mile walk through OM Sanctuary’s preserve.
Led by SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate Andrea Thompson, hikers learned about identification of native plant species, what constitutes a healthy forest community, and the importance of biodiversity for ecosystems. As participants ruminated on the interdependence between nature and human health, they saw native species such as rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, black walnut, American beech, American holly, Carolina silverbell, New York fern, hay-scented fern, cucumber root, striped wintergreen, and more.
“Natural places are essential for human health,” says Stanback. “Once they have been lost to development, they are gone forever. We must preserve them now for our sake, and for the sake of the future. With few urban open spaces remaining near Asheville, protecting the forest with a conservation easement was the clear, sustainable choice. It will assist OM Sanctuary in fulfilling our mission to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and connection with nature.”
The property is located near Buncombe County’s Richmond Hill Park and the state-designated Richmond Hill Forest Natural Area. Conservation of the tract also helps protect tributary streams of the French Broad River Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollution.
“We were thrilled at the opportunity to protect this undeveloped, mature forest so near the heart of the city,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director. “It is a rare gem containing an uncommon cluster of natural features near Asheville’s urban core. The forest provides ecosystem services and preserves a scenic view seen by many people every day: recreational users of the French Broad River and everyone who drives past it.”
About OM Sanctuary: This non-profit organization was formed in 2012 as a response to the increasing number of people of all ages, cultures, and income levels seeking holistic methods to improve health, reduce stress, and bring balance to their personal and professional lives. Located on the site of the historic Richmond Hill hotel just outside downtown Asheville, NC, OM Sanctuary responds to this need by offering a holistic retreat center, educational scholarship programs, and charitable initiatives focused on Body, Mind, Spirit, and Nature. Their mission is to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and connection with nature. For more information, visit http://www.omsanctuary.org.