From seasonal bird surveys to trail management, education, and habitat restoration, the Roan Stewardship crew continues to care for our flagship conservation focus area. We are grateful to our partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for their support in this work!
Like many things in our world, SAHC’s grassy balds management looked different in 2020. We hand-mowed a total of 7.5 acres from Round Bald to Grassy Ridge, which is about the typical acreage mowed by our Grassy Ridge Mow Off and Roany Boyz events. Our first priority was to keep staff and volunteers safe and comfortable, so we scaled back the number of folks allowed to be out each day to less than ten people, total. We relied on long term volunteers, who knew what to expect and didn’t mind following safety protocols set by both SAHC and the U.S. Forest Service. However, due to state regulations, we were not able to cooperate with the NC BRIDGE program this year. NC BRIDGE has been doing the “heavy lift” of balds management for more than 15 years, mowing every day for two weeks and carrying out equipment for our volunteers.
“There were astounding numbers of people at Carver’s Gap on most days – from every state in the nation,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “It was interesting (and a little scary) to see so many people out on the trail, but everyone was respectful and friendly.”
“Despite the changes to our work, many things stayed the same. The Roany Boyz, led by Carol Coffey and Dave Goforth, celebrated their 20th year of fellowship, fun, and mowing on the balds, staying at Roan Mountain State Park and driving up to mow on Round Bald each day. While SAHC was not able to have a group camp out on Grassy Ridge, David and Melissa Smith and family kept the Grassy Ridge Mow Off tradition alive by doing a family mow off, with equipment hauled up earlier in the week. Other Grassy Ridge Mow Off volunteers joined us for day trips, mowing in Engine Gap and on Round Bald. Because of the loss of the BRIDGE crew, we accomplished a little less than half the mowing that we would have in a normal year. But, we did it safely and happily, and in a globally rare ecosystem, every acre counts.”
Thank you to all our volunteers, members, and seasonal staff, including this year’s Roan Naturalist Kalie Pierce. Roan Mountain is a more beautiful and ecologically sound place because of you!
Volunteer Perspective: Carol Coffey on the Roany Boyz 20th Anniversary
The Roany Boyz celebrated twenty years of fighting and mowing blackberry briers on the Roan this July. It has been a labor of love and a joy. While the original five are still active, others have joined over the years, becoming regulars.
All are welcome, both boyz and girlz.
Roany Boyz: Dave Goforth, Bill Ryan, Jamie Burnham, Mike Fisher, Carol Coffey, Bruce Byers, Bob MacKenzie, Will Skelton, Jerry Thornton, Craig Thompson (Active members, in order of joining, original five listed first.)
“Time flies when you are having fun,” is the best explanation I can make for the first 20 years of the Roany Boyz. A group of friends came together to spend several days each summer, mowing the encroaching blackberries, keeping the balds of the Roan open. The first years we stayed in cabins at the state park or in Burbank, but once we began camping at Engine Gap, no one wanted to go back to the cabins. The magic of the Roan had captivated and captured us all.
Roan Intern – Cecelia Stokes
In her second summer with SAHC, Cecelia studied ground cover on the balds of the Roan Highlands. With the help of her professor at UNC-Asheville, friends, and volunteers, she spent the summer meticulously laying transects all the way from Carvers Gap to the top of Grassy Ridge. She is comparing this new data to ground cover data collected 30 years ago. This important information will help steer management decisions of this fragile and endemic ecosystem that we all love. Cecelia’s research project this summer was made possible with a grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We commend Cecelia for her hard work and also thank the University of North Carolina – Asheville for their partnership in this study!