Thanks to generous supporters and conservation-minded landowners, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has purchased 13 more acres adjoining Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Acquisition of the property in the Stevens Creek area will permanently protect forested habitat and scenic views along this edge of the national park. A portion of the Asbury Trail runs along the tract.
Landowner Jason Preston reached out to SAHC about selling the tract after diligently researching the organization and being inspired by SAHC’s reputation and conservation ethic. In completing the land protection project as a “bargain sale,” Preston donated a significant portion of the property value. He says that permanent protection of the land was a major influence in his decision to sell to SAHC. He felt the land was entrusted to him, and he wanted to ensure that it would remain in its natural state.
“I grew up outside Orlando in Florida, and while it seemed all of the world came there for vacation, our family would vacation in the southern Appalachian mountains every year,” recalls Preston. “From a young age, I always loved the Appalachians – just being there and spending time every summer, roaming the mountains. My grandmother lived in the area, and I loved exploring the creek on her property. I have family roots in East TN. After college, I enjoyed hiking the Appalachian Trail, up to the Virginia highlands. I’ve just always loved that region and the mystique of the old mountains.”
“When my grandmother passed away, we learned that she’d owned this tract on the edge of the national park, which she willed to me,” says Preston. “Right out of the gate, developers reached out about the property and wanted to acquire it. That just didn’t sit right with me. I visited several times and enjoyed hiking and spending time on the property. I loved the idea of the land being protected forever, maybe part of public lands in the future. I originally reached out to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see if they would want to acquire the property, since it adjoins the national park, but that route didn’t seem feasible for me. Then, I started seeing SAHC’s signs [conservation boundary marking signs on nearby protected property] in the area, and dug in to do some research about the organization. Everything I found and everyone I talked with said 100% that SAHC was an organization that could be trusted and was conservation-minded. This aligned with my goals of wanting to forever protect those unbroken vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains. Experiencing that view does something for your soul, and I wanted to make sure that it would be preserved, unspoiled by human intervention. Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter was so nice in working through the process from start to finish and answering all my questions.”
“I had some angst about letting it go,” he admits, “but as we signed at the closing, I just had this warm feeling, knowing that this is something future generations will enjoy and benefit from. I’m super excited that the land will be protected for generations that follow after us. We know we did the right thing, and that’s a good feeling. At the end of the day, the idea of seeing the land protected for the future has come to fruition. That’s what we wanted to do, and we’re really pleased with that choice.”