Strawberry Gap, Stony Point Conservation

We purchased 170 acres in two adjoining tracts at Strawberry Gap and Stony Point near the Eastern Continental Divide  to protect water resources, plant and animal habitat, and scenic views from public trails and scenic byways. We plan to own these properties for the long term and manage the forests to promote resilience, diversity and longevity.

Strawberry Gap

We purchased 155 acres at Strawberry Gap, protecting views from Blue Ridge Pastures on the Buncombe/Henderson County boundary just north of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock and adding to a network of protected land that encompasses Hickory Nut Gap Farm and the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.

Strawberry Gap (left), the wooded area directly off of Blue Ridge Pastures.

“Strawberry Gap, a passageway from Buncombe to Henderson County across the Blue Ridge, was once a place for neighbors to walk to work down the mountain or to visit one another,” said neighboring landowner Representative John Ager (NC House of Representatives). “There are plenty of old chimneys on both sides to give a sense of the community there. We can assume wild strawberries once grew in the full sunshine. While the cabins are gone, the forest has returned and will provide a wonderful setting for hiking in the ever expanding Hickory Nut Gorge Trail System.”

Strawberry Gap has been a high conservation priority for SAHC and our conservation partners for more than a decade. It lies along the regional Hickory Nut Gorge Trail System, a cooperative effort headed by Conserving Carolina, which will eventually link public hiking trails in the Hickory Nut Gorge to the Fairview area. The existing Trombatore Trail joins the southern boundary of Strawberry Gap, while another proposed trail is planned along the eastern ridgeline boundary on the way to Ferguson Peak.

Strawberry Gap, Stony Point conservation mapSAHC’s purchase of the property adds to a growing network of lands we have protected in the area, including Little Pisgah Mountain, fertile farmland along Ashworth Creek, Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Forest, Drovers Road Preserve, and tracts surrounding the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (Highway 74A).

With an upper elevation of 3,800 ft., the property is covered by a variety of thriving forest communities, including a portion of the Audubon Society’s Chimney Rock/ Hickory Nut Gorge Important Bird Area.

“Protecting this property after many years of planning for conservation in the Fairview Valley was a great success for SAHC,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “I have many fond memories of hiking to the Blue Ridge Pastures, and am comforted to know that the lands that lie immediately behind it will be protected forever. We are very grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback and the James G. K. McClure Educational and Development Fund for making this conservation acquisition possible.”

Stony Point

Stony Point forms a rocky bluff with an incredible view of the fertile Fairview valley. Nestled between our acquisition at Strawberry Gap and other conservation lands, this triangular slice of land in southern Buncombe County contains stands of Carolina hemlock. We purchased the 15-acre tract to fill a gap within the contiguous network of conservation lands we have worked to protect in this scenic region along the Eastern Continental Divide.

View of Fairview Valley from Stony Point.

The bulbous nose of Stony Point can be seen by travelers along the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (NC Highway 74A) between Fairview and Chimney Rock. However, the climb to the top of the bluff reveals a more spectacular vantage point — with sweeping long-range views of Fairview Valley, Cane Creek Valley, the Brush Creek area and distant mountain ranges.

A portion of Brush Creek flows through the property, which lies within the Audubon’s Chimney Rock-Hickory Nut Gorge Important Bird Area. Vegetative communities found onsite include a low elevation rocky summit, a Carolina hemlock bluff, chestnut oak forest, and rich cove forest.

We plan to own the property for the long term, managing it along with the adjoining Strawberry Gap tract for forest health. In the future, we may offer guided hikes to the summit as part of our outings program.

“We are proud to have purchased this previously unprotected portion of the landscape around Hickory Nut Gap, which is a visible landmark to so many people from various vantage points,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director. “We are very grateful for a generous philanthropic gift from Fred and Alice Stanback and a grant from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for transaction costs, which enabled us to make this purchase for conservation.”