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2022 Grassy Balds Management – Grassy Ridge Mow-Off

We need YOUR help on the mountain! Grassy Ridge Mow-Off, July 23-24th

Camp out or come for a day. Join other volunteers as we work to maintain the globally rare grassy and shrub balds found on Grassy Ridge, one of the most beautiful and ecologically significant sites in the Roan Highlands. We’ll cut invasive blackberries and other shrubs using weed whackers and brush cutters. Enjoy great company and great job satisfaction! Our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off is more than just a work day — it’s an incredible way to experience the Highlands of Roan and to share cherished moments with friends.

Backpackers and day trippers are both welcome.

We are also pleased to announce that in 2022, we will have car camping available at our Little Rock Creek Preserve (a 10 min drive from Carver’s Gap) for volunteers who are interested in coming out and camping nearby, but are not interested in backpack camping on Grassy Ridge. Please indicate your interest in either backpack camping or car camping on your registration, as this will help us plan staff and resources.

The hike to Grassy Ridge is about 2.5 miles one way, the views are gorgeous, and we have a job suited to almost everyone. There are several different ways to help: flagging rare plants, cutting or raking blackberries, camp organization, taking photographs, and more.


Grassy Ridge Mow-Off  Planned Schedule:

Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Campers arrive, set up your tent and return to the work site.

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Day hikers arrive. Sign in/Orientation

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Work time! (lunch break at 1 pm)

Saturday 4:00 p.m. – bedtime. Clean up and store equipment. Fun and Fellowship for campers!

Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. A short work day and pack out. *Everyone should be prepared to pack out group trash.


Please contact Marquette Crockett, Roan Stewardship Director at marquette@appalachian.org for more information about the work day or specific volunteer duties.

Registration for the 2022 Grassy Ridge Mow-Off is now CLOSED. Thank you!

Roan Habitat Volunteer Work Day

Habitat Management without the Hike In!
SAHC needs a few volunteers to help with habitat management in a few spots on the top and front (parking lot) side of Round Bald. Volunteers will help hand-mow (using weed-whackers) brushy areas to maintain open grassy habitat atop the balds. We are planning two small workdays on August 10th and 12th (13th as a rain date), and this is a good chance to learn about what we do to manage these rare habitats.
We will meet at Carver’s Gap at 9:30 am and finish up around 2 pm. Volunteers should bring water and lunch, leather work gloves and eye protection. SAHC will provide cutting equipment and individually packaged ear protection.

To volunteer, email Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett at marquette@appalachian.org.

Roan Management Volunteer Work Day

Habitat Management without the Hike In!
SAHC needs a few volunteers to help with habitat management in a few spots on the top and front (parking lot) side of Round Bald. Volunteers will help hand-mow (using weed-whackers) brushy areas to maintain open grassy habitat atop the balds. We are planning two small workdays on August 10th and 12th (13th as a rain date), and this is a good chance to learn about what we do to manage these rare habitats.
We will meet at Carver’s Gap at 9:30 am and finish up around 2 pm. Volunteers should bring water and lunch, leather work gloves and eye protection. SAHC will provide cutting equipment and individually packaged ear protection.

To volunteer, email Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett at marquette@appalachian.org.

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off

When: July 17 and 18

This year we will once again host our annual volunteer weekend to manage Appalachian grassy balds habitat in the Highlands of Roan.

We need YOUR help on the mountain!

Camp out or come for a day. Join other volunteers as we work to maintain the globally rare grassy and shrub balds found on Grassy Ridge, one of the most beautiful and ecologically significant sites in the Roan Highlands. We’ll cut invasive blackberries and other shrubs using weed whackers and brush cutters. Our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off is more than just a work day — it’s an incredible way to experience in the Highlands of Roan.

Backpackers and day trippers are both welcome. The hike is about 2.5 miles one way, the camping is gorgeous, and we have a job suited to almost everyone.

Please contact Marquette Crockett, Roan Stewardship Director at marquette@appalachian.org for more information about the work day or specific volunteer duties.

Roan Stewardship Updates 2020

balds management volunteersFrom 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. Read more

Smith Family Volunteers

smith family youth volunteersDavid and Melissa Smith and their children Otto, Clyde, and Asa spent a weekend managing grassy balds habitat at Grassy Ridge and camping under the stars together. It’s become something of a family tradition. Otto has been helping with the Grassy Balds Mow-Off since he was 5 years old and understands the importance of habitat management; now in high school, he asks about it every year before it’s even on the calendar. Read more

Roan Stewardship 2018

In the Highlands of Roan, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy convenes a multi-partner effort to manage the world’s largest stretch of Appalachian grassy balds. These unique ecosystems contain a variety of rare plants.

SAHC volunteers and our partners with the NC BRIDGE program contributed more than 1,900 hours to manage habitat on Roan’s grassy balds this summer. Altogether, Roan stewardship partners managed a record 32 acres. Volunteers and BRIDGE partners hand-mowed more than 17 acres from Round Bald to Grassy Ridge, cutting back blackberry and shrubs across the balds. The US Forest Service mechanically mowed 15 acres on Hump Mountain.

The BRIDGE crew are hardworking stewardship partners. A program of the NC Division of Prisons the NC Division of Forest Resources to train young, non-violent offenders with firefighting and forestry skills, BRIDGE stands for “BUILDING, REHABILITATING, INSTRUCTING, DEVELOPING, GROWING, EMPLOYING.

Our Roan stewardship work is supported by grants from the National Forest Foundation, McLendon Family Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Thank you to all the volunteers, partners, and supporters who make this work possible!

Roany Boyz (and Girlz) Volunteer Weekend

Join the Roany Boyz and Girlz in a weekend of jovial camaraderie while helping manage the grassy balds habitat at Engine Gap in the Highlands of Roan. Come for a day, or set up camp at Round Bald and stay for the weekend! For more info or to volunteer with the Roany crew, contact Carol Coffey at caroltee@aol.com.

Roan Highlands Story Map

Straddling the border of Tennessee’s Carter County and North Carolina’s Mitchell and Avery Counties, the Roan Mountain massif rises above the farms and villages of the valley below. Known as the Highlands of Roan, these mountain peaks and ridges, for the most part above 4,000 feet in elevation, are renowned for their exceptional biological diversity and magnificent beauty.

The Roan Highlands are home to grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, high-elevation rock outcrops, and rich spruce-fir forests. The Roan’s ecosystem is one of the richest repositories of temperate zone biodiversity on earth, including more federally listed plant species than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Roan Highlands are home to more than 800 plant species and over 188 bird species.

This summer, Stanback Intern Sarah Sanford from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment created a Story Map of Grassy Balds management, using GIS data to catalog three decades of habitat management in the Highlands of Roan. Enjoy a virtual journey to the Roan through historic photos, scenic images, and interactive maps below — or feel free to visit and share the Story Map with this link. 

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