We recently worked with the Town of Weaverville to place a conservation easement on 310 acres of the Weaverville Watershed. The easement protects important headwaters of Reems Creek as well as forested habitat and scenic views from Reems Creek Valley.
“This property provided drinking water to the Town of Weaverville for 80 years and is important for conservation because of its water resources,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “It contains the headwaters of Eller Cove Branch and 12 of its tributaries, which run into Reems Creek and eventually the French Broad River. One of the best ways to preserve water quality downstream is by protecting a river’s headwaters – and that is exactly what has happened here. We are grateful to the Town of Weaverville for taking the step to protect this tract and its natural resources for posterity.”
The tract contains a total of 4.2 miles (over 22,000 linear feet) of stream corridor, and its conservation helps protect tributary streams of the French Broad River Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollution. Eller Cove Branch is classified by the NC Division of Water Quality as Water Supply I and High Quality Water. The Town of Weaverville purchased the watershed property in 1911 and used it as the sole source of drinking water until 1993, when the source was changed to the Ivy River.
The conservation easement also protects habitat for diverse wildlife species. Largely forested since the late 1880s, the tract contains mature Chestnut Oak Forest as well as Rich Cove Forest and Montane Oak-hickory Forest. A third of the property falls within the Audubon Society’s Bull Creek Cerulean Important Bird Area – an approx. 5,000 acre area that supports one of NC’s most significant populations of Cerulean warblers. These neotropical migratory birds, listed as a Federal Species of Concern, require large blocks of mature deciduous forest to flourish.
“The Town Council is very happy to have worked with SAHC in order to preserve this property for present and future generations,” said Selena Coffey, Weaverville town manager. “We are thrilled to be able to keep the land in its natural state for the community, preserving it for its beauty and for future recreational use. Our area is experiencing a lot of growth, and it is nice to be able to balance that growth with an opportunity like this to take care of the land.”
The town will continue to own the property and hopes to eventually open it to the public for hiking and birding. Located less than one mile west of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Bull Gap, the tract adjoins Elk Mountain Scenic Highway, a popular route for road bikers and scenic drivers.
“As an avid cyclist, protecting this property meant a lot to me personally,” added Pugliese. “It borders a long section of Elk Mountain Scenic Highway, which is a favorite local bike ride as well as a popular route for organized bike races.”
Protection of the Weaverville Watershed was made possible by a $275,000 NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant and a philanthropic gift by Fred and Alice Stanback. The Town of Weaverville also donated a portion of the conservation easement value.
“We are deeply grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback for making a generous contribution which made this conservation easement possible,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “This property is an important addition to the large network of over 125,000 acres of public and private protected land in the Black and Craggy Mountains.”