Photo by Travis Bordley
The Significance of Chestnut Mountain Nature Park
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased the 450-acre Chestnut Mountain property in 2020 in an ambitious endeavor to pair permanent protection of habitat and water resources with creation of a conservation-friendly, community-centric space for outdoor recreation. Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy transferred the property to the Town of Canton in 2022.
Located in an important wildlife corridor, the large property includes diverse ecological communities, streams that flow into Hominy Creek, and the top of Chestnut Mountain.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy partnered with the Town of Canton and an excited group of partners and funders to bring to fruition this vision — a nature park in which habitat and water resources are permanently protected by conservation easements, with areas open for people to enjoy, explore, and learn about nature.
A portion of the tract was once slated for a motorsports speedway. Although that never developed, grading work done for that project created a space well-suited for mountain bike and hiking trails. The existing disturbance on the property meant that it was an attractive option for the possibility of a bike park, because we didn't have to worry about the development of trails in an area of fragile or rare plant and animal habitat.
“This property is dynamic, with a mosaic of habitat types – which is really good for wildlife – and different settings for people to enjoy various types of experiences on the land,” says Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter. “The property starts at 2,360 feet elevation at Hwy 19/23 and then rises to 3,400 feet at the peak of Chestnut Mountain. At the higher elevations, forested ridge lines and coves situated in an important wildlife corridor provide exceptional habitat for plants and animals. It contains pockets of gentle mature hardwood forest with laurel and rhododendron, forested slopes facing a variety of directions, and an open field and early successional edge area beneficial for birds. The amount of wildlife activity on the tract is truly impressive!”
The property sits in a significant wildlife corridor identified by The Wildlands Network as important for animal movement and habitat. Its protection will conserve habitat for large mammals such as bear and deer, as well as smaller mammals and numerous bird, reptile and amphibian species.
SAHC's acquisition of the Chestnut Mountain Property was made possible with funding from:
the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, the NC Attorney General’s Office’s Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, The Pigeon River Fund of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, many private donors, and a bridge loan from the The Conservation Fund.