Natural Preservation

Published 2:45 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

RALEIGH – Legislation signed by Governor Roy Cooper here Tuesday will have a direct impact on Bertie County.

With District 5 Representative Howard Hunter III as one of its primary sponsors, the Governor placed his signature on House Bill 353, an act that authorizes the creation of natural area in Bertie County as well as those in Bladen, McDowell, Pender, Robeson, and Sampson counties.

The legislation was earlier approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the NC and NC Senate.

The “natural area” designation by the state in Bertie County is the area along Salmon Creek. It has been deemed as “ecologically significant for its high-quality natural communities and also contains important prehistoric and historic archaeological sites offering opportunities for important archaeological discoveries, including an Indian occupation site containing evidence of late 16th or early 17th century English presence.”

“This is big news for Bertie County in the way of a possible influx of heritage tourism dollars,” Rep. Hunter said on Tuesday from his office in Raleigh. “This legislation preserves that natural area for today’s generation and for future generations.”

That particular area of Bertie County has been the site of several archaeological studies conducted over the past couple of years. The artifacts discovered from those “dig sites” may be possibly linked to the survivors of the famed Lost Colony in Manteo – the first English settlement in what later became the United States. There is a contention that those survivors moved inland and settled in the area of Salmon Creek.

“I’m hoping they can tie this into the discovery of the artifacts that may link the Lost Colony to Bertie County,” Hunter stressed. “Even if that link isn’t made, this is a beautiful area and is worth preserving for our citizens and visitors to enjoy.”

Hunter said the natural area designation is the first step that permits donations of land to the state. It also makes the natural area eligible for existing funds in the Clean Water

Management Trust Fund, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the federal Land and Water Trust Fund, and other available sources of funding.

Currently, the NC Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT) has a contract to purchase a 1,000 acre tract along the Chowan River and Salmon Creek.

Janice L. Allen of the NCCLT said her organization was waiting for the final approval of House Bill 353 as it is their intention, after purchasing the property from a private owner, to turn it over to the state.

“We want to protect this beautiful area from any possible development in the future,” Allen said.

“Once we purchase it and transfer ownership to the state,  it’s up to them to determine the use of the property,” she noted, suggesting the possible presence of walking trails, a canoe/kayak access area, and ecological/historical preservation and interpretation.

“I appreciate the work of the Coastal Land Trust group,” Hunter remarked. “Because of their efforts, places such as Salmon Creek will never fall to commercial development and will forever be a natural area for all to enjoy.”

The news of the Governor signing House Bill 353 was also welcomed by Bertie County local government. That entity had earlier purchased a tract of land, adjoining what will now become a state natural area, for public use.

“The approval of HB 353 and our Board of Commissioners effort toward expanding the recreation, eco-tourism and educational venues in Bertie County along the Albemarle Sound are very exciting,” said Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer.

“The Lost Colony archeological activity at the confluence with Salmon Creek and the Board’s investment in a public access waterfront recreational area (137 acres) has triggered significant state interest as evidenced by recent grant award announcements to support additional land acquisition,” Sauer added.

He said the Bertie Commissioners have taken a long term strategic planning approach, capitalizing on the proposed Interstate 87 corridor, including plans to work with the NC Department of Transportation for a Welcome Center and Rest Area to encourage tourists to visit these recreational areas.

“The work of this governing body is clearly making history and charting a new course for Bertie County,” Sauer stated.

Meanwhile, state officials praised the work of the General Assembly to preserve these natural areas.

“From the mountains to the coast, our state parks and state natural areas protect North Carolina’s treasured natural resources for all of us to enjoy,” said Governor Cooper. “I’m proud to continue this tradition by adding these three unique properties to our state parks system.”

“These additions to our state parks system are truly special,” Mike Murphy, state parks director, said. “Not only do they represent outstanding natural communities, but they also protect lands in areas of the state that are currently underserved by our state parks system. State natural areas help preserve North Carolina’s heritage for future generations, and they provide living laboratories for our state’s students and scientists.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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