Additional land added to Salmon Creek Natural Area

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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MERRY HILL – An area of land preservation continues to grow along the banks of the Chowan River near here.

The Coastal Land Trust recently protected almost 300 acres, known as the Bal Gra Harbor tract south of US 17, along the river. That property was immediately transferred to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation as part of a much broader, larger land preservation effort.

This latest property acquisition features a half mile of waterfront, with a sandy beach and high bluffs. Its interior includes mixed pine hardwoods with small ephemeral ponds.

It’s the property’s strategic location, though, that makes it so special.

Immediately to the north of Bal Gra Harbor is a 137-acre tract known locally as the Tall Glass of Water, which Bertie County local government purchased and intends to use as a public park for recreational aquatic purposes and public water access.

“This is a great news as it connects several properties in that area along the river, including the one we purchased,” said Ron Wesson, Chairman of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners. “While the plans differ as to what extent these properties will be developed/preserved, the bottom line is that all of it will be here for our citizens and visitors to our county to enjoy.”

Wesson added that the Coastal Land Trust went as far as to borrow money to purchase the Bal Gra Harbor tract.

“That’s first for them,” Wesson said about the loan, which he added has already been paid back. “They wanted that tract to keep it from being developed, to preserve its natural beauty, and they borrowed the money to do so.”

Immediately to the south of Bal Gra Harbor is the nearly 1,000-acre tract known as Site X by archaeologists, which the Coastal Land Trust purchased in 2017. This 1,000-acre tract is notable not only for its significant archeological resources attributable to the pre-Colonial period and indicative of settlement by a splinter group of the Roanoke or “Lost” colonists, but also its significant ecological areas, such as cypress gum swamp, hardwood forest, tidal freshwater marsh, and 3.5 miles of frontage along Salmon Creek.

The 2018 transfer of the Site X tract to the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation was the first acquisition for the new Salmon Creek State Natural Area. It allowed for the preservation of its significant natural, historical, archaeological, and cultural resources in perpetuity.

The Bal Gra Harbor tract will be added to the Salmon Creek State Natural Area.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this acquisition, and the prospect of having close to 1,500 contiguous acres set aside for conservation at this very special landscape on the Chowan River,” said Lee Leidy, Attorney and Northeast Region Director of the Coastal Land Trust. “We’re especially pleased to be able to partner once again with North Carolina State Parks, adding a strategic tract of land to the Salmon Creek State Natural Area, and with the United States Air Force, providing them a deed of restrictive covenants, which serves to protect the property from development that may compromise critical military training routes overhead.”

“Salmon Creek State Natural Area stands out due to its unique archaeological resources, rich cultural history, and pristine ecosystems,” said John Fullwood, acting director of N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. “We are grateful that the Coastal Land Trust secured this tract to add to the natural area. We look forward to working with Bertie County as we design complementary plans for our adjoining conservation lands.”

The project was made possible through grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act program, and funding from the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program through the United States Air Force.

Founded in 1992, the mission of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust is to enrich the coastal communities of North Carolina through conservation of natural areas and working lands, education, and the promotion of good land stewardship.

The Coastal Land Trust, a membership organization, has saved 80,000 acres of special places, and has offices in Wilmington, New Bern and Elizabeth City.

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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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