Key tract protected near Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway

For many visitors heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway via the twisting, mountainous ribbon of road known as N.C. 80, the rippling ride and scenic views might satisfy their appetite before ever reaching the national park.

But the land surrounding the switchbacks of N.C. 80 have all been privately owned, leaving it vulnerable to development or timbering, and diminished views. But no longer.

In late July, the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, a nonprofit land trust based in Morganton, completed transfer of the Buck Creek Gap tract in McDowell County to the U.S. Forest Service.

The 73-acre Buck Creek Gap Tract, which surrounds N.C. 80 to where it intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 344, borders the National Park Service’ to the north and Pisgah National Forest on three sides. Its protection buffers parkway views, as well as vistas from Forest Service lands and the nearby Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Acquiring the inholding tract helps the Forest Service better manage Pisgah National Forest and protects the headwaters of Buck Creek, which is a significant creek flowing into the Catawba River near Marion. Hundreds of thousands of visitors pass by the property on N.C. 80 to access the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Mitchell State Park.

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