An Important Message from the Executive Director of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy About the Party Rock Fire

Dear CMLC Family,

The Party Rock Fire has impacted our community, requiring some of you to evacuate your homes and endangering people, property and natural resources in the Hickory Nut Gorge. You are on our minds and in our hearts.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has held off up until now in sending out our own communications, while public officials have kept us all updated with the most accurate and critical information about the course of the fire. Although the fire seems to be coming under control, please be aware of current air quality warnings and ongoing fire restrictions. Your health and safety are most important to us. We have had some contact with professionals on the scene and graciously thank all of our firefighters, rescue workers and relief volunteers working in our region to help control the fire.

Two CMLC properties, Weed Patch Mountain and the Hickory Nut Gorge Teaching and Research Reserve, have been in the fire’s path. Once we can safely enter these properties, we will begin to assess the fire’s effect. Our hope is to find a mosaic of newly created habitats, open areas, edges and reinvigorated forest stands.

We do expect increased regeneration of the many species of fire adapted plants found in the natural communities of the Hickory Nut Gorge: low elevation granite domes and rocky summits, and montane oak-hickory forests and montane acidic cliffs. The many non-native invasive plant species that are established in the Gorge will respond in a variety of ways. Fortunately, in some cases their control will be made easier by fire.

Our Weed Patch Mountain tract is the primary location of CMLC’s newest public recreation project: a seven-mile hiking and mountain biking trail that will connect the Town of Lake Lure’s Buffalo Creek Park to Eagle Rock within Chimney Rock State Park. With five miles already completed, trail construction has been suspended and will resume when the work site is determined to be safe.

Though these challenges will take time to work through, we are cautiously optimistic that the Party Rock Fire will ultimately be seen as having been ecologically beneficial. Fires can play a crucial role in controlling invasive plants, which compete with native species for nutrients and space. Burning removes undergrowth, which allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, encouraging the growth of native species. The ashes that remain after a fire add nutrients often locked in older plants to the soil for a variety of new life. Fires can also provide a way for controlling insect pests by killing off the older or diseased trees and leaving the younger, healthier trees to thrive.

We have high hopes for stronger and more resilient natural communities after the Party Rock Fire. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions and concerns. We will continue to monitor the situation and will let you know the condition of our lands as we continue to learn more.

Sincerely,

Kieran Roe
CMLC Executive Director

 

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