Western North Carolina to get millions for land and stream protection, recreation

Western North Carolina will see more hiking trails, added land for the Blue Ridge Parkway and state natural areas and better water quality thanks to $20.7 million in grants awarded recently through the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The grants awarded to municipalities, state agencies and conservation groups will fund 54 projects relating to land conservation, stream restoration, innovative stormwater management and conservation planning from the mountains to the coast.

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund was established in 1996 by the General Assembly to protect the state’s drinking water sources but today is also tasked with conserving and protecting the state’s natural resources, cultural heritage and military installations.

In the face of population growth putting pressure on land and water resources and further threats from climate change that have lengthened droughts and led to forest fires, the conservation projects funded through the trust fund are more important than ever.

One of the biggest clean water grants awarded was just more than $1 million to The Conservation Fund to buy 912 acres of Blackrock Creek in the Plott Balsam Range in Jackson County.

The Conservation Fund is working with Sylva to expand the town’s existing 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park, a popular hiking and trail running spot. The land will expand Pinnacle Park with the 441-acre Blackrock Creek and 5,810-foot Blackrock Peak an and 5,341-foot Pinnacle Bald and protect the 471-acre Shut-In Creek section.

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