On Little White Oak Mountain, A Would-Be Neighborhood Is Now a Public Park

This mountain once slated for development is now being turned into a public park. The town of Columbus, North Carolina, originally approved the construction of 687 homes on a 1,068-acre parcel on the south side of Little White Oak Mountain, 40 miles southeast of Asheville, near Lake Lure.

The development stalled after the economic slump in 2008, and Conserving Carolina, a land trust serving part of Western North Carolina and the Landrum area of South Carolina, purchased the property in 2016 for $2.375 million. This fall, Conserving Carolina transferred 600 acres of the mountain parcel to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to expand the Green River Game Lands, and 300 acres to Polk County for a local park, where a 10-mile multi-use trail system is being planned.

The 900 acres of new public land extend from the ridgeline of Little White Oak Mountain down to Polk County Middle School and the Polk County Recreation Complex near Highway 108. The new land designation will help protect 13 miles of streams in the Green River watershed, as well as the endangered wildflower, the white irisette.

The 2,343-foot summit of the mountain is now part of the 14,331-acre Green River Game Lands. Although no trail development is planned for the game lands portion of Little White Oak Mountain, the area will be open to hiking, hunting and fishing.

The new county park, which covers the lower portion of the mountain, is slated for 10 miles of multi-purpose trails. In addition to welcoming hikers and hunters, the trails will be the first built in Polk County with mountain bikers in mind, and officials hope they will offer cyclists an alternative to popular regional destinations like DuPont State Forest.

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