Carvers Creek State Park continues to grow – thanks to The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy recently transferred 1,261 acres in Cumberland County to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.
Earlier this year, the Conservancy transferred the 1,435-acre Rockefeller farm in Harnett County to the state. The Conservancy has protected 4,181 acres in Cumberland and Harnett counties, which have become part of Carvers Creek State Park.
“This is gorgeous property,” explains Ryan Elting, the Conservancy’s Sandhills Program Director. “In the past year, we restored over 620 acres of longleaf stands to the point where they can be maintained with prescribed fire.”
Elting says the Conservancy will still assist as needed on the property, helping the state conduct prescribed burns. Longleaf pine is fire-dependent, needing regular fire to thrive. Fire suppression and development have substantially reduced the stands of longleaf pine, which once covered almost a quarter of the state or about 7.2 million acres. Today it is estimated that longleaf covers less than 250,000 acres in North Carolina. Longleaf are particularly important for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, which makes its home in living longleaf pine. Longleaf still holds a special place in North Carolina; the state’s official toast celebrates “the land of the longleaf pine” and the state’s highest civilian honor is the Order of the Longleaf Pine.
Carvers Creek State Park was created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2005. The largest piece of the park is located off of US 401 north of Fayetteville adjacent to Fort Bragg, protecting 2 ½ miles along the base’s eastern border.
“This property was vital for conservation’s sake – it contains extensive mature longleaf pine forest and valuable habitat for wildlife including red-cockaded woodpeckers,” Elting explains. “And it’s also important for the military, protecting Fort Bragg from incompatible development, which ensures that the military can maintain its training mission.”
Elting credits the military for its commitment to conservation. “A third of the cost of this tract of land was covered by the Department of Defense,” he says. “The military is keeping conservation on the front burner in the Sandhills. Two of the state’s conservation trust funds, the Natural Heritage Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund each contributed a third of the total $11.3M price tag.
Carvers Creek State Park is not yet open to the public, but the state has developed a master plan for the park and hired some staff. It is expected to open sometime in 2012.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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