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The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation closed on the purchase of 2,200 acres in McDowell County on Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the second phase of land acquisition for Bobs Creek State Natural Area.

The first phase of the project, about 1,500 acres, was purchased in January. The third and final phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

Once complete, the Bobs Creek State Natural Area will total about 6,000 acres of public conservation lands, managed by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation for passive (low-impact) recreation, water quality protection of numerous streams, and preservation of rare plants and diverse natural ecosystems documented by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.

Protection of the 2,200-acre tract protects water quality along five miles of source streams that drain to North and South Muddy creeks through an extensive network of riparian buffers on the property. The Muddy Creek watershed is one of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s priorities for stream and water quality improvement.

The second phase acquisition for Bobs Creek State Natural Area will expand public access and passive recreation opportunities including hiking, wildlife observation and scenic enjoyment of stream cascades after trails are designed and constructed by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.

“This property is a critical component of the new natural area in McDowell County, which has been historically underserved with outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Dwayne Patterson, director of the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. “We are thankful for Foothills Conservancy’s invaluable partnership and look forward to new opportunities to improve water quality, education, research and recreation to catalyze further stewardship of our natural resources.”

Foothills Conservancy Land Protection Director Tom Kenney praised the project.

“We are thrilled to complete this natural area expansion with North Carolina State Parks that will offer residents and visitors of Marion and McDowell County convenient public recreation opportunities less than five miles from I-40,” Kenney said. “Western North Carolina’s significant outdoor recreation economy continues to grow, thanks to great natural assets, such as Marion’s Catawba River Greenway, Fonta Flora and Wilderness Gateway State Trails, Pisgah National Forest and Catawba Falls.”

Funding for the second phase of the project included a grant of $1.2 million from North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which also assisted with the purchase of Phase I; $1.75 million in federal Land and Water Conservation Fund monies awarded by the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund; Conservation Trust for North Carolina; and Cannon and Stanback Foundations grants.

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