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Wilson Creek At-Risk Land To Be Protected (NC)

Posted: 03/19/2008
By: Kevin Colburn

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, on behalf of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, has secured a contract with The Lutz Family Partnership to purchase 649 acres along almost four miles of National Wild and Scenic Wilson Creek in Caldwell County for $7 million dollars.


Surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, the land will be owned by the State of North Carolina and managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission. The scenic tract will offer outstanding public access to Wilson Creek, a favorite destination for paddlers, anglers, and others drawn to the creek's clean water, polished granite rapids, and great scenery.


The purchase is contingent on funding requests by Foothills Conservancy and the Wildlife Resources Commission which are pending with the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund. The contract stipulates that the purchase must occur on or before December 31, 2009. The $10,788 per acre price is based on appraisals completed in December by the N.C. State Property Office.


“This is a rare opportunity to forever protect a very long stretch of much-loved Wilson Creek,” said Susie Hamrick Jones, Foothills Conservancy's executive director. “We are thrilled and thankful that we reached an agreement with the Lutz family that gives us adequate time to secure the public funds needed to add this important tract to our state's permanently protected landscapes.”


Foothills Conservancy began purchase negotiations with Herbert Lutz last fall when the Lutz family declined to renew a purchase option by a developer whose proposed 250-lot “Preserve at Wilson Creek” development plan was withdrawn after meeting with stiff public opposition.  Many paddlers wrote letters last fall in opposition of the large riparian housing development. 


“Our family is humbled by the thought of future generations being able to enjoy the natural beauty and history that Foothills Conservancy is providing with the acquisition of this scenic land,” said Herbert Lutz managing partner for the Lutz Family Partnership. “Our parents, O. P. and Mattie Lutz, never wanted this land to be ravaged again by the likes of a lumber company or anyone that could contribute to catastrophic devastation like the 1940 flood caused in this beautiful area.  Our family will forever be grateful for the preservation of this land for the enjoyment of the citizens of Caldwell County and surrounding areas of North Carolina.”


The Lutz family's tract is among a number of privately owned and cared for tracts along Wilson Creek that helped earn the large, cold-water creek its National Wild and Scenic River designation in 2000, an effort led by Caldwell County officials. Wilson Creek is also classified as an “Outstanding Resource Water” by the N.C. Division of Water Quality.


“Wilson Creek is sacred ground to the people of Caldwell County,” said Caldwell Commissioner Ron Beane. “This is another vital step in a vision that Caldwell Commissioners and citizens had in the late `90s for preserving this national treasure. We started by securing a Federal Wild and Scenic River designation and in 2002 opened a visitor center, manned by the Chamber of Commerce, that draws over 10,000 visitors a year from all over the world.”  


This project is a superb example of how a recent Wild and Scenic designation can lead to watershed protection with strong public support.  Thanks to a passionate response to a proposed development, a conservation-oriented land owner, and a collaborative effort to secure funding and negotiate a public purchase, Wilson Creek will continue to be a world class destination for paddlers and other visitors for generations to come.


We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Foothills Conservancy, the Lutz Family Partnership, and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.  Thanks! 

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