After a successful fundraising effort by two local nonprofits, a protected view and better access to Panthertown Valley are one step closer to reality following a land transaction on Friday, April 21.
Mainspring Conservation Trust, a regional land trust based in Franklin, purchased 16 acres of private property that borders the western entrance to Panthertown Valley and Salt Rock Gap near Cashiers in Jackson County. Panthertown is part of the Nantahala National Forest and consists of more than 10,000 acres of protected land with clifftop views, at least eight major waterfalls, trout streams, rare plant species and diverse habitat for wildlife.
Partnering with the Friends of Panthertown, a non-profit group of volunteers who work with the U.S. Forest Service to enhance the visitor experience, the two organizations raised more than $82,000 from groups and individuals of the $195,000 needed for the purchase. The money raised by the non-profits was matched dollar-for-dollar by Fred and Alice Stanback. Earlier this month, the Jackson County Commissioners voted to cover the balance left to complete the transaction.
“This project has really confirmed how important conservation in western North Carolina is to people,” said Mainspring Board Chair Chris Brouwer. “Individuals from all over the country have contributed to this initiative, proving what a special place this region is. We are so happy that, when they visit to hike, fish, and enjoy that area, the view from inside Panthertown Valley will be forever undeveloped as they look up at Salt Rock Gap.”
The Friends of Panthertown will now begin preparing the property for more parking. Friends of Panthertown will cut trees and lay gravel to make more room for visitors, who had previously been forced to park on the shoulder of Breedlove Road. Mainspring will ultimately convey the 16 acres to the U.S. Forest Service, to become part of Panthertown Valley.
Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, Mainspring has conserved more than 25,000 acres and connected thousands of youth to nature in the six western-most counties in North Carolina and northern Rabun County, Georgia.