• Laurel Contributor

Visit the Conserved Pond Hollow

by Julie Schott

Families love to gather here. Mild climates, lush landscapes, diverse wildlife and stunning vistas have drawn people to the Plateau for over a century. Today, these mountains are still a playground for many, thanks to those who have made and continue to make the effort to preserve them.

The Gregory Family discovered the value of having a family estate in Highlands where generations can gather and enjoy all the natural amenities our mountains provide. So they made the decision 15 years ago to preserve their family land, Pond Hollow, with the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust using a conservation easement.

A conservation easement is a legal tool that allows a landowner to preserve their land while retaining ownership and sometimes receiving tax benefits.

Pond Hollow is bordered by Nantahala National Forest, which increases its conservation value. Conserving land that connects with other wild places provides benefits such as wildlife habitat and corridors for animals to migrate. The Pond Hollow property also protects water, steep slopes, the viewshed from Yellow Mountain Fire Tower, wetlands and rare species. This special property is actively managed with an extensive network of trails, a boardwalk through the wetlands and gardens.

One misconception about using conservation easements is that those properties are then open to the public – this is not the case. While Highland-Cashiers Land Trust does have ownership of a few private properties which they allow the public to visit, such as Sunset Rock and Satulah Mountain Preserves, the majority of the properties the Land Trust conserves are privately-owned by individuals and not open for public recreation.

However, every property that is conserved offers some sort of public benefit such as protecting water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat.

On Thursday, August 29, the public will have a rare opportunity to visit the privately- owned and conserved property, Pond Hollow, on an HCLT guided EcoTour! For details and reservations, visit hicashlt.org or call (828) 526-1111.

Visit online to learn more about the organization that has been preserving the world’s oldest mountains for generations. Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust invites you to be a part of this great legacy – become a member today.

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