TLC’s Williamson Preserve now open

September 22, 2020

Triangle Land Conservancy’s new nature preserve now open in Wake and Johnston counties 

  • Triangle Land Conservancy’s 405-acre Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve offers 9 miles of walking and biking trails that connect to the Neuse River Greenway.
  • TLC purchased the land in 2013 from the daughters of Bailey and Sarah Williamson, who wanted the land conserved and donated 60% of the land’s value. The purchase was made possible thanks to contributions from Wake County, Johnston County, the N.C. Land and Water Trust Fund, the Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, and TLC supporters. 
  • Williamson Preserve is TLC’s eighth nature preserve, and the organization’s first public preserve to have working farms on site.
  • Trails can be accessed via the Neuse River Greenway or at the parking lot at 4409 Mial Plantation Road, Raleigh NC 27610.The closest Neuse River Greenway access parking lot is 6090 Mial Plantation Road, Raleigh NC 27610.
  • To better share the history of the land, TLC worked with the UNC Community Histories Workshop to provide information on the Indigenous people who first lived in the surrounding area, the enslaved Black people who were forced to work on the land, and the white families who owned and farmed the land for generations.

Raleigh, NC — On Monday, Sept. 21, Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) opened its eighth nature preserve, Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve, in Wake and Johnston counties. The 405-acre preserve is located about 12 miles from downtown Raleigh and opens with 9 miles of walking and mountain biking trails that connect to the Neuse River Greenway in Clayton.   

“We are so excited to finally open this beautiful preserve and we can’t wait to have the community visit,” said TLC Executive Director Sandy Sweitzer. “Especially during this pandemic and time of physical distancing, we’re thrilled to provide one more outdoor oasis that people can safely enjoy.”   

Williamson Preserve is TLC’s first public nature preserve with working farms on site, with a focus on using sustainable, regenerative methods. Currently, Newbold Farms LLC raises grass-fed cattle on the property, and Raleigh-based arborist Leaf & Limb has launched Project Pando, a volunteer-driven farm that grows native trees that will be given to the public for free. TLC is partnering with NC State’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Wake County, and others to bring more farmers to the preserve, with the goal of one day providing visitors the opportunity to walk or bike the trails and then purchase fresh produce.   

Bailey and Sarah Williamson first approached TLC about conserving the property in the early 2000s. They wanted to see the land, which has been in their family for more than 225 years, conserved rather than developed. TLC purchased the land for the preserve in 2013 at a discounted price.

This purchase was made possible thanks to a shared vision and commitment to open space: the Williamson’s daughters, Betty Brandt Williamson and Sally Williamson Greaser, generously donated 60% of the land value, and contributions from Wake County, the NC Land and Water Trust Fund (previously the Clean Water Management Trust Fund), Johnston County, the Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, and individuals who donated to TLC’s Our Water, Our Land campaign made the acquisition possible.

TLC has also been working with the UNC Community Histories Workshop to document and share more about the history of the preserve and surrounding land. In addition to telling the story of the Williamson family, signage at the preserve provides information on the Tuscarora tribe, plantation cotton and tobacco farming, Black rural land ownership in the area, and land conservation in a changing rural community. TLC has future plans to document and share more information about the people who lived and worked on the land, particularly about the Indigenous people who first lived in the area and the Black families forced into enslavement who later farmed in the area. 

“It’s important to acknowledge that land ownership — even TLC’s — is rooted in systemic racism. This community, like most in North Carolina, has a complicated past,” Sweitzer said. “TLC is committed to recognizing this history and the harm that has been inflicted on Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in the U.S. because of plantation agriculture, and later, because of land conservation. TLC hopes that as a public nature preserve, that all members of our community will be able to safely get out and explore and enjoy this site.”

The historical signage at the preserve was made possible by support from the Triangle Community Foundation and The Jandy Ammons Foundation. The preserve trails, signs, and its opening were made possible thanks to the following sponsors: REI Co-op, Leaf & Limb, Blue Heron, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Murphy’s Naturals, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, MetLife, Great Outdoor Provision Co., The Burt’s Bees Foundation, Universal Leaf, Mountain HardWear, The Cannon Foundation, Inc., The Longleaf Alliance, Appalachian Mountain Brewing Company, and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists.  

The preserve is a true community effort thanks to the work of current and past TLC staff, the help of hundreds of volunteers, and the support of TLC’s partners who helped prepare the preserve for its opening over the years. Williamson Preserve was initially slated to open on April 25 with a grand opening community celebration, which was canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic.  

For a trail map, preserve rules, and more information, visit triangleland.org/williamson. To arrange a guided tour of the preserve or interviews with TLC staff members, contact Communications Manager Danielle Herman at dherman@triangleland.org.   

What to know before visiting:  

  • Preserve hours are dawn to dusk, but the preserve will be closed after rainstorms to protect the trails and prevent run-off into streams. Check trail status before you go at com, at torc-nc.org, and on TLC’s Facebook page or Twitter. 
  • Trails can be accessed via the Neuse River Greenway or at the parking lot at 4409 Mial Plantation Road, Raleigh NC 27610. The closest Neuse River Greenway access parking lot is 6090 Mial Plantation Road, Raleigh NC 27610.
  • Most trails at Williamson Preserve go in one direction. On Sunday-Wednesday, walkers should turn right at trail intersections, and bikers turn left. On Thursday-Saturday, walkers turn left, and bikers turn right.
  • Dogs must be on leash at all times for their safety and the safety of other visitors, wildlife, and livestock. 
  • Do not interact with wildlife or livestock, and do not touch or approach any farm equipment or buildings. 
  • Please take all trash, including dog poop bags, with you when you leave. 

About Triangle Land Conservancy  

Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) is a nonprofit seeking to conserve the wild and working lands in the Triangle that make it a great place to live, work, and play. Since 1983, TLC has protected more than 20,000 acres.  

Quality of life is a key reason that families, employers, employees, and retirees choose the Triangle as their home. The region will continue to develop as an estimated 1.3 million people move into our six-county service area within the next three decades.  

TLC is committed to working with individuals, businesses, and government partners to balance this growth with open space preservation for the long-term sustainability and health of our local communities. Our goal is to protect a total of 25,000 acres by 2025. We are also dedicated to the stewardship of our conserved lands in perpetuity, forever protecting the public benefits they provide, including clean water, natural habitats, farms and food, and access to nature. For more, visit triangleland.org.

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