Cape Fear Conservation Corridor Grows!

May 17, 2022

Triangle Land Conservancy recently closed on the purchase of 665 acres of waterfront property on the Cape Fear River in Lee County, permanently protecting this vital piece of land. The Cape Fear Bottomland is a crucial piece of previously unprotected land in an undeveloped corridor of the Cape Fear River, where the Wildlife Resources Commission manages 7,307 adjacent acres for conservation purposes.  This purchase permanently protects this parcel of land. The planning for its management to optimize habitat and ecosystem services will create a nearly 8,000-acre conservation corridor in North Carolina’s largest river basin. 

This acquisition by TLC preserves 51,231 feet of stream buffer in the Cape Fear River corridor and 282 acres of floodplain under critical protection, a substantial vital win for immediate and downstream human and natural communities.

About the property

Cape Fear bottomland contains several Natural Areas recognized by the NC Natural Heritage Program (NCNHP), including Cape Fear River/McKay Island Floodplain, Piedmont Bottomland Forest, and Piedmont Levee Forest, historic waterbird colonies, and several beaver-made wetlands. It’s located directly across from WRC’s Avent Ferry Boat Ramp, the first view of the Cape Fear that many boaters see upon hitting the water.

The waterfront property first caught the attention of Triangle Land Conservancy in March of 2020, when it was listed for sale as forestry property. Long-time Sanford community member and TLC donor, Tommy Frazier Bridges, had recently begun the Lee County Conservation Fund at Triangle Land Conservancy with a donation fund staff time to identify high conservation value projects and protection methods in Lee County. TLC staff conducted site assessments on the property and negotiated with the landowner with that support. In February 2021 submitted an application for grant funds to the NC Land and Water Fund to make the purchase. Delays in the State budget prolonged the decision period, and the property went under contract to a developer. TLC called upon a private donor to help bridge project funding and leverage available grant funding when that contract fell through.

After the legislature passed the State budget, the NC Land and Water Fund allocated $60.4 million to 83 projects that protect NC’s land and water from the mountains to the coast, including $854,589 for the purchase of Cape Fear Bottomland. The State’s support is critical for this project. Still, the opportunity to conserve it would have disappeared without the investment of private donors willing to bridge the gap and stimulate TLC’s activities in Lee County. Through this public/private/nonprofit partnership, the Cape Fear Bottomland is permanently conserved and providing the surrounding community with wildlife habitat and connectivity, iconic viewsheds, flood resiliency, and clean drinking water in the Cape Fear River corridor.  

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