Conserving For, Not From

September 12, 2019

By Margaret Sands

News this good was hard to keep to ourselves! As you know, on Earth Day 2017, we celebrated the grand opening of Brumley Nature Preserve in Orange County with 1,300 outdoor enthusiasts. Each month 3,000 hikers, bikers, dog walkers, runners, Pokémon seekers, birders, volunteers, photographers, students, and nature lovers visit the 613-acre preserve.

With your ideas and our experiences from the last two years, we can imagine the enormous potential in these 60 acres. The hardwood forest in Brumley East protects more of a wildlife habitat corridor from New Hope Church Road to University Station and a tributary of Stony Creek (which feeds the Eno and eventually Falls Lake). Road frontage may provide another access point for the preserve and with it a wealth of possibility: a connector trail, a parking lot, an education center with flushing toilets perhaps?

However, for us to realize this expanded vision for Brumley, we need your help! We had to tap into our internal Catalyst Fund to complete the purchase. It is critical these funds be immediately replenished to enable TLC to acquire other parcels as they become available.

This is not debt. We’ve used these funds as we were tasked by our donors, but now the important phase of replenishing the Catalyst Fund is key to future acquisitions and TLC’s mission.

We know you’ll love this spot for the large rock formations that catch your eye and curiosity. “Stony Creek Henge” is a bold reminder of the long and mysterious life of land.

Not long ago, this property was slated for 14 large homes. These boulders that would have presented a weighty challenge for a developer now offer a picturesque opportunity for a trailhead, educational signs, selfie stop, perhaps a geology project, or a quiet moment for reflection.

Boulders and stones pepper the forest floor all the way to the creek where they provide safe havens for amphibians and invertebrates enjoying the clear stream habitat. This stream is now protected in perpetuity on both banks, funneling water filtered by the surrounding forest to Stony Creek then all the way to Falls Lake and the faucets of Raleigh residents.

As is so often the case with land conservation projects, Brumley East has been 10 years in the making. In 2009, Bo Howes, Director of Conservation and Stewardship, first met with the landowner to share a vision of a habitat corridor from Eno State Park to TLC’s Johnston Mill with conserved forests for wildlife and trails for bipeds to traverse as well. 10 years and 10 miles of Brumley South trail later, several key partners stepped up to make this a reality.

Most importantly, the landowner generously donated about 1/3 of the value of the property and changed the fate of this land forever. The City of Raleigh drinks from Falls Lake every day and wants to see the streams that feed it stay “forest-filtered,” so they made a grant of over $100,000 from the Raleigh Watershed Protection Program. Orange County, which recognizes how much its citizens value the recreational opportunities Brumley Nature Preserve offers, also made a grant of over $100,000 towards the purchase price.

Finally, a long-time TLC member made a generous grant of $325,000 to help us reach a crucial tipping point. With 80% of the purchase price secured, a favorable deal on the table, and thousands of enthusiasts visiting Brumley each month, our board decided to use the Catalyst Fund, confident that the community would endorse this acquisition.

Using this fund was a risk for TLC, but one we took for several reasons. First, it is in line with our Strategic Action Plan to protect 25,000 acres by 2025 and the long-range plan for a protected corridor to the Eno. Second, we believe that the community’s enthusiasm for Brumley trails would translate into donations for the expansion. Finally, the Catalyst Fund is also backed by TLC’s Land Opportunity Fund (slightly more restricted funds raised during the Our Water Our Land campaign), which is also available for land acquisition.

From the moment we signed the documents this spring these lands were forever protected from sale, degradation, and development. But this does not help us establish the infrastructure needed to make this section of Brumley accessible to the public, and most critically, it leaves a $200,000 hole in our land fund. Thank you for helping accelerate the pace of conservation across the Triangle.

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