A future 405-acre preserve in Wake County
Location: Wake County
“He felt closer to God down there on the farm than sitting on a pew in church.” – Sally Greaser recalling the love her father, Bailey Williamson, had for the land at Walnut Hill.
At Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve in the Walnut Hill Historic District, you can lose yourself in the tranquil scenery, totally forgetting the state’s capital lies just 20 minutes west. This special place is more than a farm, though, it’s an integral piece in protecting the history of the region and connecting the community with nature for generations to come.
This land’s high-quality soils once supported over 2,700 acres of farming, making it once one of the biggest agricultural operations in Wake County. In fact, the land known as Walnut Hill had been in the Williamson family for over 225 years. Part of the farm, along with the neighboring property to the east, was officially listed on the National Historic Register in October 2000 as the Walnut Hill Historic District.
In addition to its agricultural and historical significance, the Williamson Preserve contains contiguous, unfragmented forests as well as several streams that drain into Marks Creek and the Neuse River. The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has identified the southwest portion of the property as a Natural Heritage Site. The property is also adjacent to the Riverwalk conservation tract to the south, which is owned by the State and under a stewardship management agreement with the Town of Clayton. The Riverwalk tract links the farm to the Neuse River and the Neuse River Greenway, segments of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Bailey and Sarah Williamson first approached TLC about conserving the property back in the early 2000s, and in October 2013, unfortunately after both had passed, their vision was realized when TLC purchased the property for future use as a public preserve.
This preserve was made possible because of a shared vision and commitment to open space: Wake County Board of Commissioners allocated $1.6 million toward the purchase of Williamson Preserve; the Clean Water Management Trust Fund allocated $700,000; individuals generously donated $400,000 through TLC’s Our Water, Our Land campaign; Johnston County allocated $231,000; the Environmental Enhancement Grant Program added $121,000; and the Williamson family generously sold their land at less than 40 percent of its appraised value.