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Tract near top of Grandfather Mountain to be added to state park

Battling fog, a North Carolina National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew on Wednesday, June 5, 2019,  airlifted an injured hiker off a trail on Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Three Charlotte Fire Department rescuers were aboard the helicopter.
Battling fog, a North Carolina National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, airlifted an injured hiker off a trail on Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Three Charlotte Fire Department rescuers were aboard the helicopter. Blue Ridge Conservancy

A Boone-based land conservancy conveyed a 211-acre tract on iconic Grandfather Mountain to North Carolina’s state park system this week.

The Blue Ridge Conservancy bought the tract in 2016 with the help of donors Alice and Fred Stanback of Salisbury. It will be added to Grandfather Mountain State Park.

The forested tract, which runs to the ridge of the 5,946-foot mountain, borders both the state park and Julian Price Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It harbors three endangered plant species and several significant natural communities, said Eric Hiegl, the conservancy’s director of land protection and stewardship.

The transaction closed Tuesday, parks officials said. Because the terrain is so steep and rugged, the officials said, the property will be more valuable as added protection for the area than for recreational use.

The property also connects to 155 acres, lower on the mountain, that the Blue Ridge Conservancy and the Conservation Fund bought in 2009, Hiegl said.

“We’re tremendously proud to extend the boundaries of the state park and without the help of the Stanbacks we wouldn’t have had it,” the conservancy’s executive director, Charlie Brady, said in an interview. “It’s going to be a win for the conservation community and the public.”

Grandfather Map.jpg
The tract in red will be conveyed by the Boone-based Blue Ridge Conservancy to the N.C. state parks system. Blue Ridge Conservancy

Grandfather Mountain, with its “mile-high swinging bridge” and long-distance views, has for decades been one of North Carolina’s biggest tourist attractions. The bridge, a zoo and MacRae Meadows, site of the annual Scottish highland games, remain privately owned.

But in 2009 a state park was created from the the mountain’s 2,456 acres of backcountry, which is known for rocky cliffs and 13 miles of challenging trails.

Blue Ridge Conservancy bought the 211-acre tract for $2.7 million and will resell it to the state parks system for $1.9 million. Funding from the Stanbacks make up the difference in the appraised value and the sale price, Brady said.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender
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