Board of Trustees

From left to right: Walter Clark,  Cobb Milner, Ann Baker, Ann Browning, Zika Rea, Meagan Phillips, Chris Bensen, Steve Wylie, Sonny Church (Not Pictured: Tim Gupton, John Cooper, Don Mikush, Wade Reece, John Sherrill, Larry Trivette, Bonnie Weyher)

From left to right: Walter Clark,  Cobb Milner, Ann Baker, Ann Browning, Zika Rea, Meagan Phillips, Chris Bensen, Steve Wylie, Sonny Church (Not Pictured: Tim Gupton, John Cooper, Don Mikush, Wade Reece, John Sherrill, Larry Trivette, Bonnie Weyher)


Zika Rea, Chairperson

Zika is the President and Co-Founder of the ZAP Fitness Foundation and Director of ZAP Fitness. Zika and her late husband, Andy Palmer, moved to Blowing Rock in 2002 and founded the running focused nonprofit. ZAP Fitness is a training center for Elite Runners and includes programs and running camps for recreational runners. While the ZAP facilities were being built in 2002, Zika earned a master’s degree in Exercise Science from Appalachian State University. Zika originally hails from the suburbs of St. Louis and she attended Emory University where she earned a B.S. in Biology. Zika lives in Blowing Rock with her husband Pete Rea who is the Elite Athlete Coach and Coordinator at ZAP Fitness. They have two children.

Ann Browning, Vice Chairperson

Ann is a native North Carolinian, having grown up in High Point.  She developed a love for the North Carolina Mountains thanks to frequent childhood visits.  She and her husband, Ric, enjoy gardening, fishing, and doing projects on their property in Ashe County.

Ann’s first career in banking spanned 23 years with Bank of America (originally NCNB) where she was involved with corporate banking, investment banking and private equity investing.  When she chose to pursue a second career, she wanted to focus her efforts on preserving the natural resources and character of her native North Carolina.  She became involved with the Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land in Charlotte.  When the Carolina Thread Trail, a 15 county initiative to connect trails, open space and regional attractions, was being planned, she joined as the first full time staff person.  As the Carolina Thread Trail Director, she worked on community outreach, branding, public and private fund raising, and the development and oversight of The Thread’s community grants program.  She retired after seven wonderful years with The Thread to spend more time in the mountains and in Davidson, NC.  She sees land conservation as a critical element in ensuring that the High Country remains a healthy and attractive place to visit, work, and play. Ann earned her bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees and her MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Meagan Phillips, Secretary

Meagan was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. She moved to Boone, her mother's hometown, in 2004 to attend Appalachian State University. Growing up she spent time visiting the High Country where she learned the history of her family members and their contributions to the part of the state she now calls home.

Her family has been active members in the High Country and ASU for several generations. Her passion for giving back comes honestly, as it is ingrained in her roots. As the fourth generation of her family to attend ASU, she adds to the legacy that has spanned decades.

Meagan earned a bachelor's degree in Communication with concentrations in Law and Finance and a minor in International Business. She worked in the Office of Admissions and in the Reich College of Education before leaving ASU to work for her family. Her family's history with private farm and forest land management, as well as property management, has taught her the importance of responsible development. She believes land conservation and stewardship are vital components to responsible growth and sustainable practices, to help ensure the quality of life for current and future generations.

Tim Gupton, Treasurer

Tim Gupton fell in love with the High Country after meeting his spouse, Brent Moore, who had a second home in Blowing Rock.   The outdoor life style, cool summer temperatures and the miles of green converted him from a lifetime of beach living.  He and Brent relocated to Blowing Rock from Raleigh in 2015 after building a new home in the historic Mayview neighborhood in Blowing Rock.   Tim first recognized the importance of land conservation after visiting Old Orchard Creek Farm and began to understand that the miles of green cannot be taken for granted.  Tim and Brent also enjoy living in Fort Lauderdale during the winter months.

Tim grew up in Henderson, NC and moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL for 20 years following graduation from UNC Chapel Hill where he was a partner with KPMG. He returned to NC in 1992 as  a senior partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP in Raleigh.  Tim retired from HPG in 2015 and remains an active partner with HPG Wealthcare Advisors, LLC.  Brent is a real estate broker and they share an interest in architecture and real estate.

Tim enjoys hiking, collector cars, contemporary art, traveling and reading.   The family includes three adult children and four grandchildren, all who love visiting Blowing Rock.

Dale Caveny

Dale Caveny grew up near Kings Mountain, North Carolina. His childhood days were filled with ramblings in the fields and woods near his home. There he developed a love of the natural world and experienced it through hunting, fishing, and camping.

This love and appreciation of the outdoors led him to a career as a wildlife enforcement officer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). He spent 26 years as a field officer and supervisor in western North Carolina before becoming the chief of the division in 2010. He served four years in that role and was assigned to NCWRC headquarters in Raleigh. He retired in 2014.

Dale is a fellow with the National Conservation Leadership Institute (NCLI) and has served the past four years as a peer coach and instructor with NCLI. He has been involved with the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chief’s (NACLEC) leadership academy since its inception in 2014 as an instructor and peer coach. He is certified as a Case in Point facilitator through the Kansas Leadership Center. Dale also works in economic and community development with an Alleghany County nonprofit organization, serves as a reserve deputy with the local sheriff’s office and is an adjunct instructor at the North Carolina Justice Academy. He enjoys writing, hiking, fishing, kayaking and squirrel hunting with his two Feist dogs. He has a special interest in Appalachian culture, storytelling and leadership development.

Dale and his wife Amy live in Alleghany County near the Blue Ridge Parkway. They have a blended family of four children and five grandchildren.

Don Mikush

Don is the founder and past owner of M Creative, a design and marketing firm located in Winston-Salem where he began to learn about conservation through his work with the New River Conservancy and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Don and his wife, Sandra, built a small cabin on conserved land in Crumpler in 2006 and recently moved to their permanent home in Sutherland Valley after raising their three children in Winston-Salem. Their property is under a conservation easement managed by the Blue Ridge Conservancy.

Don received his degree in mechanical engineering from Duke and studied visual design at N.C. State University’s School of Visual Design. A native of Maryland, Don was pleased to discover soon after he and Sandra first purchased property in Ashe County that his great-great grandfather, Peter Kelly, immigrated there from Ireland in the 1840s and worked at the Ore Knob copper mine. Don likes to say that his love for the North Carolina Mountains runs in the family.

When Don and Sandra aren’t tending to their 116-acre farm, they’re hiking, kayaking, fly-fishing, biking and learning all they can about our northwest mountains.

Cobb Milner

Cobb and his wife Cindy own and operate Gideon Ridge Inn, Bistro Roca and the New Public House & Hotel in Blowing Rock. A resident of the High Country since 1992, Cobb has an engineering degree from Union College (NY) and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In 1994, Cobb and Cindy took over control of Gideon Ridge where, working with Cobb’s parents, they expanded the operation and started the Restaurant at Gideon Ridge. In 2005, they bought and renovated the former Antlers Bar property and started Bistro Roca and in 2013, they bought and renovated the former Sunshine Inn property and started the New Public House & Hotel. Since 2008, Gideon Ridge has hosted the summer meeting and reception of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. In 2014, Cobb joined the board of directors of the Blue Ridge Conservancy. Cobb is an avid cyclist and he loves hiking, snow skiing, traveling and living in Blowing Rock.

Margaret Newbold

Margaret is a driving force for land conservation in North Carolina. Margaret recently retired after 20 years with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC). She served CTNC as Associate Director, Senior Associate, and Interim Executive Director in 2017. Margaret will continue to play an integral role in the conservation community. She is an avid outdoorswoman and is looking forward to many new adventures in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of arts in Religious Studies and holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from N. C. State University. Her career path has clearly been driven by her passions for recreation, travel and exploring other cultures, and conservation.

She is thrilled to join the Board of BRC, a land trust that she believes to be on the leading edge of forging a new conservation community building paradigm with projects like the Middle Fork Greenway.  

Margaret is encouraging the conservation sector to work closely with the economic development sector to chart a course that fosters healthy, whole communities because land is the foundation of this work and the common ground that connects us all. 

Jesse Pope

Jesse is the Executive Director of the non-profit, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. Jesse has 16 years of experience working for the nature park in many capacities, most notably as Backcountry Ranger, Animal Keeper, and Chief Naturalist. More Recently Jesse has worked as the Assistant Vice President helping oversee day to day operations of the park. 

Jesse was born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, not far from the famous shack purchased by Aldo Leopold and inspired his famous book A Sand County Almanac. Jesse’s family moved to Grayson County, Virginia while he was only 11 months old. 

While Jesse wasn’t technically born in Appalachia he grew up on the banks of the New River on a small family farm, often listening to old time bluegrass music, wandering through the fields and forests of rural southwest Virginia and embracing the culture and rich history of the Appalachians.

Jesse attended Lees-McRae College for his undergraduate degree and Montreat College for graduate studies in environmental education. He is very passionate about the Stewardship Foundation’s mission to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain.

Wade Reece

A native of Boonville, NC and graduate of NC State University, Wade began his financial career in the BB&T Management Development Program in Wilson, NC.  He retired at the end of 2015 as the Chairman and CEO of BB&T Insurance Holdings, Inc., where he provided strong, unified leadership of all of their insurance operations as Chairman of each of its subsidiaries.  

During his career he served on a wide array of boards, including serving as the Chairman of the Board of the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers and The Institutes.  He continues in his retirement as a member of the Board of Directors of Horace Mann Educators Corporation.  He also serves on the Boards of Directors for the North Carolina State University Foundation.

Wade leads an active life marked by involvement in organizations representing his professional, personal and community interests.  His love of the outdoors is reflected in his memberships in the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Ambassador for Land for Tomorrow and Trout Unlimited.  He serves the community through his work with the Blue Ridge Conservancy, Preservation North Carolina and as a member of the Raleigh Moravian Church.

John Sherrill

John's family farm adjoins Doughton Park, along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Alleghany County. Once just a summer cabin, the farm has become their full time home. They raise cattle on the open pastures which are surrounded by hardwood forests, laurel, and rhododendron. With the constant pressures to subdivide or develop mountain land, John is appreciative that there are organizations like Blue Ridge Conservancy to help preserve farms like his for future generations. 

Larry Trivette

Larry is a High Country native who grew up in Todd, N.C., just outside of Boone. Larry is an avid outdoorsman with interests that include backpacking, trail running, hunting, and fly-fishing. During his 32-year career in the N.C. State Park system, Larry spent more than 20 years at Stone Mountain and Morrow Mountain State Parks. In 2004, Larry became the first permanent superintendent of Elk Knob State Park where he led a five-year effort to build an all-volunteer constructed trail to the summit of Elk Knob. The 1.9-mile trail is one of the most scenic and well-built trails in the High Country. Larry currently lives in Todd and he travels often to visit his three daughters all of whom work for various park systems throughout the country.

Bonnie Weyher

Bonnie is one of the founding partners of Yates, McLamb & Weyher, L.L.P. in Raleigh, and serves as Senior Counsel to the firm. 

Bonnie’s practice is primarily in the area of insurance coverage, professional liability, and alternate dispute resolution. She is an American Arbitration Association Panel Member. She is a member of the North Carolina Academy of Superior Court Mediators.

Bonnie has substantial involvement in local and state bar organizations. She is a Past President of the North Carolina State Bar. Previously, she served as a Councilor on the North Carolina State Bar. She chaired the Grievance Committee, Ethics Committee, and the Authorized Practice of Law Committee. Bonnie served as Chair of the Litigation Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. She is a Past President of the Wake County Bar Association.

Bonnie is married to her law partner, Dan McLamb, and they have four sons. She enjoys travel, spending time at her home in Blowing Rock, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.

Steve Wylie

My husband and I first discovered Ashe County in 2002 while visiting family who had rented a mountain home for an extended summer vacation.  We quickly fell in love with the area and within two months of this first visit, we had purchased a log cabin overlooking the New River.   Even though we were living and working in Charlotte, we spent almost every weekend and vacation in our cabin and cherished the time we were able to spend here.

In 2006 we purchased 26 acres of land in Todd that had already been protected by conservancy easements.  Over time, we expanded our holdings to encompass 80 acres of conserved land.  In 2010, we built a home on the property and relocated full time to the High Country.  We consider ourselves quite lucky, indeed, to be able to call this part of the world our home.

A native North Carolinian, I was introduced to the NC mountains at a very early age with frequent family camping trips to the Smoky Mountains and other natural areas throughout the eastern US.  My attraction to the mountains grew after college when I spent two years living in Lake Tahoe in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains.  After a 25 year career in the apartment development and management business, I knew I wanted to put my work experience and personal passions towards protecting land in the High Country.  My affiliation with the Blue Ridge Conservancy provides me with that opportunity.  I truly value working with like-minded people throughout the area to do what we can to preserve this special part of the world.