Blue Ridge Conservancy helps Mountain Alliance establish new adventure basecamp for youth in Pisgah National Forest

Do you remember your first camping experience? It probably included activities like setting up a tent, cooking over a fire, and stargazing. Chances are experiences like these sparked curiosities and hopefully helped shape a lifelong love for the outdoors.

As the High Country’s local land trust, Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) works to conserve and expand outdoor opportunities for people to enjoy the region. Whether that is protecting places like the scenic ridgeline of Grandfather Mountain, establishing access to the Watauga River on Guy Ford Road, or expanding the boundaries of Elk Knob State Park, BRC believes that recreation is an important aspect of land conservation.

Donating land to BRC is a recognized conservation strategy for those who are involved in estate planning; own property no longer used or would like to be relieved of the responsibility of managing and caring for the land. In many cases, BRC will permanently protect the land or sell the land to support its conservation work.

When a donation of land connecting to the Pisgah National Forest was proposed to BRC, the offer was investigated, but BRC believed that the land could be more beneficial to another nonprofit.

With some creative networking, an idea to donate the land to the organization Mountain Alliance was conceived.

Mountain Alliance (MA) is a nonprofit in the High Country that provides transformative experiences and support for High Country teens, regardless of means or background. Through outdoor adventure, service learning, after-school programming, mentorship and academic support Mountain Alliance strives to unlock the leadership potential present in all teens.

Charlie Brady, BRC’s Executive Director, recounts the sequence of events. “In the Fall of 2018 I received a telephone call from my sister about a conversation that she had with a Raleigh attorney during a Carolina football game. That attorney, Gray Hutchison, mentioned that he had a client and close friend that wanted to donate a tract of land in Avery County to a local land trust. My sister told him that he should call me. I did receive a call from Gray and he informed me that his client was Alan Head, the Executive Director of the NC Bar Association, and that he did want to donate this property. Gray also mentioned that it was part of planning Alan’s estate as he had terminal cancer.”

Alan had worked with youth groups during his career and that the possibility of Mountain Alliance taking ownership of the property was particularly appealing. BRC assisted MA in its due diligence and developed a concept for their use of the property. It turned out to be a good fit and Mountain Alliance was excited to take ownership. Unfortunately, Alan died before the exchange was completed.

“Mountain Alliance takes students on incredible adventures throughout the year,” said Zack Green, Mountain Alliance Executive Director. “We aim to use the Head Property as an adventure basecamp for our programs for High School Students. This property will make a great campsite for student trips from both Avery and Watauga. On the property we plan to camp and teach outdoor skills such as camp craft, cooking, fire building, etc. With only short drives from the property we can access great hiking, rock climbing, waterfalls, and more.”

Donating land for conservation purposes is one of the finest legacies a person can leave to future generations. Alan Head dedicated a lot of his life to serving youth, and it is Mountain Alliance’s hope to honor his legacy by utilizing this property to make a positive impact on the lives of teens for years to come. Blue Ridge Conservancy was happy to assist in this land acquisition with the intent of providing teens with a location to develop a strong connection to the natural world and understand the importance of protecting our landscape and resources.

This is a great example of how collaboration can support youth and create stronger, better communities. When land trusts take part in this work, it builds a broader and deeper support for land conservation benefiting us all.

Nikki Robinson