Access to nature’s beauty is easy around Asheville, whether you like to picnic on the parkway, walk your dog on a trail or float down a lazy river.
“I love getting outdoors in Western North Carolina because there are countless opportunities to discover something you’ll enjoy here,” says Tamia Dame, UNC Asheville student. “With all that these mountains have to offer I truly believe there’s a niche for everyone here in this great region.”
But folks shouldn’t take that natural beauty for granted, say the leaders of local land trusts like Conservation Trust for North Carolina.
“We want folks to keep discovering the outdoors, and then find their own way to get involved,” says Mary Alice Holley, a spokeswoman for the Conservation Trust.
More than 450,000 acres of land are protected by the Conservation Trust and 22 more local land trusts in the state. That land includes beaches that became state parks, streams that provide clean water, farms that produce food to local communities, and mountains that will provide resilient landscapes as our climate changes. There are nearly 3,000 places statewide that land trusts protect.
The land trusts work collaboratively to raise awareness of the benefits of land conservation and build greater support to achieve those benefits across the state. They recently launched a campaign to encourage folks to get outside, then consider taking some action to support conservation efforts locally and statewide.
“The goal is to connect with everyone who loves the outdoors, not just the traditional rugged outdoorsmen,” Holley says.
“I think there’s a misconception that you need a lot of gear or expertise to enjoy the outdoors, and it’s just not true. In Western North Carolina, it’s literally your backyard and it’s easy to explore the beauty that’s all around.”
Supporting the land and water conservation happening in your own backyard can be as easy as getting outside to explore your local trails and open spaces. By visiting ctnc.org/outside, you can find a map of over 100 outdoor destinations that are free, open to the public, and protected by a land trust. (Go here to download map.)
While you’re there, take a selfie and post it to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #myNCmoment, says Holley, who notes that using social media to raise awareness about the need for land protection can be fun, easy, and accessible to everyone.
Dame adds, “CTNC’s campaign is an awesome opportunity to connect with others who appreciate this land and also learn what we can do to help protect it.”
Residents can volunteer with any number of groups to help keep public lands beautiful and viable. Taking part in a river clean-up or pitching in with trail maintenance are just a couple of examples, she says.
What else can folks do? Consider telling a local lawmaker that you want them to support land conservation. And finally, consider a donation to a land trust that actively conserves land for today and future generations to enjoy.