IMG_20160413_161724553-480x480Brittney Burns — Staff Writer

A collaborative effort between Jackson County and Mainspring Conservation Trust will open 308 acres for public access, creating additional space for people to hike, hunt and fish in the area.

Mainspring, a Franklin-based regional non-profit land trust serving the six western-most counties in North Carolina, was able to purchase the property with the help of $140,000 contributed by the Jackson County commissioners. The property is strategically located between two tracts owned by the National Forest Service. Linking the public lands will bridge those two tracts into a larger tract of accessible public property. This is the first time In Mainspring’s history that they have received funds from a government agency.

Located in the community of Little Canada in Jackson County, the property Mainspring was able to purchase originally belonged to H.B. Wood. When he died in 1931 without a will, the property was shared among his 11 children. As the years passed, the number of descendants grew to eventually reach more than 100, leading the land to be known as the “Wood Heirs” property.

“The commissioners believe it was in the best interest of the citizens of Jackson IMG_20160413_153803191-575x1024County to have the Wood Heirs property become part of the NC State Game Lands,” says Brian McMahan, chairman of the Jackson County Commissioners. “This would allow for perpetual access for recreational purposes, which is an investment in the quality of life for the residents here. We were happy to partner with an outstanding conservation organization like Mainspring to make that happen.”

Mainspring Executive Director Sharon Taylor says protecting this property fulfills the land trust’s mission, which prioritizes land conservation to forests, farms, waters and heritage. “The Wood Family has owned the property for more than 100 years and conservation honors that heritage. It also protects the quality of Neddie Creek and other tributary systems.  And, because of Jackson County’s support, we are able to provide better public access to public lands.  It is an excellent project and partnership.”

The property will be enrolled in the state’s game lands program to be managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

“When it is enrolled in N.C. Game Lands, it will appear as such on maps that are accessible online and in print,” said Taylor. “There will also be signs on the property that show it is N.C. Game Lands.”

Mainspring expects the property to be open to the public by late fall 2016.

“There are some dilapidated buildings on the property that need to be secured before it is open to the public,” said Taylor. “Also, there is fencing on the property that needs to come down, so items that will make the land safe for people to explore.”

Formed in 1997 by a group of visionaries, this organization grew to become the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, until it transitioned to Mainspring Conservation Trust on Jan. 1, 2016. Mainspring is the land trust for the region, with the goal to conserve and restore the lands and waters of the Southern Blue Ridge, and to connect the people to these natural treasures.

“The Wood Heirs project touches all three of Mainspring’s core initiatives – conserve, restore, and connect – but we are particularly proud to partner with Jackson County to make it easier for people to “connect” to our natural resources,” said Taylor.

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