402-acre property in Caldwell County will soon be a state forest; The land was once used by the Broyhill family to make furniture
I tapped 4885 Grandin Road, Lenoir, NC on my cell phone for directions, and soon I was off on a pleasant journey through part of Caldwell County’s Patterson community. Perfect weather, little traffic, lots of beautiful hilly landscapes. My destination was the entrance to the new Broyhill State Forest. Michael Cheek, Assistant Regional Forester for the North Carolina Forest Service, had agreed to act as my tour guide on the site.
Michael said I was going to cross a metal bridge. To my left would be Grandin Acres, a wedding and event venue; Broyhill State Forest on the right. He hadn’t mentioned that there might be two goats on high alert at the end of the metal bridge. I had to ask myself: was there a third one nearby? Was I in danger of facing a troll?
In front was a truck. A man in uniform leaned against it. Must be Michael. I parked and was just getting out of my SUV when the opposite of a scary troll appeared. Actually two opposites. A pair of super friendly, quite wet and dirty dogs. One was a large brown poodle mix. The other was a long-haired something that made me think of Benji from the 1974 film of the same name. The blissful mutts were keen to accompany Michael and I as we went into the woods. Michael explained that the goats and dogs belonged to Grandin Acres Farm.
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A few weeks earlier, a number of dignitaries including North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler; Hunt Broyhill and family; Will Summer, director of the North Carolina Land and Water Fund; and Bill Holman, NC State Director of the Conservation Fund, were at the same venue for a Broyhill State Forest ceremony on September 22nd. I bet a couple of dogs showed up to the party too.
Now it was my turn to see a portion of the 402-acre property, which is currently owned by the national non-profit land trust organization The Conservation Fund, but will soon be available thanks to funding to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for Protection as a state forest is to be conferred by the North Carolina Land and Water Fund and Salisbury residents Fred and Alice Stanback, whose philanthropic efforts promote and support environmental education and stewardship. Simply put by Michael, the forest will be “government property”.
According to the Conservation Fund, “the efforts will help protect water quality, wildlife and natural resources while securing new recreational opportunities for the community.”
Why the delay? I asked Michael. Why isn’t the forest open to the public yet? He explained that there was “an old pond with an old dam” on the property. “A highly dangerous dam,” said Michael. “It must be removed before the forest becomes state-owned.”
As we walked and the dogs darted up the trail, Michael said the area used to be owned by the Broyhill Family Foundation, which “does a lot of community service in Caldwell County,” he said, adding that the money goes to the foundation for the Forest is used for the organization’s non-profit recipients.
Corresponding broyhillfamilyfoundation.org, the organization established in 1946 by the founders of Broyhill Furniture Industries, supported by endowments, programs and grants offered by various North Carolina colleges and universities; funds health research and programs at medical facilities in North Carolina and beyond; and, through grants, supports nonprofit, charitable organizations primarily in Caldwell County.
“This was some of the original land that the Broyhill family had for their furniture making around the turn of the century,” Michael said. “Historically it was a managed forest.” He pointed out that the Forest Service has records of the Broyhills cutting down trees and then planting trees on the property.
Michael pointed to rows of pine trees that had been planted where mature trees had been felled for furniture making.
Looking around, it was clear that the decision had been made long ago to give something back to the country rather than simply take something from it. The forest was dense with trees, vegetation and wildlife. No game greeted us apart from the overjoyed canines, but Michael assured me that all the expected forest animals were nearby: deer, turkeys, squirrels and so on. He said he heard there were bears in the forest.
“The Broyhill Foundation wanted the Forest Service to take over and care for the legacy,” said Michael. Among the ways of preserving the area, burning is prescribed.
What’s special, Michael announced, is the road network through the property, which “we’re going to maintain,” he said. “We will open and clear the road system.”
Hikers and pedestrians are welcome, but no ATVs.
Michael then described a great importance of the country. “Connect large, listed properties with each other. There’s about 2,500 acres, a research forest just east of us, and larger wildlife areas [overseen by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission] to the west.”
To our right I noticed a pool of water just off the path. Michael said it was a tributary of Kings Creek.
“Another important aspect of this [forest] it is protecting the headwaters of Kings Creek, which empties into the Yadkin River, an important source of drinking water for this region.”
We trudged on. Michael pointed out that there was a lot of hemlock on the property. “We’re doing a hemlock restoration and treatment,” he said. “Hemlocks have currently been rejected by HWA (Hemlock Woolly Adelgid). It’s a great opportunity to get them in this area.”
HWA is an invasive insect that attacks North American hemlocks. “There’s a chemical treatment that kills the woolly adelgid,” Michael reported, “and you can wipe out natural enemies – various types of insects that feed on the HWA.”
When the forest is open to the public, a kiosk with a forest map, rules, etc. will be installed at the trailhead. This will be the fifth state forest that Michael and a forest warden under him will oversee and protect.
They must thank the Broyhill family for looking after the forest that has looked after them and for continuing to support the county where the family’s furniture industry took root and thrived.
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