Thelma White ‘s farm adjoins the Blue Ridge Parkway where Boone Fork Creek flows from its headwaters on Grandfather Mountain. Abraham Lincoln was president when her great grandparents first settled here, southwest of what is now Blowing Rock. Today, she lives in the same house where she was born in 1925. She fondly recalls helping raise cabbage, corn, rye and oats, as well as chickens, cows and hogs on the family farm. Thelma’s life has been shaped by this farm—through her experiences and her memories of living on the land. Pointing below her farm, Thelma says, “Once there was only one house, and now there are just houses everywhere.”
“My father just did not want to see this land mutilated—that’s the best word I can think of,” Thelma says. “People start cutting into a place, selling an acre here and an acre there. Before you know it, the whole thing is gone.”
Thelma decided to do something that would protect her land. In 1999 she donated to the Conservation Trust for North Carolina a conservation agreement to preserve her land in perpetuity. The agreement prevents subdivision, development, and other disturbances of the natural setting, thus fulfilling Thelma’s vision of her land as a lasting legacy.
“This land is a gift to me,” she says. “God simply entrusted it to me while I am passing through this life. I just feel privileged to have lived so close to God’s beauty.”
— Thelma White
“Pinnacle Park is the crown jewel of the Plott Balsams. Because of its unique position in the Southern Appalachians, from Black Rock you can see the Smoky Mountains, the Black Mountains, the Blue Ridge, and the Unicoi. At night you can see the overhead glow from the lights of Asheville, Greenville, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.”
— Founder of Pinnacle Park Jay Coward
The Orchard at Altapass
In 1994 Kit Trubey discovered that a cultural treasure along the Blue Ridge Parkway was threatened. Fear of bulldozers and the likelihood of intensive residential and commercial development prompted Ms. Trubey’s swift decision to purchase the 276-acre Orchard at Altapass. The land contained not only a working apple orchard but also a section of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, taken by patriot militia on their way to the pivotal Revolutionary War battle at Kings Mountain.
With the assistance of her brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Judy Carson, Kit started a crusade to forever preserve the land, apple trees, trails, vistas, and cultural heritage at the orchard. In 2001, CTNC purchased a 132-acre forested portion of the property above the Parkway and conveyed it to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Parkway’s boundaries. In 2015 CTNC permanently preserved the orchard. “We’re absolutely thrilled that all of the ‘good stuff’ at the Orchard at Altapass – the apple trees, music and dance hall, scenic vistas, hiking trails, and values of the community – will be protected for future generations to enjoy,” said Orchard co-owner Bill Carson.
From May through October the orchard hosts Parkway travelers who enjoy live music, hayrides, fresh apples, magnificent scenic views of protected lands, hiking trails, food and souvenirs in this unique setting where history comes alive.
— Kit Trubey and Bill Carson
Born and raised in the Aho community of Watauga County, Kelly Coffey graduated from Appalachian State University, taught history at Caldwell Community College, and has been a regional planner with the High Country Council of Governments since 1998. He also serves on the Blue Ridge Conservancy’s Board of Directors. Working throughout the high country, Kelly has seen growth and development up close and believes the need to preserve land is obvious — all one has to do is look around.
“When a landscape is marred by development it negatively affects people in terms of identity, spirituality and community cohesion. Saving land is much more than an environmental issue,” says Kelly.
In his free time, Kelly operates an income-producing farm consisting of 100 heritage apple trees, vegetables and cattle. A conservation easement co-held by Blue Ridge Conservancy and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina permanently preserves the farm for future generations.
— Kelly Coffey