Nature Conservancy Transfers 955 Acres to Jones Gap State Park
Conservation Easement held by Upstate Forever further protects the scenic property
Greenville – Jones Gap State Park in upper Greenville County just got about 25 percent larger after 955 acres was donated to the SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism from The Nature Conservancy.
The property known as Gap Creek was formally transferred to SCPRT last week. It could provide additional public access to the nearly pristine and scenic wilderness typical of protected areas along the Blue Ridge. The Nature Conservancy purchased the property in 2017 for $3.7 million.
A conservation easement placed on the property is currently being held by Upstate Forever to ensure its protection in perpetuity.
The property is not open to the public and it could take two years before day-use amenities are planned and developed. One of the property’s advantages, however, would be its opportunity to expand the carrying capacity at Jones Gap, which currently provides only 36 parking spaces and reaches capacity in the early mornings during busy season.
“We are grateful to our conservation partners for helping us meet our principles of stewardship and service,” said Paul McCormack, director of the South Carolina State Park Service. “This additional property will help us address the growing demand for public access to the state’s beautiful and distinctive mountain country.”
“The Gap Creek addition to Jones Gap State Park is a project that our children and grandchildren will thank us for,” says Mark Robertson, executive director for The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. “We’re especially grateful to the South Carolina Conservation Bank and Open Space Institute for their generous support of this project, and we’re proud to have a partner in State Parks that also thinks big and believes in the importance of conserving South Carolina’s special places for all to enjoy.”
“Upstate Forever is proud to support this project that will ultimately expand outdoor recreation access for Upstate residents and visitors, and we are grateful to the many dedicated individuals and organizations who made it a success,” said Scott Park, Land Conservation Director at Upstate Forever. “Our land trust will ensure that this property, along with its scenic vistas and natural resources, will be preserved forever.”
Gap Creek is home to healthy, contiguous hardwood forests that provide habitat for animals such as black bear, migratory songbirds, bats and other animals. Headwater streams and a series of cascades on the property support cold-water fish, salamanders and frogs before eventually making their way to Saluda Lake, a recreational lake that also provides drinking water to the town of Easley.
Rare and iconic species found on the property include Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (state endangered,) green salamander (state critically imperiled,) showy orchis (state vulnerable,) Carolina fantail darter (state critically imperiled,) black bear and a newly discovered species of trillium, currently known as Jones Gap trillium.
The property is also the last large remaining unprotected piece of land in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness, a 40,000-acre corridor envisioned by late Upstate conservationist Tommy Wyche. It bridges the area between the Table Rock Watershed and North Saluda Watershed. With the addition of Gap Creek, the Mountain Bridge Wilderness is nearly complete, solidifying a vision decades in the making and ensuring that future generations will enjoy ample open space for hiking, fishing, camping, birding and more.
The purchase of Gap Creek has been supported by the South Carolina Conservation Bank, C. Thomas Wyche Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Greenville, Duke Energy Water Resources Fund, The Graham Foundation, Open Space Institute, Mr. and Mrs. Gary L. Aten, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Boeker, Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Burgmann, Campbell Young Leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Pete Cantrell, Mr. and Mrs. John Cureton, Mrs. Lillian C. Darby, Ms. Mary C. Demonterery, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Dreher, Mr. and Mrs. Harold F. Gallivan III, Jean Govus, Mr. Jess C. Greer, Mr. and Mrs. D. Allen Grumbine, Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kester, Mr. and Mrs. John F. Klein, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Pilzer, Dr. Jack R. Postle, Rita Rao, Mr. Wade H. Sherard III, Mr. and Mrs. Fred J. Stanback, Mr. and Mrs. James W. Stuttle, Mr. Jerome R. VandeWeghe, Mr. Jack O. Walker, Mrs. Maggie Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Richard O. Webb and an anonymous donor.
The Nature Conservancy previously added 300 acres to Jones Gap State Park in 2012, following a three-year private fundraising effort that was supported by more than 400 citizens
For more information on the land transfer, contact Dawn Dawson-House at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-734-1779.
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