Planning Board discusses quality of life, public lands

Wil Petty

June 9, 2014

The Planning Board for Ashe County wrapped up its discussion of the county’s land use plan by focusing on quality of life issues including public use lands and parks.

“The first thing I wanted to show before we talk about anything specific is what is already in Ashe County as far as parks, recreation and other public lands,” said County Planner Adam Stumb. “It was sort of eye-opening to pull together the county properties, state park land and other lands.”

According to a map provided by Stumb, public lands within the county included county parks, state parks, state wildlife areas and conservancy locations.

Those lands include: Ashe County Park, New River State Park, Pond Mountain State Wildlife areas and other lands including Bluff Mountain, Phoenix Mountain and Paddy Mountain.

Board vice chairman Darrell Hamilton said it would be a good idea to have the list of public lands available for people residing in the county as well as tourists.

Chairman Gene Hafer said the public land information would be an excellent addition to the presentation the board will eventually make to the county commissioners.

Member Priscilla Cox asked Stumb how he was able to come up with all of the information about the park lands.

“Some of it was from our records, but it also came from the N.C. one map,” Stumb said. “It pulls up other organizations’ mapping data. That’s part of the issue is pulling all of these groups together. That’s what it would take to produce something that shows what the lands used for are available to promote it.”

Hamilton said he did not know there were public lands within Phoenix Mountain. Board member Arvil Scott said the land had been turned over to a conservancy in approximately the last year.

A large part of the mountain is now owned by the Nature Conservancy, which also has protection areas of Bluff Mountain and Three Top Mountain.

Some areas of Ashe County also share public lands with neighboring counties, according to Stumb.

“Something that surprised me was Elk Knob Park, which is a piece of land near Three-Top, if you’ve been to Elk Knob in Watauga (County) it’s just over the line, but they have some land in Ashe County which they consider a part of that,” he said.

In addition to Elk Knob, the Pond Mountain Game Lands run into the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. Cherokee National Forest also is in a small portion of Ashe County.

Stumb said there other properties detailed throughout the county where easements were passed for conservation purposes, but the previous property owners could still maintain their home.

All members of the Board were surprised at the amount of public use lands that are stationed throughout the county. There was no specifics on how much of the property in Ashe County was considered public use or protected for nature.

“That will be a result of the final land use plan,” Stumb said. “If I had to guess, I would say it would be 5 percent or less.”

The map did not contain information on the properties that were considered the New River or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stumb then mentioned how there was easy access to the New River throughout the wildlife areas in the county.

“The other thing, there’s a lot of land for river access through the state park system,” he said. “Most of that land is in the northeastern part of the county.”

Stumb suggested the county needs to have the maps to help promote the county, including one specifically for the New River, one for hiking trails in the area and others for the wilderness.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.