You know that feeling when you get ready to embark on an adventure? The building excitement… the thrill of the first moment you step foot on a trail. That setting is so important – it sets the tone and context for your experience. Unfortunately, many of the public lands and trails in the Southern Appalachians are bordered by forests and fields on private lands which, as an area increases in popularity, could be developed for residential or commercial uses – forever changing the experience for those seeking serenity in outdoor recreation.
Thanks to generous conservation supporters, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 10 acres at Cove Creek Gap, the Cataloochee Valley entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The land borders the Cataloochee Divide Trail, rising from Cove Creek Road to the ridgeline and sharing a 0.3-mile boundary with the trail and national park. Although small in acreage, these 10 acres have the potential to make a big impact. In addition to sharing a boundary with the trail and national park, the tracts are located just across Cove Creek Road to the left of the park sign, highly visible to visitors entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the Cataloochee Valley entrance.
“We are so grateful to the Overholser and Hultquist family for helping SAHC successfully protect this slice of land along the Cataloochee Divide Trail at the entrance to the national park,” said Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter. “We will own and manage it in the short term as forested habitat buffering the park, and we hope to transfer the land to become part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
The 10 acres that SAHC recently purchased at the Cataloochee Gateway were once part of a larger parcel of land owned by the Hultquist family. Kay Hultquist worked with SAHC to permanently protect the family’s 65-acre tract nearby in 2000 through a conservation easement, preserving wildlife habitat that buffers the national park, scenic views in the landscape, and 2,000 linear feet of stream. Kathy Overholser (husband Jim), Chip Hultquist, and Joe Hultquist carry on the conservation legacy of their parents, Kay and Charles Hultquist, honoring their love of the mountains and continuing to help preserve these important natural spaces.
The idea to protect the park entrance by generously donating funds to SAHC to purchase the land and eventually transfer it to the national park resonated with Kathy and Jim Overholser, who spearheaded the Hultquist family’s fundraising effort for this project. It has culminated in the successful land purchase to protect the ridgeline and the Cataloochee gateway to the park.
“The preservation of these 10 acres prevents development right at the trail,” says Jim Overholser. “There is an access road right at the gap, at the park boundary, and the land there could have easily been developed. We’re pleased to help SAHC protect the ridgeline and park entrance. We’ve been lifetime members of SAHC since 1979, and conservation has always been an aspect of our lives. It’s an important thing to do.”
We are grateful to the Overholser and the Hultquist families for their continued support and commitment to conservation, to Brad and Shelli Stanback, and to all our members for making conservation successes like this possible!