In 2022, our members and donors offered incredible, unprecedented support, with some individuals contributing multiple times throughout the year to fund unique conservation opportunities before they slipped away. This true community effort preserved over 500 acres last year! We can’t thank you enough for your support and enthusiasm.
A significant portion of these acres were protected with the exciting conclusion of not one but two fundraising campaigns during 2022. In February, we announced a tight 3-month timeline to raise $370,000 in order to purchase the last major piece of Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve. The addition of this 92-acre tract on the western side of the mountain brings the preserve’s total acreage to 551, a critical conservation success within central Huntsville where these opportunities have become increasingly difficult to come by. By the deadline in May, 470 donors contributed to make the acquisition possible. The property, surrounded on three sides by the existing Land Trust nature preserve, was recently logged but will be allowed to naturalize over time to provide an uninterrupted wildlife corridor within this highly developed area of the city. The expansion also opens up new opportunities for outdoor recreation and makes future trail connections across the west side of the preserve more feasible. There are no plans for trail construction at this time but with a little over 4.5 miles of existing trails there’s plenty to explore on Chapman Mountain.
Again in June, we asked for your help. This time the goal was the protection of 91 acres along the Paint Rock River in Jackson County. The Paint Rock River is one of the Southeast’s last free-flowing rivers and one of the most biologically-diverse in the world. Amazingly, you did it again, meeting the $223,000 goal by November. During the last days of 2022, we officially closed on the purchase. In addition to significant public support, this acquisition was made possible because of generous sellers Curt Harrelson and Kevin Deasy, who offered a bargain sale price. This donation of a portion of the acquisition price was made in honor of their fathers Michael L. Deasy and James C. Harrelson. Michael L. Deasy has been a resident of Huntsville since 1967. He had a very successful career as an executive engineer and entrepreneur. He is now enjoying retirement by volunteering at his church, flying RC planes, walking daily at the Madison County Nature Trail, and spending time with his grandsons and great-granddaughter. He recently celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary. James C. Harrelson was a lifetime resident of North Alabama, a World War II Veteran, an original member of the Von Braun Rocket Team, and an avid outdoorsman who lived his entire life with child-like enthusiasm.
As a conservation property, this land along the Paint Rock River will not be open to public access. Instead, it will serve as an important buffer for this environmentally-significant river. In the future, the Land Trust plans to complete an extensive wetland restoration project. This transition would conclude agricultural use of the property, which is only marginally productive due to regular flooding, and enhance habitat for wildlife and protection of the river corridor. We look forward to sharing more details as our property management plans progress.
Throughout the year, we acquired some smaller properties that will play a significant role in establishing future connections or expanding existing nature preserves. On Monte Sano, we purchased a small .43-acre addition just north of the Bankhead Trailhead. This sliver of land was parceled and sold to private owners prior to the creation of Monte Sano Nature Preserve. Its protection means even more natural space for wildlife and people to roam. On Green Mountain, we received a donation of 5.44 acres. This wooded property protects a natural swale and also provides the possibility for future connections of preserved land as we piece together natural corridors. With the rapid growth on the mountain continuing, all these conserved lands become more valuable. On Wade Mountain a 13-acre property became available to purchase and we closed on the acquisition in December. This undisturbed hardwood forest land is located between two sections of the preserve so it offers the opportunity to close the gap and continues conservation of Wade Mountain.
Finally, in the last few days of December, we received an exciting donation of 311 acres in Huntsville south of Hampton Cove. The property has significant conservation value due to the size of natural habitat, proximity to additional conserved lands in the area, as well as its location in a rapidly growing portion of the city. It includes a three-peak mountain with numerous karst features and unique rock formations. It is devoid of significant populations of invasive species and offers varied habitats from typical upland hardwood stands to open grassy barrens. This property provides exciting potential for future public access, however, we do not have plans to open it to visitors at this time.
If you’re interested in making more land conservation possible, you can find information about everything from land donation to legacy gifts at landtrustnal.org/support.