By Kara Beck, Social Media/Publication Specialist, NovusWay Ministries
NovusWay Ministries recently entered into a conservation easement on 518 of the camp’s 750+ acres. This step culminates a seven year process of working with the Blue Ridge Conservancy to find a way to preserve and protect the wilderness nature and character of the camp for future generations.
Designated by the state of North Carolina as “Lutherock Natural Area,” this camp represents one of the top areas in the state to preserve and protect. With two globally endangered ecosystems (Northern Hardwood of Beech, Birch and Sugar Maple), High Elevation Rock Summits, and three globally endangered species, it is no wonder the Blue Ridge Conservancy was eager to enter into an easement. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund also desired to protect the water quality of the North Toe River (also on the property), a primary source of drinking water for Spruce Pine, NC.
The easement is in accord with the Natural Resources Management Plan authored by Dr. Ed Hauser, who chaired NovusWay’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Council and the North Carolina Synod’s Task Force on Caring for Creation. It also affirms the desire of the original twelve congregations that owned and operated Lutherock for four decades that the site remain a wilderness place and not be over-developed. Hauser had this to say about the easement, “I’m delighted at this action that will insure the visual scenic beauty, ecological integrity of endangered ecosystems and species, and natural streams and their riparian zones which support populations of the Wheller’s Salamander, a globally endangered species, and native brook trout. Camp Lutherock is literally a treasure for today and for future generations.”
Lutherock program directors, Kara and Jacob Ridenhour, are actively working to develop the “Living Waters Outdoor School” that focuses on environmental and adventure education at Lutherock. The site will utilize the unique Lutherock ecosystem as an outdoor classroom to help students not only experience the grandeur of God’s creation, but learn to better care for it.
Chief Operating Officer Susan Troutman, who guided the easement process for NovusWay together with board members, the Rev. Greg Williams, Hendersonville, and Joanna Britt, Winston-Salem, commented about the easement, “We were very careful to protect the camp’s facilities and future program and development potential, while at the same time respecting the unique ecosystem and treasures of Lutherock.”
The Blue Ridge Conservancy and Clean Water Management Trust Fund purchased the easement on 518 acres, but the camp maintains use of that part of the property. This means that the camp can continue to use and maintain hiking trails, undertake rock climbing, use and install tent platforms, picnic sites and overnight camping sites and ropes courses. However, the camp cannot build permanent structures or roads in the easement area. Troutman also indicated that all camp facilities (including the staff residence, climbing tower, recreation field, and the area known as the “saddle) are outside of the easement area. Also outside of the easement are all locations of potential future development.
There are additional benefits to the easement. Many readers will remember how Lutherock battled to keep Mountain Electric from running a transmission line through the site in 2012. With the easement no transmission line can run through the property. When the Blue Ridge Conservancy conducted a survey at its expense, they created a trail around the boundary, which now is a benefit to maintaining and monitoring the land. The Board of Trustees was unanimous in voting to enter into a conservation easement that both enables the ministry of Lutherock to continue to grow and develop in the future, while preserving the unique ecosystem and wilderness nature of the site.