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Rutherford County family donates land to Foothills Conservancy of NC in first step of a conservation legacy

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David and Martha Cameron and their son Rob Messick.

On June 29, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina received a donation of 222 acres in the Thermal City area of Rutherford County from David and Martha Cameron and their son Rob Messick. This donation of land is the first of a two-part planned gift by the Cameron family. In their estate, the Camerons will bequeath their remaining land to the conservancy -- approximately 101 acres including two homeplaces.

In 1978, David and Martha group-purchased the property with others who shared a similar desire to get out of the city and own land. As time passed, the land changed hands a few times, until the Camerons and another couple were the sole owners. They divided the land into two parcels -- with the Camerons keeping approximately 100 acres and the old homeplace, which was built in 1852 (before the Civil War) and upgraded over the years. Twenty years passed, the Camerons built a new house and the other couple decided to sell their plot. The Camerons bought the remaining acreage back and have been the sole landowners since.

The Cameron property is mostly undeveloped forested land in a mountainous section of the county that borders private conservation lands, through which the Wilderness Gateway State Trail is planned to run. The headwaters of Cathey's Creek flow across the property and continue downstream toward Bostic, where it empties into the Second Broad River.

Conservation has always been the Camerons' ideal outcome for their property, so reaching out to Foothills Conservancy was the next step.

"For us, it seemed logical to give our land to the conservancy," David said. "We've known about the organization for a long time. Rob has been good friends with Land Protection Director Tom Kenney for many years. We are really thrilled with the way this has all worked out."

Kenney reflected on the conservation project: "Foothills Conservancy greatly appreciates these generous property donations from David, Martha and Rob. It is a tremendous legacy that they will make by the permanent conservation of their ecologically significant lands."

The property includes several unique features and rare plants. One of the most significant features is a balanced rock about the size of a van. The Camerons' historical account of the property notes that the rock came down from Harris Mountain during the Great Flood of 1916 and landed on a smaller rock, where it still sits today. According to David, the feature was a tourist attraction after the flood.

"One of my favorite parts of the property is that, upon turning a corner, as you come up the relatively flat driveway, there is a mountain right in our backyard," said David. "We call it 'The Foothill,' like it's our special piece of the region."

It is the Camerons' dream for their property to become a new public park -- appropriately named Cameron Park in memory of David's parents -- and to be enjoyed by generations to come.

"We would love to see trails built across the property for people to explore," David said. "We are really looking forward to sharing this land that we've loved for so many years."

The couple enjoys living in the midst of nature in the home they built, which they call "The Treehouse." Rob Messick is an old growth forest researcher and currently resides in the old house on the property. David is an exhibit specialist for KidSenses Interactive Children's Museum in Rutherfordton, and Martha is a recently retired massage therapist.

Foothills Conservancy of NC is a nationally accredited regional land trust that inspires conservation in Western North Carolina by permanently protecting land & water for the benefit of people & all living things. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Foothills Conservancy serves Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell, & Rutherford, in the Broad, Catawba, & Yadkin river basins. Info about Foothills Conservancy, including ways to support its work, can be found at www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.

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