While Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger is used to speaking at a variety of venues, the middle of a forest is not a typical one.
Members of the Town government and Chapel Hill residents traveled off the beaten path Saturday to celebrate a new nature preserve in Chapel Hill.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation, the support organization for the North Carolina Botanical Garden, held a celebration in honor of its recent acquisition of the Cochrane property. The property enjoys protected status as a nature preserve, meaning it will not be able to be built upon or taken by the city or state government. Hiking trails will also be added and maintained for use by the public.
The Cochrane property spans 12.8 acres and borders Parker Road. The property is adjacent to Parker Preserve and the Mason Farm Biological Reserve, both of which are owned by the University.
The Botanical Garden Foundation was able to purchase the property using a grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which gives to conservation projects in North Carolina every year.
Johnny Randall, the director of conservation programs for the N.C. Botanical Garden Foundation, said he has been working on acquiring the property for conservation for 18 years, and in 2015 began discussing the purchase of the property with the Cochrane family.
The Botanical Garden Foundation explained in 2018 that the property is ecologically important because of its biological diversity and potential to provide public natural spaces.
Hemminger said at the event that the Town is pleased to be a part of the conservation of the property because they value conservation.
“In today’s broader community we are growing and feeling the pressures of growth from all different directions, and it's so important to remember to preserve and protect and also make available to the public these special places to be," she said. "These are part of our Town goals, to have these green spaces for future generations.”
John Wilson, vice chairperson of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, said the property will provide significant amounts of recreation for the community.
“This is really a spectacular project. It is great for us to be able to protect something like this," he said. "Our funds are limited and the competition is intense. This year alone we were only able to fund a quarter of the $65 million in applications that came before us.”
Even while he was celebrating his success of the preservation of the Cochrane property, Randall said there is always more that can be done when it comes to conservation and preservation.
“When you deal with conservation biology, you are always at work,” he said.
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