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Eno River Association receives historic nearly $2 million gift

Eno River Field Station campers conduct research at the Confluence Natural Area near Hillsborough, and the new Roberta and Herman Brown Land Preservation Fund will allow for more preserved lands in Orange County. Photo courtesy of Holly Reid.

Flowing 40 miles eastward through Orange and Durham counties, the Eno River is a life source for people and wildlife along its path. Now, a new land preservation fund will help the Eno River Association continue conserving lands within the Eno River basin. 

The Roberta and Herman Brown Land Preservation Fund will provide resources to maintain and purchase land and easements in Orange County, according to a press release from the Eno River Association.

Joyce Brown, the daughter of Roberta and Herman, died last year. In her will, Brown bequeathed a nearly $2 million gift to the Eno River Association to be named for her parents, who raised her along the banks of the Eno River.

The ERA was established as the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, Inc. in 1966, and since then has worked to protect thousands of acres of land. Jessica Sheffield, executive director of the Eno River Association, said this gift will help the association continue Brown's two main goals.

“For the Eno River, her message was simple: continue land conservation and land preservation work in Orange County,” Sheffield said. “We will make sure to focus on these projects utilizing this tremendous gift.”

Because of Brown's gift, the Eno River Association will continue to be able to steward areas such as the Confluence Natural Area property in Hillsborough, Emily Hill, director of development at the Eno River Association, said.

Sheffield said the gift is very timely, as the association’s works to be able to protect the land as Durham and Orange counties see unprecedented growth in new homes, schools and other developments.

These new, densely built communities may encroach on the wildlife corridors and habitat lands for plants and wildlife, Sheffield said. 

“We are actively working to protect those natural spaces so that the growth is concentrated in certain areas and watershed areas and basins are protected,” Sheffield said. 

With high development rates and an increased price for land, Sheffield said the gift will help leverage money to protect the land.

Don Moffitt, board chairperson for the Eno River Association, said Brown’s generosity will have an impact on the river and wildlife that live there for generations to come. 

“We will make great strides in completing the State Park Master Plan when many others combine their generosity with Ms. Brown’s,” Moffitt stated in the press release. “The Eno River runs through the lives of millions of people, and we know they will be inspired to join in the work to protect the river.”

Sammy Slade, a member of the Carrboro Town Council, is involved in sustainability efforts locally. He said efforts to protect the Eno River as well as other bodies of water are an expression of caring for ourselves.

“Rivers are essential for the health and wellbeing of our extended selves,” he said. “Essentially, water is the source of life, and so we need to be safeguarding our systems that support us.”

Sheffield said the gift coincides with the opportunity to help the Eno River State Park complete its master plan, which she said envisions an over 6,700-acre park. 

“The Eno River Association hopes (Brown's) efforts will inspire others to make legacy gifts to land trusts in their areas and neighborhoods,” Sheffield said. 

@DTHCityState |

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