MORTIMER – Local nonprofit ACleanWilsonCreek.org received a $1,500 grant from Balsam Mountain Trust in 2022. For five years the organization has been addressing complex issues of overuse and user trash created along the National Wild and Scenic River — Wilson Creek, in the wilderness south of Grandfather Mountain.
The Balsam Mountain Trust, near Sylva, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire people to become responsible stewards of the natural and cultural resources of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains through education and conservation leadership. The trust provides regional environmental leadership and establishes partnerships with other conservation organizations for completion of special projects of one or more of five programmatic themes: 1) Environmental Education, 2) Experiential Opportunity, 3) Natural and Cultural Resource Stewardship, 4) Regional Environmental Leadership and 5) Scientific Research.
After completing her graduate studies in biology, with a concentration in ecology, evolution and environmental science at Appalachian State University, Katie Krogmeier identified the Balsam Mountain Trust offerings as a natural fit for the work of ACleanWilsonCreek.org. The organization has addressed some high-volume trash collection challenges along the National Wild and Scenic River – Wilson Creek and has recently added a focus on educating recreational creek users on conservation ethics and behaviors. Krogmeier applied for a Balsam Mountain grant in early 2022 that was selected for funding to help ACleanWilsonCreek move forward in this area.
The project proposal focused on the establishment of two “conservation centers,” one upstream in Mortimer, at the National Forest Service Workstation. The other downstream, hosted by Brown Mountain Beach Resort. The resort is a private wedding and adventure recreation venue that partnered with ACleanWilsonCreek to open a coffee house called the “Conservation Café.”
The vision for both centers was common in purpose, but slightly different in approach. The Conservation Café would be able to provide information about the multiple organizations involved in preserving and protecting the Wilson Creek watershed — including ACleanWilsonCreek.org, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Wildsouth.org, Northwest Mountain Bike Association and the National Forest Service. The café may serve as a meeting place and launch-training venue for future events such as river cleanups, environmental education and outdoor recreational events for youth, etc. Balsam provided funding for conservation posters, production of a “Conservation Partners” video and other environmental science materials that would support these goals.
The center in Mortimer will eventually be home to an updated meeting and training facility for multi-organizational use, and will house an Appalachian State University biology supported field station for interns to conduct various biologic studies. Balsam funding allowed the purchase of naturalist and scientific field guides and conservation-themed posters.
Thanks to Katie Krogmeier, Appalachian State Biology professor Shea Tuberty, Kelsey and Jeremy Wallace of Brown Mountain Beach Resort and many others who assisted in bringing this grant and partnership to fruition.
Interested parties can view the resulting video on YouTube by searching “ACleanWilsonCreek.org Conservation Partners” by clicking to https://youtu.be/_N-AEdB5b2Q.