‘There are some things you just have to see’

Conservationist, farmer inspires group to get outdoors

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — North Carolina, Jesse Wimberley said, is at a crossroads. Manufacturing’s heyday is gone and likely never to return.

What’s in store for its future?

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jesse Wimberley, of the Sandhills Area Land Trust, holds a Sandhills Heritage Gateway brochure while speaking about the importance of the view shed along Highway 73 from Ellerbe to Mount Gilead.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jesse Wimberley, of the Sandhills Area Land Trust, holds a Sandhills Heritage Gateway brochure while speaking about the importance of the view shed along Highway 73 from Ellerbe to Mount Gilead.

“What we do have is a wealth of natural resources,” Wimberley said.

Wimberley, a Moore County farmer, conservationist and outreach coordinator for the Sandhills Area Land Trust, talked with more than 30 members and friends of the Richmond County Historical Society group Monday evening at Rockingham’s City Hall to discuss the connection between natural and human history — and what comes next in that evolution.

Our land, Wimberley said, “holds a lineage of the past, but also holds a line to the future.”

Kimberly said that in order for today’s Sandhills residents to take advantage of present and future opportunities, work must be done to protect natural resources.

Tourism

“North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation,” Wimberley said. “Everyone found out how beautiful it is.”

The more people want to visit and relocate here, the more critical the work to protect what lures people here in the first place. One of SALT’s 2014 successes was getting Highway 73 from a point north of Ellerbe to Mount Gilead, also known as Indian Heritage Trail as it passes along the southern border of Town Creek Indian Mound, designated as a Sandhills Heritage Gateway — and letting people know about it. Signage was important, Wimberley said, as visitors need the opportunity to learn about the past (Flora MacDonald) and the more recent (Andre the Giant).

 Hitchcock Creek

Wimberley praised efforts to restore Hitchcock Creek and highlighted it as a perfect example of how human history follows natural history.

First he noted Drowning Creek, starting in Moore County and going through Richmond County north of  Hoffman, as a former buffalo trail, then an old settler’s trail — and now Highway 211.

“I can’t think of a better example of how natural history forms human history,” Wimberley said.

But Hitchcock Creek was a close second. The natural elevation drop from Roberdel Pond west to the Pee Dee River was enough to power multiple textile mills, he said.

“That’s why Rockingham’s here,” Wimberley said.

Wimberley said he’s recently had a chance to paddling the length of Hitchcock Creek and loved it. People need to get outdoors more and realize what they’re driving by every day and not seeing — especially people younger than those in attendance Monday night.

“We’ve got to get our young people learning about history,” Wimberley said. “Most kids don’t even go outside anymore.”

SALT helps landowners protect lands against future development. That’s important for a variety of lands across the Sandhills, including his own West End property, a restored 1870 turpentine and tobacco farm that now serves as an outdoor classroom.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Work to help landowners restore the long-leaf pine in a six-county area could begin as soon as Summer 2015 for SALT officials if a grant comes through as hoped.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Work to help landowners restore the long-leaf pine in a six-county area could begin as soon as Summer 2015 for SALT officials if a grant comes through as hoped.

What’s next

Wimberley said SALT has applied for a grant from the National Wildlife and Fish Foundation to work on the protection of the long-leaf pine area in a six-county area. The tract encompasses the Sandhills region of Moore, Harnett, Richmond, Scotland, Hoke and Cumberland counties. The goal is to help landowners restore the land to its natural state of long-leaf pine.

“There is no better return on your land … than growing long-leaf,” Wimberley said.

“We hope to build a bridge” between Naked and Drowning creeks as far northwest into the Uwharrie mountain range. Work could begin as soon as Summer 2015 if the grant is approved.

 

Filed in: Education, Farm & Ag, Health, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Rockingham

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