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PLC Partners to Protect Randolph County’s Highest Point

Mt. Shepherd Retreat Center and Piedmont Land Conservancy have announced a conservation agreement that will permanently protect the expansive, forested slopes of Mt. Shepherd, Randolph County’s highest point.  The agreement, also known as a conservation easement, will encompass 274 acres.

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“Partnering with Mt. Shepherd to protect this iconic property makes sense for so many reasons,” says Kevin Redding, the conservancy’s executive director.  “There are lots of ecological reasons which excite people like me, but just as important is the fact that this property will continue being a place where young people can connect with nature.”

Josh Britton, executive director of the Center, adds, “Mount Shepherd is thrilled to partner with PLC in preserving some of our most precious resources. For more than 60 years, Camp Mount Shepherd has existed to provide sacred encounters with God through our programming and hospitality. Part of our mission has also included teaching environmental stewardship. This project enables two things that are at the core of our mission. It not only empowers long-term ecological sustainability, but also this easement empowers financially sustainable ministry through its funding. We are thankful for the graciousness and generosity of all those who have been involved.”

Mt. Shepherd is unofficially recognized as the northern end of the Uwharrie Mountains. These ancient mountains, stretching from Randolph County to Montgomery, Davidson and Stanly Counties, represent one of the oldest mountain chains in North America. After millions of years of weathering, these once 20,000 feet high peaks have eroded to the small mountains they are today. Mt. Shepherd is one of the highest Uwharrie peaks at an elevation of 1,157 feet and dominates the skyline as seen from U.S. Highways 64 and 220.

As a prominent landscape feature, Mt. Shepherd has played an important role in history. Its distinct rocky ledges and caverns attracted Native Americans more than 12,000 years ago as a place of shelter. Its location attracted Randolph County’s first pottery manufacturer between 1775 and 1800. And the mountain is said to have helped hide runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad.

Delos and Mary Hedgecock originally donated 542 acres to the Methodist Conference in 1961 and the property has operated as a camp and retreat center since. The conservation easement preserves the slopes and forests on Mt. Shepherd and ensures this state-designated natural heritage site remains protected forever.

Per the terms of the agreement, the Center will continue utilizing the protected areas for educational and recreational uses.  More intensive uses such as development, road building and commercial forestry will be prohibited.

Funding for this project was made possible by philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury and Tim Sweeney of Cary.  Grants from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the Tom & Elaine Wright Family Foundation assisted with transactional costs.