Several weeks ago, I took my daughter Harper to our Horton Grove Nature Preserve in northern Durham County to hike some of the new trails our Conservation Corps just completed. It was a gorgeous, sunny fall day and the beeches beamed bright yellow. We stopped at the new wildlife viewing platform by the “prairie” and then headed into the woods, Harper selecting and reselecting the best walking stick as we crunched along.
Just ten minutes from downtown Durham, this is just one of TLC’s six nature preserves that are open to the public from dawn to dusk. Before I joined TLC just a year ago, I had visited only the White Pines Preserve in Chatham County and wasn’t even aware of these other great spaces. But I hope that will change soon for people like me and others who love calling the Triangle area home.
That’s because TLC has just finished a strategic plan for the next six years – and one of the driving forces of our plan is to become more engaged with the people and communities in our service area, the six county Triangle region. With input from our members, partners, and Board, we’ve set our direction for the coming years, guided by our refined organizational vision statement:
We see the Triangle region as an increasingly healthy and vibrant place to live where wild and working lands are protected and everyone has access to open space, clean water, and local food.
What does this all mean for TLC and for you? We’ll continue to permanently protect and steward the land for clean water, natural habitats, farms and food and connecting with nature, just as we have for the last 30 plus years. We’ll also seek to conserve the most strategic areas while working with our partners to make the case for regional conservation efforts based on the multiple benefits of green space including cleaner water, air, recreational opportunities and the corresponding economic benefits. We heard loud and clear from our members that we need to be at the table providing a voice for restoring state and federal funding for land and water, and wins across the country in the recent election provide hope.
In the near term, we’re working to “activate” our existing preserves by increasing programming and access. At Horton Grove, for instance, we’ve hosted a diversity workshop with the Conservation Trust for NC, lead regular volunteer workdays and we are planning an upcoming trail opening celebration! We’re also planning to open two new preserves in coming years: Brumley Forest, in Orange County, and Walnut Hill in Wake and Johnston Counties.
Building a vibrant region means creating livable cities as well as protecting important landscapes. Our new plan identifies several pilot projects for TLC to work on as we begin to collaborate on urban work – a Durham-based urban forestry project is an example. Providing access to our land for farming and outdoor education, like we do with our partners Learning Outside and Transplanting Traditions Community Farm at our Irvin Farm Preserve, is another key component of our work to increase the value of conservation for the community.
I know I’m excited about our work here – and whether we’re outside on a prescribed burn, monitoring an easement, or leading a bird hike or inside analyzing the benefits of conservation or meeting with partners – we’re energized by our vision to make the region we call home an even better one.
Join us, hike our trails – and send us your ideas!