From atop McAfee Knob, hikers can take in a spectacular panoramic view of the Catawba and Roanoke Valleys, North Mountain, and Tinker Cliffs. Now a significant section of that vista — regarded as among the most popular scenic overlooks on the entire 2,198-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.) — as well as the view from nearby Tinker Cliffs have been conserved thanks to a multi-year effort by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and The Conservation Fund.
The partners recently finalized a deal to protect 850 acres beneath McAfee Knob in the Catawba Valley. Comprised of six adjacent properties previously owned by different landowners, the newly conserved lands expand the Trail’s narrow corridor, providing critical protection and connectivity for the greater A.T. landscape. Now known as the ATC’s McAfee Vista Preserve, the land will be managed to protect Trail values including wildlife restoration and viewshed protection.
“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s acquisition in McAfee Knob’s cherished viewshed demonstrates what the next phase of Appalachian Trail protection looks like — private partners stepping up to conserve the A.T.’s many threatened landscapes and ensure the world-renowned experience is improving for hikers each day,” said Andrew Downs, senior regional director for the ATC. “The A.T. is a dynamic, exciting, and treasured destination, but it is also a work in progress. We’re thankful for the partnership that helped make this preserve a reality and for the many ATC supporters that make the work of improving the A.T. and its inspiring views possible.”
“Assembling these properties into a contiguous, protected landscape under McAfee Knob was a labor of love for all involved,” said Heather Richards, the Fund’s mid-Atlantic regional director. “In working with our partners at ATC and the landowners who demonstrated a remarkable commitment to conservation and a strong land ethic, we celebrate now that this land will remain undeveloped as it contributes to the hiker experience along one of America’s greatest trails.”
This conservation success builds upon previous efforts between the ATC, The Conservation Fund and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) to protect land below McAfee Knob. Over the last four years, the partners have secured over 1,300 acres total working with 10 individual landowners who chose to preserve the unique character of the Catawba Valley and the A.T. experience at one of Virginia’s most beloved outdoor destinations.
Jay Dowd, whose family owned 345 acres that are now part of the McAfee Vista Preserve, remarked: “As our family contemplated how to perpetuate the beauty of our land in future years, partnering with The Conservation Fund and the ATC made perfect sense. Their goals and our goals aligned in terms of the protection of the McAfee Knob viewshed. It is a relief to know that generations beyond ours will enjoy such an iconic view.”
“The Catawba Valley is a treasure that the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club has been helping to protect since 1932,” said Diana Christopulos, Archivist with the RATC. “This acquisition helps protect some of the most scenic views from McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.”
Protection of these lands as part the ATC’s McAfee Vista Preserve was made possible with funding from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Forest CORE Fund, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, and generous donations from members and supporters of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and the ATC.
“The ATC and The Conservation Fund are demonstrating the power of partnership to achieve landscape-scale conservation,” says Brett Glymph, Executive Director of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. “We are proud to support their efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth.”
For more information about the ATC’s land conservation work, visit appalachiantrail.org/landscape.