Rich Fork Preserve gets $20,000 donation

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 06:02 PM

The planned 115-acre nature preserve and historic farm site in western High Point has a name and a new donation.
Volunteers working on turning the former Hedgecock farm and adjoining open space land off W. Parris Avenue into a nature preserve will get a boost from a $20,000 donation for a naturally-surfaced hiking trail in the Rich Fork Preserve. Lib Conner, who has been active in community affairs for decades, donated the money to Guilford County for the trail that will be named for her late husband Robert W. Conner, a High Point architect and environmentalist. The Board of Commissioners approved the donation last week and the name for the county nature preserve.  The improved trail would be along the creek in the portion of the property behind Northwood Elementary School.
“My husband used to walk through there and I think this is a good way to remember him,” Conner said Monday. “There are deep cliffs there you just don’t see in this part of the county.”
The preserve, just north of the city’s upscale Emerywood neighborhood, offers hiking and walking possibilities as well as botany and natural history tours for students, said Dot Kearns, a leader of an ad hoc committee that is guiding the property development, as well as a former county commissioner and Board of Education member.
The county has at least one more parcel of property to acquire to finish forming  the preserve and historic site, said Alex Ashton, county open space planner.
“After we acquire that property, we can take a more detailed look at how it will be used,” Ashton said. “The stewardship committee is looking at how the property will be used and is collecting input from the community.”
The county purchased the two properties with $1 million in open space bond funds. The former George Hedgecock property at 407 W. Parris Ave., features headwaters that flow into the Yadkin-Pee Dee river basin. The property, which abuts land belonging to the Hartley Drive Family YMCA, is a known habitat for deer and other animals.  The  farm property offers possibilities for partnering with the YMCA on trail-building and educational programs.
Since the purchases last year, volunteers have been cleaning up in and around the 1890s Queen Anne-style Hedgecock farmhouse, which has been boarded up. The last used residence on the property, dating from the 1950s, has been demolished.
The farm site also includes as many as 13 sheds and outbuildings. The volunteer group is using grant funds from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation to explore National Register of Historic Places status for the farm site, Kearns said.
Also active in the group are representatives from High Point University, the High Point Public Library and the High Point Museum.  Last year, a representative of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources who toured the site, approved of the  preservation efforts.
“We have been told that this is the best laid out example of a farm from that period,” Kearns said. “It was too precious to destroy.”
The historic research includes an architect’s review to determine the best ways to stabilize and preserve the buildings. Some students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro have been assisting with the research, Kearns said.
“We don’t have a plan yet to use the house,” Kearns said. “We have done a lot of talking and have a lot of ideas.”
The group is searching for preservation funding.
“We need to see what people are interested in and what the property is best suited for,” Ashton said.

Rich Fork Preserve
Name:  Rich Fork Creek which runs through the property in west High Point is a tributary of Abbotts Creek.

Farmhouse: This 1890s Hedgecock farm house has no indoor plumbing or electricity. It has many original interior finishes.