NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund Grant

Of all my accomplishments on behalf of the Town of Mineral Springs during my term of office, perhaps the one of which I am proudest is my role in securing a grant not to exceed $307,000 from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) to acquire and preserve an additional 12.03 acres of beautiful woodland adjoining the Wolf Branch floodplain.

The CWMTF, now known as the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF), is the largest source of conservation grant funding for local governments, but it is also the most competitive. The application process is difficult and time consuming and the criteria are strict and demanding, but the results are well worth the effort! I actually began the application process in mid-2006 and, with the assistance of the Catawba Lands Conservancy, completed and submitted the final application package on March 1, 2007. The grant was awarded on September 10, 2007.

The purpose of the grant was to purchase additional land adjacent to property already set aside as part of the developing Mineral Springs greenway. This long-term project is envisioned as more than just "a trail"; rather, the town council and I envision a "string of pearls", with areas of outstanding natural wilderness connected by a network of unpaved trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The 12.03-acre tract to be purchased with this grant, shown in pink on the map to the right, is the largest "pearl" so far.

There is little doubt as to the conservation value of this property; Union County Urban Forester David Grant, Catawba Lands Conservancy Conservation Projects Director Jenni LeBlanc, and CWMTF Western Field Representative Bern Shumak all agree that this is a site highly worthy of preservation.

Fortunately, the CWMTF Board agreed with me and those experts!

click for large image

Here are a few pictures taken on the 12.03-acre site in October 2006. 

The picture on the left is representative of some of the larger trees on the property. Below are a few photographs of the overall site.

The picture of the creek, which is the Wolf Branch, shows some cloudiness in the water. This is a result of some upstream construction. The establishment of creek buffers, which is the ultimate goal of this entire project, will help eliminate such damaging sediment from entering our precious creeks.

It is especially important to note that this property is part of the Copper Run subdivision, and is being sold to the town by developer Niblock Homes. Without the $307,000 CWMTF grant, this land would have been cleared for houses and many of the magnificent hardwood trees would have been destroyed.

As is usually the case with such state grants, the process was complicated and time-consuming. I worked diligently with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Catawba Lands Conservancy, and Niblock Homes to make this project a reality. While state budget problems in 2009 resulted in the cancellation of many CWMTF grants statewide, our grant was under contract and the funds were encumbered in the state budget, so our project remained safe. I continued to juggle the myriad of details that make up this project, and we closed on the grant - and the property - on December 17, 2009. At long last, a four-year dream on behalf of all the people of Mineral Springs was realized!

One of the strangest "MYTHS" I've heard is that the town accepted grant money and then spent the grant money on something it was not authorized to be spent on. RIDICULOUS, like most Mineral Springs myths. The CWMTF grant was one of the most complex, most strictly-enforced transactions I've ever been involved in, and the check for $299,685 received from the State of North Carolina was spent on exactly what the application and contract specified: 12 acres of wooded upland forest adjoining a creek!

Click the thumbnails to the right to see some of the original CWMTF documentation: the 51-page application, the 36-page contract with the state of North Carolina, and the settlement statement for the land purchase.