The Piedmont Land Conservancy plans to buy the development rights to 92 acres on the Crossnore School & Children’s Home’s campus on Reynolda Road, ensuring that the buttercups will continue to bloom and the cows continue to graze on the rolling hills of one of the city’s most cherished pieces of property.
The land conservancy will kick off a capital campaign on Wednesday to pay for the conservation easement, which protects the land from development. Kevin Redding, the executive director of the land conservancy, said the goal is to raise between $7 million and $8 million.
Crossnore School & Children’s Home will retain ownership of the property, Redding said.
“They keep the dirt, but they give up the right to put up 50 homes,” Redding said one day last week as a steady stream of people picked strawberries on one of the farm’s patches. “As simple as it sounds, it means nothing is going to change.”
The money raised will also pay for a planned 1½ mile walking trail and parking lot that will be open to the public.
For Crossnore School & Children’s Home, the sale of the easement will help pay for its programs.
“The land will permanently be protected from development, Crossnore will continue to own the land and have access to use it for programming for its children and the value of the land will be leveraged to financially support the programs of Crossnore,” said Brett Loftis, the chief executive officer of Crossnore, in a statement.
Crossnore School of Avery County and the Children’s Home of Winston-Salem merged in January 2017. A nonprofit organization, it offers residential foster care services to children in North Carolina on a 212-acre campus about a mile from downtown Winston-Salem.
The Children’s Home opened in 1909 as an orphanage in what was once a rural area. Through the years, neighborhoods sprung up on its fringes, turning the campus into an agrarian pocket in the heart of the city, one that has become woven into the city’s identity.
“It’s one of the most unique pieces of land in the whole state,” Redding said. “Charlotte, Greensboro, Wilmington, Durham — none have a 200-acre piece of property within view of downtown. It’s a puzzle piece. It connects downtown to Buena Vista to Arbor Acres to Boston-Thurmond.”
Ginny Weiler has lived near the campus for years.
“I drive past it a few times a day, minimum. I can hear cows. I can hear coyotes. I can hear and see hawks fly overhead,” Weiler said. “You can’t get land back once you’ve developed it.”
Weiler, who has also served on the board of the land conservancy, recalled the Save the Farm effort of 2014 when The Children’s Home began giving away its livestock amid financial hardships. Following a community outcry, the Board of Trustees worked out a plan to make the farm more sustainable.
Redding said he expects the land conservancy to have the money to buy the easement near the end of 2019. The walking trail will not be built until the easement is recorded.
The conservation easement will not include the strawberry patch and barns. It does include Peters Creek and a beautiful view of the city’s skyline, Redding said.
The 212 acres at Crossnore School & Children’s Home have an appraised value of $21.5 million, according to the Forsyth County Tax Administration.
The land conservancy protects natural areas in nine counties. Some of the 200 places the conservancy has protected in Forsyth County include Friedberg Marsh and Spach Family Farm near Clemmons and the Emily Allen Wildlife Preserve near Bethabara.