easement

A view of the easement the Piedmont Land Conservancy wants to buy from The Children’s Home, seen in May 2018 in Winston-Salem.

There’s some land over by the Crossnore School & Children’s Home, only a mile or so from downtown: 92 acres of farmland that has been protected from development and put to good use for the children of the school. It’s a well-preserved gem.

But things change. If Crossnore administrators were called upon, by economic factors or other unforeseen circumstances, to sell the land, it could wind up covered by homes, high-end apartment complexes — as if we need more of those — and/or commercial properties. As Winston-Salem City Council member Jeff MacIntosh has said, the land immediately would be snapped up if it were on the market.

Fortunately, there’s a plan to keep that from happening. The Piedmont Land Conservancy, a nonprofit organization whose name is self-descriptive, has offered to buy the development rights. Crossnore would still own the land, but it could not develop it or sell it for development. The school would benefit from the money raised — and the community would benefit, too, by being given access to the land by way of walking paths and neighborhood access points that would be developed by the conservancy. So close to town, surrounded by residential communities, including the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood, it would offer an oasis for refreshment from modern-day living.

It would never be paved.

Crossnore has agreed to the offer and the staff members of the Piedmont Land Conservancy have been working hard, as they do, to raise the necessary purchase price, $6.5 million, by the end of the year.

Last month, the conservancy asked the Winston-Salem City Council to kick in $500,000 toward the purchase price.

The city initially offered $100,000. But after a little haggling, the city added some surplus capital funds to increase the donation to $200,000. That was disappointing to some, but others saw it as reasonable and generous. City funds are not unlimited.

That helped, but it wasn’t enough to seal the deal.

Fortunately, earlier this month, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation followed the city’s donation with a $250,000 grant toward the effort.

The foundation’s grant is contingent on the conservation and Crossnore working in good faith to try to accommodate the wishes and interests of the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood — in particular, “to honor one or more of its deceased residents through an appropriate naming opportunity.”

That’s entirely appropriate. The Boston-Thurmond neighborhood stands to be intimately involved with the land. As Pat Caldwell, president of the Boston-Thurmond Neighborhood Association, said, the preservation is good for a number of reasons, “including health and wellness, the possibility of more family-oriented activities and additional green-space, especially amidst so much urban sprawl.”

“We hope that this area will eventually become a place where all residents of Winston-Salem can come together to enjoy this beautiful outdoor space in the heart of Winston-Salem,” Maurice “Mo” Green, the foundation’s executive director, said. We agree.

With the city contribution and the Reynolds Foundation grant, in addition to other money the conservancy has raised, it now has, as of this writing, $5.5 million of the $6.5 million price.

So, if anyone has a spare $1 million lying around …

As we enter the holidays, the conservancy is hard at work to complete the purchase. At this point, every little bit helps and donations below $1 million are welcome.

This is a sterling opportunity to preserve a bit of nature — not in the Amazon, not in the Arctic, but in our own city — for future generations. We can’t let it slip by.

For more information, go online to helpsavetheland.org

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