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The Fork


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The Fork

  1. 1. T H E F O R KA Plantation Feasibility Study
  2. 2.  1999 Field Sport Concepts, Ltd. All rights reserved.No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express written consent of both Field Sport Concepts, Ltd. and the Client.
  3. 3. CONTENTS3 CONTENTS 19 PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS Activities and their relationship to the land4 THE INTRODUCTION 5 THE VISION Reestablishing a “gentleman’s farm” 43 LAND USE CONCEPTS Exploring opportunities suitable for creating successful program interrelationships 6 THE PROPERTY The lay of the land 49 SUMMARY A distillation of findings and recommendations 51 TABLES 7THE REGIONNatural resources create attractivedestinations for sportmen anda variety of other recreationalactivities8 THE HISTORYRediscovering lost treasures ofthe past 11 SITE ANALYSIS Natural features determine land use suitability The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 3
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION F ield Sport Concepts, Ltd. is proud to provide you the following analysis of, and feasibility study for, The Fork. It is a unique and wonderful property with an interesting history upon which one could build a premier equestrian and hunting plantation. With very few exceptions, the land, as a resource, lends itself well to a functional and pleasing incorporation of all the program elements you envision. As a team we have collectively and independently evaluated the subject property in light of the program vision. This report is intended as a record of our initial observations, inventories, analyses and recommendations. While it is not a design document, it is our intent that the initial land use concepts contained herein, along with our research and recommendations, serve to assist you in your decision regarding purchase of the property. Should you decide to purchase The Fork, and we are fortunate enough to be involved in subsequent efforts, we would recommend securing more detailed base information on the property and refining and expanding on the overall project program at that time. Armed with improved and more comprehensive data, we would propose to undertake a more aggressive analysis and design effort. In these subsequent phases the design process would be highly integrated, involving partnering sessions across platforms to achieve a consolidated and well orchestrated plan for the property. We hope you find that this report meets your needs and expectations. Looking to the future, we expect that any effort to develop your vision at The Fork will evolve into a very rewarding and exciting endeavor for everyone involved. For Field Sport Concepts, Ltd., we thank you for allowing us the opportunity to be a part of the team.4 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  5. 5. THE VISION T he idea is to re-establish the historical context of a “gentleman’s farm” upon which agricultural and a variety of rural recreational pursuits can be realized. In the end, the property should serve as an example of how land can be used in an environmentally sensitive and culturally sympathetic way. Although portions of the site will be maintained as a commercial farming operation, the entire property will be managed in a manner founded on stewardship for the land as well as its cultural and natural resources. True to the character of a plantation, the property will be developed and operated as a working farm. The goal is to create a largely sustainable, environmentally sensitive farm by combining the best of current technology with good old-fashioned common sense. Maintaining the agricultural heritage of the property is paramount to the success of the vision as well as the individual programs elemental to it. Some land will have to be removed from crop production to make room for the diversity of activities envisioned. Also, certain agricultural practices will be modified to be more sensitive and beneficial to the land and wildlife. The objective is to take conscientious steps away from the singular focus of clean, mono-culture farming by absentee managers back toward a highly diverse agricultural state where, historically, the landowner resides on the property and oversees the myriad day to day activities of the farm. From an environmental perspective, by taking an historic rather than conventional approach to agriculture, it is hoped that well orchestrated use-diversity will create critical habitat-diversity, thereby making the land capable of sustaining a wide variety of healthy wildlife populations. The central charge of this study was to determine if the subject site lends itself to the well orchestrated establishment of the envisioned programs, and to identify any site conditions which positively or negatively affect each individual program and their relationship to one another. Beyond agricultural production, those elements and activities which are envisioned for the property include: a main residence and guest quarters, a lodge or replica of a historic tavern to serve as a retreat, stables, barns, paddocks and trails associated with horse breeding and equestrian sports such as cross-country racing, show jumping and dressage, wildlife husbandry efforts for deer, dove, duck, quail and turkey, pheasant and mallard release programs, and sporting clays venues. Most, if not all, of the property will be placed in a conservation easement. This move is consistent with the vision for the property and the stewardship philosophy of the prospective owner. Encumbering the property in this manner, while dramatically affecting its value, will ensure that the integrity of the land will remain intact long into the future. “In the end, the property should serve as an example of how land can be used in an environmentally sensitive and culturally sympathetic way.” The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 5
  6. 6. THE PROPERTYT he Fork property is located just south of the town of Norwood, in Stanly County, North Carolina. Its roughly 1,100 acres resemble a diamond shape; the bottom two sides delineated by the confluence of the Rocky and Pee Dee Rivers, hence the name of the property, as well as the general area of the county surrounding the property. Both rivers are robust, scenic and support a variety of wildlife. Access to the property is via pavedState Route 1766 otherwise known as Fork Road which enters the tract from the northern point in a southerly direction. State maintenance of the roadends just inside the property limits, and not far beyond that the pavement ends and the road changes to a farm lane. A gate, just inside the property, limitsaccess. In a woodlot adjacent to the gate, a modest brick ranch home oversees the comings and goings on-site. The house and its immediate grounds areleased on an oral month-to-month arrangement. Beyond the gate, the alignment of the privately-owned main road in its continues through the property ina southeasterly direction, terminating at the flood plain of the Rocky River three-fourth’s (¾) of a mile upstream of the confluence. Once inside the site,numerous other farm lanes spur off of the main road providing access to crop fields and long-abandoned home and barn sites. Given clement weatherconditions, all precincts of the property can be reasonably accessed by vehicle.Physically, the property displays a wide variety of topographic conditions and elevation change. The high ground consists of a central north-south ridgeoccupied by the main road. On either side, broad open ridges used as agricultural fields extend east, south and west. Each field is punctuated by woodedravines that eventually lead to and through vast open floodplain which lies alongside both rivers.Over half of the property is wooded. A variety of stands exist, from predominantly young cut-over volunteers to small samplings of mature oak/hickorylots. Evergreen and deciduous species are typically intermixed, and no economically significant pine stands are present. Hedgerows, most of which followproperty lines and natural physical features, serve to create, in some instances, smaller, sheltered agricultural plots and visually reinforce topographic, roadand riparian edges. Roughly 400 acres of the tract is actively farmed in seasonal crops. Of the 400 acres, nearly200 acres are classified as floodplain. A local family of farmers has been leasing the agricultural fields for sometime. The fields are currently planted in corn, with a winter cover crop of predominantly wheat using a no-tillprogram.Upstream from the site, the Pee Dee river has been dammed creating Lake Tillery. The dam has afforded acertain level of flood control for the area as well as a variety of recreational opportunities and real estate valueenhancement. Flows vary, and for the most part releases from the impoundment areregular except during periods of drought. At times of high water, the rivers have beenknown to inundate the floodplain for short periods of time. Rather than breaching theirbanks and scouring the fields, most of the flooding occurs as water backs onto the sitethrough low points in the site’s topography near the convergence of the two rivers. Duringthese times fishing boats have been seen patrolling the flooded fields.Given its size, location, history and physical attributes, the propertyis locally recognized as a valuable natural resource. It is currentlyowned by Uwharrie Heritage, LLC, a group interested in preservingits integrity. The owners are working with a third party who sharesthis philosophy to develop a scenario in which a conservation-baseduse of the property could financially support a private ownershiparrangement. 6 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  7. 7. THE REGIONS tanly County is located in south central North Carolina where the winters are mild, the summers typically hot and dry, and the time between very pleasant. The town of Albemarle serves as the county seat. Most of the major civicbuildings and government functions are located there. It is the commercial hub inthe region and is supported by New London and Richfield to the north, Norwood TO NORWOOD LAKE TILLERYto the south, and Locust to the southwest. US Route 52 is the main north-southcorridor through the county. State Routes 24, 27 and 73 are key roads that traversethe county in an east-west direction. All primary roadways pass through Albemarle.Charlotte is the nearest metropolitan area and is located roughly 40 miles due west.To the east about the same distance are the renowned golf communities of Pinehurstand Southern Pines.The subject site is located in the southeastern-most extreme of Stanley County. Inthis area the Rocky River separates Stanley County from Anson County, while bothMontgomery and Richmond Counties lie across the Pee Dee River. Old CountyLine Road, the remnants of which leads from the property’s high ground down toand across the mid-section of the floodplain along the Pee Dee River, serves as thedividing line between Montgomery and Richmond Counties in its historic courseeast of the river. 4.5 miles upstream from the confluence, the Pee Dee River istraversed by Norwood Dam creating Lake Tillery. The result is a pleasant freshwater SITEimpoundment that provides water-based recreation and hydroelectric power. The ERcounty also enjoys similar RIVbenefits provided by EE RO DBadin Lake which CK PEE Ystraddles RIthe VE Rboundarybetween Stanly and MontgomeryCounty northeast of Albemarle. Badin Lakeand Lake Tillery are both impoundments of the sameriver, however, from a point just below Badin Dam,near Morrow Mountain State Park, and to the north, it is known as the Yadkin River.From that point south the river is known as the Pee Dee. Just below Lake Tillery athird impoundment, Blewett Falls Lake, marks the last time the Pee Dee is delayed asit winds its way through South Carolina to the Atlantic Ocean near Georgetown.The region is rich in natural resources which makes it an attractive destination forsportsmen and those seeking a variety of recreational pursuits. It is also an area ofhistoric significance. This area of North Carolina has been the site of noteworthyCivil War, Revolutionary War and prehistoric events. Uwharrie National Forest isan immense natural reservation covering the majority of Montgomery County andparts of Randolph and Davidson Counties. Just south of the national forest is TownCreek Indian Mound. Just downstream from the subject property, on the south bankof the Pee Dee River, lies the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge. The Fork propertyitself was the site of a noteworthy Revolutionary War skirmish. Details of this event,and other site-specific cultural matters are discussed later.Agriculture is the main industry in the area. Both seasonal crops such as corn andsoybeans, as well as timber, have long been mainstays of the local economy. Inrecent years cotton has made a resurgence and now constitutes a significant portionof the seasonal agribusiness in the area. Other industry such as textiles have, forgenerations, employed those not working the land. In general, the populationrepresents a highly entrepreneurial citizenship, typical of rural areas. The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 7
  8. 8. THE HISTORY T he juncture of two navigable rivers has always been an attractive location for human activity. Whether for settlement, commerce or military purposes, these strategic positions, on what historically were the worlds’ primary thoroughfares, have always been considered prime real estate. Not surprisingly, these same areas typically play a large role in history. As many Native American nations made the transition from nomadic ways to an agrarian culture they looked for places to settle where game-rich lands and tillable soils adjoined rivers which provided both fish and a means of transportation. The confluence of two navigable rivers was a natural place for various tribes to gather for trade, ceremony and battle preparation. Pre-historic artifacts, such as arrowheads, that witness habitation of the area by Native Americans have been found on The Fork property. Archeologists note that North Carolina was first settled by three main Indian nations, the Algonquian, the Siouan and the Cherokee. The Siouan-speaking tribes resided in the Piedmont region while the Cherokee where centered in the mountains to the west, and the Algonquians occupied the coastal zone. Within the Siouan Nation it is thought that members of the Cheraw tribe were the first humans to occupy the area around The Fork. Although inhabited for several thousand years, the major Indian occupation in the area of The Fork was during the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. It was during that time that Town Creek Indian Mound complex was developed. Located just east of The Fork on Little River in Montgomery County, this facility is now a National Historic Site. The location served as a major ceremonial center of the Pee Dee culture. It is thought that these peoples were Muskogean-speakers who moved north into the Pee Dee River valley from South Carolina, replacing the previous Siouan culture. The ceremonial center occupation was relatively short-lived, however, lasting only about 100 years.The features at Town Creek included an earthen mound and temple, a priest’s house and a mortuary house. Several smaller sites have been recorded in thegeneral vicinity of Town Creek and may have been associated farmsteads and communities. It is believed that the inhabitants of these outlying settlementscame to Town Creek for important religious, political and social occasions. More detailed information is available by contacting Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton at, as European settlers pushed west they also recognized the value of these riverine locations as well. Pittsburgh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga are but afew of the places easily recognized as thriving cities which played an important role in American history. Such is the case of The Fork property, albeit on amuch smaller scale.It wasn’t until 1748 that the section now referred to as The Fork was settled by Europeans. According to records in Raleigh, the Colson family becamethe first landowners in the area around The Fork. The Colson’s lived in what is now Anson and Stanly Counties; both of which were, at the time, part ofBladen County. John Colson came to own considerable land in the area of The Fork and was quick to take advantage of its prime location. Two roadsintersected on the ridge between the confluence of the two rivers; the Old Stage Road connecting Cheraw with Salisbury which crossed the Rocky River,and County Line road which traversed the Pee Dee. Old court records in Salisbury state, “There is a certain King’s Highway, leading from the town of Salisbury, inthe Parish of St. Luke within the County of Rowan, from the County of Anson, used for all the Liege Subjects of our said lord, the king, with their horses, carts and carriages, etc.”– Stanly County Library Archives. This presumably refers to the Old Stage Road, currently known as Fork Road.In 1771 the court of Anson County issued a permit to John Colson to operate an “ordinary.” In addition, the court set the rates he could charge for theensuing year; “Lodging in a good feather bed and clean sheets – 6 pence. Every dinner not less than 2 dishes, good meat – 1 shilling and 4 pence. Madeira or port wine per qt. – 6shillings and 8 pence. Toddy with West India Rum and loaf sugar per qt. – 6 shillings and 8 pence. Other drinks with prices that varied were grogg, beer crab cyder, seedling cyder,brandy and whiskey. Pasturing for every horse, stabling with hay and fodder for 24 hours, Indian corn, rough barley, barley and rye, per quart were all priced by the court.” – StanlyCounty Library Archives. The ordinary was primarily for the convenience of the stage coach passengers. As a stage came within bugle range of the ordinary,it would sound one blast for every passenger present. This allowed the proprietor an opportunity to prepare, in advance, the dining room for the propernumber of guests.In 1791, while preparing for a journey through the southland, George Washington wrote in his diary that he would not “incommode private families by takingup quarters with them during the journey.” Later he wrote, “Free hospitality is a universal custom in the Carolinas and Virginia.” – Stanly County Library Archives. Healso recorded lodging and dining at plantation homes between Charlotte, Salisbury and Salem on the regular stage coach roads. One might speculate thatWashington availed himself of the ordinaries of this area during his travels; whether for sustenance or accommodation, and there exists a possibility thatWashington himself paid a visit to Colson’s Ordinary. 8 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  9. 9. The Colson Ordinary has been described as a two-story log structure in two parts, between which an aisle existed through which a driveway could have passed. It could be surmised that the stage coach would pull between the kitchen and dining “rooms” to be under roof, providing cover for disembarking passengers. It is said that Colson maintained a fresh team of horses at the ordinary for use by the stage line. The stabling for the horses may have been under the ordinary. History has it that the ordinary hosted other activities as well. Those that have been mentioned in records include horse racing, chicken fighting, wrestling matches and militia drills. At some point in time the ordinary also served as a community meeting place. Although the location of the ordinary has yet to be exactly determined, it may have been situated at or near the intersection of the two roadways on The Fork property. From this vantage point, not only would the business benefit from traffic on both roads, but one couldalso look down the largely straight sections of the two roads toward the two ferries that were eventually constructed to see if there were travelersawaiting passage.Land records show that William Colson, son of John, owned half interest in a 200 acre property on the south side of the Rocky River upon which amill was operated. It is possible that this was what has been referred to as Colson’s Mill. James Parker of Richmond County has offered the followingregarding Colson’s Mill. “-feel sure that the mill referred to was first built just above the mill owned by my father, John Parker, and was washed away by a great freshet. Thenext mill was known as the Swaringen Mill, bought by my father, and known today as Parker’s Mill.” – Stanly County Library Archives. It is said that as late as 1980 theoriginal mill rocks could be seen in the bed of the river where they sank after the mill house floated down stream. James Parker’s son says he has seenthem numerous times while swimming in the river. Given the above, it appears the mill and the ordinary were two distinct properties on separate sidesof the Rocky River, although no documented reports currently in hand discuss them as such. Further research and archeological investigation couldshed important light on this matter.Mills were important installations to the growing agricultural communities of colonial times. Their importance grew further during times of war, whenexceedingly large numbers of troops would garrison in a rather small rural community, requiring quantities of milled grain well beyond the normalproduction standard. Colson’s Mill may have provided such a service as many a detachment of both the British and American Armies traveled through,and even bivouacked on, The Fork property.Directly across the Pee Dee River is the site of Fort Hill, a once pallisaded supply and ordnance depot maintained by the Americans. Many such cacheswere established up and down the Pee Dee and Yadkin Rivers by the revolutionaries to support their numerous military sorties. It was on one suchforay that The Fork property made history.In July of 1780, Colonel Bryan and Major McArthur, both British officers, were leading largeparties of men, mostly Tories who were loyalists, on foraging and recruiting expeditions in thevicinity. Bryan’s men had set up camp adjacent to Colson’s Mill on their way to join with McArthur,then at nearby Cheraw Hill in northern South Carolina. The Americans got wind of thesedetachments and General Rutherford divided his army, then located in Salisbury, into two groups.Both divisions marched south along the Yadkin/Pee Dee River; Rutherford on the east bank andColonel Davidson on the west. After two days marching Davidson came across a group of Torieson the Colson farm on one of their foraging missions. In the process of dividing and forming upto attack, Davidson’s men were discovered and the Tories commenced firing upon them. Althoughthey were outnumbered by more than two to one, Davidson’s squad carried the day, killing andinjuring a handful of the enemy before they retreated post-haste across the rivers to the adjacentcountryside. John Colson, having been a loyalist, fled with them. In the melee Davidson was struck by a bullet in the abdomen. He required twomonths to recover, at which time he returned to service under the rank of Brigadier General, a promotion awarded for his valor. A marker has beenplaced along Highway 52 near the bridge over the Rocky River to commemorate this significant historic event in Stanly County history.Another item of historic significance is still evident on the property; that being the Wall-Almond family cemetery. Although documented well in localrecords, the cemetery is not designated on any available mapping for the area. In the course of on-site activities the cemetery was discovered. Part ofthat investigation uncovered an on-site archive recently prepared by Pierre Watkins. This led to more thorough research of local documentation.The site of the cemetery is located southeast of the brick ranch home adjacent to the farm gate. Traveling south, behind the house, along the treelineon an earthen levee, an abandoned farm lane leads east, through the woods, toward an old clearing. Just prior to the clearing on the north side ofthe lane is a nearly overgrown grave yard which appears to have been established around 1830 at the death of Jane Wall. She was the wife of SenatorWilliam Wall who, as the elder statesman of the clan, was born April 22, 1776 and died October 15, 1854. He rests beside his beloved wife.The cemetery is filled with nearly 40 identifiable graves from numerous families. Among them are the final resting places of Thomas Kirby Colsonand Ann Eliza Robinson Colson, as well as James Swaringen, likely related to the family who built and operated a mill after Colson’s Mill was taken outby a flood. Aside from the formal graves, there are as many as thirty unidentifiable graves marked only with fieldstone. It is uncertain who occupiesthese locations, or whether they may pre-date 1830. However, because they are concentrated in a sector of the cemetery, it is possible that these are thegraves of earlier inhabitants, poorer families or slaves. Regardless, the cemeterys’ presence only adds to the flavor and history of the property and itshould be viewed as a significant historic landmark. The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 9
  10. 10. 10 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  11. 11. SITE ANALYSIS Slope Elevation Soils Vegetation Hydrology Environment The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 11
  12. 12. SLOPE F or analysis purposes, site slopes fall into one of four distinct gradient ranges; 0 – 5% slope, 5 – 15% slope, 15 – 25% slope and greater than 25% slope. The vast majority of the open land is in 0 – 5% and 5 – 15% slopes. There are a few wooded areas where these modest slopes are found, but they consist of small pockets of a couple acres here and there on upland knobs and low boggy areas in the center of one or more ravines. While some areas within the wooded ravines have rather gentle slopes, typically they display grades in the 15 – 25% range. For a property of this size a very low percentage of the terrain is in critical slopes of 25% or greater. These steep slopes occur mainly at the toe of hillsides adjacent to floodplain and creek bottoms. Roughly 45% of the site’s 1,100 acres is in slopes of 0 – 5%. Another 27%, plus or minus, supports slopes of 5 – 15%. 21% of the property has slopes in the 15 – 25% range and only 7% is in 25% or greater slopes. A small portion of the critical slopes are man-made; created as a by-product of roadway construction performed centuries ago. With the exception of the farm lanes the site remains in its natural topographic state. Slope plays a considerable role in determining land use. In terms of the envisioned programming for the plantation, agricultural fields, equestrian areas and reconstructed wetlands require gently sloped areas while housing, shooting venues and wildlife set asides may best be situated on steeper zones. 0-5% 5-15% 15-25% 25% <12 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  13. 13. ELEVATION T he property divides itself into three distinct landforms; riverine floodplain, steep transitional slopes and gently rolling upland. Of the 1,100 acres comprising The Fork, roughly 200 acres lie within the floodplain of the two rivers. This land is not exceedingly flat, but rather low-lying open land with gentle modulations in grade within a 20’ elevation range. The two rivers have mean surface elevations of around 200’ AMSL. From there, the riverbanks extend vertically from 10’ near the confluence, to more than 20’ in other areas upstream in both directions. In those areas of higher riverbank conditions the adjacent fields give the appearance of lying lower than the top of the bank. In these cases, the main riverbank constitutes a levee of sorts. The floodplain extends inland to the base of the steeply sloped transitional areas which begin around elevation 230’. At this point the smooth, undulating relief of the floodplain gives way to a configuration of steeply rising headlands penetrated by deeply incised ravines. A few areas of somewhat level ground are scattered about within this zone, but largely this steep condition prevails up to elevation 300’. From here the land levels out once again with contours typical of an upland meadow. This is the area where the vast majority of man-made improvements have been introduced. The high point of the property, with an elevation of just over 350’, is located within a large field near the center of the property, from which views of nearly 360 degrees can be appreciated. 300 < 300-350 250-300 200-250 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 13
  14. 14. SOIL T he Fork is composed of six soil classifications. They include the Badin, Chewacla, Congaree, Georgeville, Goldston and Tatum series. The following is a brief description of each soil type. Badin Series (BaF) The Badin Series consists of moderately deep, well drained, moderately permeable, clay-based soils on undulating to steep Piedmont uplands. These soils formed in residuum weathered from fine-grained rocks, such as argillite and graywacke sandstone, that are classified as Carolina slates. Slope is 2 to 45 percent. Chewacla Series (Ch) The Chewacla Series consists of very deep, somewhat poorly drained, moderately permeable, fine loamy-based soils that formed in recent alluvium. These soils are on nearly level flood plains. Slope is 0 to 2 percent. Congaree Series (Co) The Congaree Series consists of well drained, moderately permeable, fine loamy-based, bottomland soils in floodplain. These soils formed in loamy alluvium along the Pee Dee and Rocky Rivers. This alluvium was derived primarily from the crystalline rock formations outside of Stanly County in the Yadkin and Rocky River basins. Slope is 0 to 4 percent. Georgeville Series (GfB2) The Georgeville Series consists of very deep, well drained, moderately permeable, clay-based soils on broad, gently sloping Piedmont uplands. These soils formed in residuum weathered from fine textured rocks, such as tuff, argillite, and graywacke sandstone, that are classed as Carolina slates. Slope is 2 to 8 percent. Goldston Series (GoF) The Goldston Series consists of shallow, well drained to excessively drained, moderately permeable, loamy-based soils on undulating to steep Piedmont upland side slopes and knolls. These soils formed in residuum weathered from fine textured rocks, such as argillite and graywacke sandstone, that are classed as Carolina slates. Slope is 4 to 45 percent. Tatum Series (TcD2) The Tatum Series consists of deep, well drained, moderately permeable, clay-based soils on gently sloping to steep Piedmont uplands. These soils formed in residuum weathered from fine textured rocks, such as argillite and graywacke sandstone, that are classified as Carolina slates. Slope is 2 to 35 percent. The soils map identifies the general location where each soil series occurs on the property. In summary, Congaree soils are found along the banks of both rivers and in the low areas within the bottom land crop fields. Chewacla series consti- tute the higher ground within the fields located within the floodplain. Several pockets of Goldston soils are located in the lower sections of the slopes near the floodplain interface. The slopes between the bottom land and the upper terrace areas are in Badin series, with the exception of an area on the eastern boundary which is classified as Tatum soils. The gently sloping areas on the high ground are home to the Georgeville class. Insofar as the proposed use of the property is largely agricultural, a table has been included which lists each soil type and the varying agricultural yields which could be expected of each. In addition, another series of tables lists the degree to which each soil displays limitations for devel- opment of a variety of man-made improvements germane to this undertaking. (See Tables 1-5)14 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  15. 15. VEGETATION T he Fork property was likely once a heavily wooded tract consisting of birch, maple, sycamore, poplar and tupelo in the lowlands, and oak, hickory, beech, maple and pine in the uplands. At one time the vast majority of land in this part of the United States was clear-cut for timber. Many of the trees which were spared the commercial axe were felled for military purposes. So pervasive was the timbering of this region that, during the Civil War, armies had to resort to burning fencing for fuel in the absence of trees. Consequently, there exist very few pockets of old-growth forest in the eastern United States. As time passed timber became less important than seasonal crop farming and farmers began to focus their attention on the more tillable topography. This allowed certain areas to revert back to forest. The wooded mountains and piedmont areas of the Mid-Atlantic States are testament to the regenerative powers of nature. Unfortunately, The Fork property has experienced significant timbering activity on a regular basis. While there are examples of mature hardwood trees on the property, there is no significant stand of oak/hickory climax forest to be found. Mature specimen trees occur largely at the edge of crop fields and as sentinels at long abandoned building sites. Oddly, there are also no managed pine stands on the property. Apparently, the periodic harvesting of timber as a cash crop has been an after-thought, rather than a profitably managed endeavor. In any case, the result is just over 400 acres of agricultural fields in the upland and lowland zones separated by 600 plus acres of mixed hardwood and softwood forest of a very young age on the transitional slopes between. The bank of both rivers is nicely reinforced by mature riverine species which makes for a rather pleasing setting. On the high ground there are several small isolated islands of emergent tree species suggestive of a place where tilling of the soil was very recently forsaken. This same type of new growth occurs in several areas where abandoned homes and barns are still evident. All told, this type of vegetative cover represents less than one percent of the total acreage. The fields have been leased for some time to the Sikes family who have farmed the land in a variety of crops. A no-till program has been in place on the farm for several years. Corn is the only cash crop currently planted on the property. Evidence in the field confirms that the crop Tree Cover is being harvested for grain rather than silage. A cover crop of winter wheat is drilled in; usually in the month of November. Soybeans have been planted in recent years on the upland fields where flooding was not an issue, but the deer population culled the crop so aggressively that beans were replaced by corn this past year. Cotton has re-established itself as a viable cash crop in the region and the Sikes family has expressed an interest in planting some of the upland fields as such. The “clean farming” practice employed to date has resulted in a distinct lack of any transitional vegetative edge between field and forest in almost all instances. The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 15
  16. 16. HYDROLOGY O ne of the most outstanding qualities of The Fork property is that it is located at the confluence of two primary river systems in central North Carolina. As mentioned previously, both rivers are quite robust and each remains navigable in the area adjacent to the subject site during periods of low flow. The Pee Dee River is impounded upstream of the confluence of the two rivers to create Baden Lake and Lake Tillery. The dams at both reservoirs serve to generate electricity and control flow regimes downstream. Consequently, the Pee Dee River adjacent to The Fork experiences vast fluctuations in both water surface elevation and volume of flow. During the three days of the on-site field investigation, the Pee Dee was observed to change dramatically, even though weather conditions were consistently dry. At times the water was a completely seamless flow, uninterrupted by obstructions. Later the same day the river had dropped at least three feet, displaying numerous rock shoals, and the water giving the appearance of flowing upstream. Upon traversing the Pee Dee via the Route 731 bridge just below Lake Tillery, the river, at that time, seemed a nearly dry gulch. It was after such an event that the river on site displayed this odd appearance. Investigation is underway to determine if the elevation of Blewett Falls Lake immediately downstream, along with consistent contributions by the Rocky River, actually causes water to back up into the Pee Dee River channel during low flow events. The need for additional information on this matter is amplified insofar as a proposal to raise the dam at Blewett Falls Lake 12’ to create additional storage is currently being reviewed. Between the two rivers, nearly 200 acres of land at The Fork experience periodic flooding resulting from rain events or prescribed drawdown of Lake Tillery in the Spring. Within the floodplain zone a small number of wetlands occur; generally attendant to man-made drainages installed to facilitate agriculture. More likely than not, natural wetlands existed in these low-lying areas prior to man’s intervention. The ravines which drain the upland areas of the property all lead to and through the floodplain before emptying into the rivers. In a few instances, springs contribute water to these draws, some of which sustain little more than damp soil, while others support legitimate creeks. One run drains the southwest quadrant of the tract, running in a southerly direction toward the Creeks/ Rocky River, passing under the Old Stage Road near the bottom land. A Ponds second branch, actually two separate branches in the same straight alignment, runs parallel to the Pee Dee River along the toe of slope at the floodplain’s Floodplain upper limits. Judging from field observations, this system drains in both a southwestern and northeastern direction. The southern course empties River directly into the Rocky River, while the northern course combines with a sizable, highly eroded ravine which subsequently contributes to the Pee Dee Drainage River along the eastern property line. Area Limits Only two small ponds currently exist on The Fork property and each is less than an acre in size. The first is located immediately adjacent to and east of Fork Road in the far northern section of the tract. It has a thin perimeter of trees, but is by and large in a crop field setting. The second pond is located in a wooded setting in a very minor ravine near the southernmost promontory. In contrast to the first pond, this location is quite private and, in fact idyllic in many ways. The surrounding woods are by no means mature hardwood forest, but the setting is special nonetheless and deserving of honorable mention.16 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  17. 17. ENVIRONMENT Prevailing winter winds from north and northwest F or the purposes of this study, issues have been segregated into one of three environmental categories. The first classification includes physical and weather conditions that serve as design parameters including wind direction, solar orientation, storm events, views, noise and glare. Second are the features that make up the man-made environment such as structures, Less frequent but possibly severe winter roads, fencing, utilities, wells, cemeteries and adjacent development. Finally 1 2 winds from northeast there are the human practices that can generate environmental concerns like dumping of waste, fuel storage and pesticide use. 3 The Fork property is comprised of a series of prominent, open, upland ridges 4 separated by pronounced wooded ravines. Two rivers and their associated 5 floodplain surround the property on the southeast and southwest. The site 6 displays a largely southern slope and exposure. Although winter winds out of the northwest and southerly summer breezes prevail on the high, open 9 precincts, within the ravines and along the river, topography, vegetation and Secondary 7 8 river alignments combine to create unique microclimates. While the upland Airflow 10 fields provide opportunities for expansive views, they are also areas that are very exposed to the elements during storm events. Driving wind, rain and lightening 11 Major are significant considerations in land planning. Because of its remote location, Views noise and glare are not concerns. Minor Views 12 The tract has been occupied, and presumably farmed, since the mid-1700’s. Homes, barns, workshops, mills and other structures were, at one time or 13 Potential another, active on the property. Observable on the site today are an abandoned Views bungalow, a small, old, unused barn, a silo, and the remains of a Victorian farm Wind patterns house that appears to have been constructed over a protracted time frame. 14 Only one structure remains in use on the property and that is a modest brick influenced by 16 river channel ranch residence near the entrance to the site. Judging by the exterior of the structure and grounds, it has little value. 15 Some of the roads accessing the site and the various uses within it are still in place, while others have been long abandoned. Several of these old sites show evidence of old wells still in place. Above-ground utilities had been brought to the property in support of the housing of more recent vintage and fencing can still be found as witness to historical property boundaries. A cemetery was 17 discovered on the property which contains as many as seventy graves and dates back to 1830. Adjacent development has very little impact on the subject site. The vast majority of the surrounding countryside is in agricultural use. One Less frequent summer adjacent property (the Martin tract), which is home to a hunting club, uses The Prevailing summer winds from winds possibly severe from Fork property roadways for access. south and southwest southeast in late summer and fall when associated with hurricanes Because the site has been occupied for more than two centuries, one could expect that a certain amount of insensitive activity may have taken place. Humans generate waste and don’t always dispose of the waste in an1. Abandoned residence environmentally sensitive manner. A small amount of dumping, old tires2. Abandoned barn/sheds for the most part, was witnessed adjacent to the silo. Wholesale dumping of3. Occupied brick ranch residence domestic waste, appliances and such is not immediately evident to the casual4. Wall-Almond cemetery observer. Outhouses were prevalent during the previous period of occupation5. Abandoned barn and evidence of residence on site. Any areas where housing has been known to exist should eventually6. USGS map location of non-existent structure (possibly the former site of William Wall’s machine shop) undergo investigation and identification of waste pits. The drainfield associated7. Abandoned residence with the currently occupied residence should also be located.8. Abandoned barn9. USGS map location of non-existent structure No underground storage tanks (UST’s) show up on government databases. (origin unknown) Above-ground units were more typical of installations pre-dating 1960 and10. Old Cheraw/ Salisbury Road (Allenton Road)11. USGS map location of non-existent structure nothing was observed to suggest that either equipment or heating fuel storage (origin unknown) existed, but one could assume it had.12. USGS map location of non-existent structure (possibly the former site of Colson’s Ordinary) Pesticides have long been employed to foster commercial crops. Generally,13 Abandoned silo and location of non-existent barn that use continues today on an accelerated pace. Myriad chemicals have been14. Old County Line Road15. Former site of Colson’s Ferry developed to assist the farmer in battling the elements that seek to damage his16. Former site of ferry crops. The benefits of this technology comes with a price. Wildlife is poisoned17. Possible site of Colson’s Mill and their habitat destroyed. Certain chemical substances remain in the soil for protracted periods of time. Subsequent efforts on the property should include an analysis of the historic use of agricultural chemicals on the land to determine what, if any remedial action needs to be taken. The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 17
  18. 18. 18 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  19. 19. PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS Agricultural Equestrian Shooting Sports Wildlife/Hunting Residential The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 19
  20. 20. Agricultural Program Areas The map shows those areas that are currently being used as commercial crop fields.20 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  21. 21. AGRICULTURAL O ne of the key components of the vision for The Fork is the preservation of the agricultural heritage of the property. To date, none of the wooded areas have been conscientiously managed for timber. This shows, and is one of the few liabilities of the site. The paucity of large, hard-mast producing trees is a natural governor for wildlife species such as deer, turkey and duck that benefit from these winter food sources. A comprehensive timber management plan should be put in place to encourage the maturation of hardwood species on the property to the benefit of wildlife, particularly big game. Over 400 acres of the land has been historically used to grow seasonal crops. The property is planted exclusively in corn. Mono-culture farming of this type is typical of strictly commercial ventures. Clean farming practices remain the site standard, however a no-till program was instituted recently which is very beneficial to the environment. Still, there is room for improvement in the commercial farming methods. For instance, crops are being planted up to and under the limbs of the trees which define the field limits. Historically, cultivating this land was done to prevent the forest from reclaiming the hard-won fields over time. However, the crops along the wooded edges display signs of low yield from immaturity as well as heavy forage by wildlife. Immediately outside the treeline crops appear to have been very productive. In a few areas, springs have surfaced in crop fields making the soil damp and slippery even on the sides of well graded slopes. Agriculture is critical to the overall plantation program in many ways. First, it will provide pasture and processed food for the equestrian program. Second, by leaving standing crops in key areas and using the equipment to plant food plots and buffer strips, it benefits the wildlife program. Finally, the presence of an active agricultural program brings a broad base of focused knowledge to the table and provides a level of stewardship and security for the property. Whether through outside sources or on-site means, an active agricultural program will be required to ensure that the property is managed in a manner that is productive and in concert with the other envisioned land uses. Among those items that need to be reconsidered are types of crops to be planted and where, the use of herbicides and pesticides, the timing and frequency of machinery in the fields, harvesting schedules and methods, and use of fields for dual-programming. If agriculture is pursued through outside sources, education and indoctrination of the farmer will be critical. Also, an arrangement should be crafted that provides adequate incentive for the farmer to remain active on the property and willing to execute the special measures necessary to the overall vision. In the recent past, soybeans and corn have been cultivated on the property. Cotton has made a resurgence as a cash crop in this area of North Carolina and the family currently farming the property has expressed an interest in planting cotton on the high ground. Cotton provides little or no value to a wildlife-based venture and requires placing machinery in the field at critical times during ground-nesting bird lifecycles. Warm-season crops of corn and soybeans remain commercially viable and are far more beneficial to the plantation program. Financial hardships to the farmer stemming from crop losses due to foraging, reduced pesticide applications and other programming considerations can be offset through the landowner/farmer lease agreement. Other compensation should be afforded the farmer for assistance provided in support of ancillary agricultural efforts. These include planting areas of commercial crops that will not be harvested, establishment of wildlife-specific crop stands of buckwheat, sorghum, millet, sunflowers, chufa, rice and other grain crops, use of a foam-brush to remove hardwood volunteers from field edges, hay production, manure spreading, and overall land management practices. The ultimate goal is to develop a plantation plan that includes, in its program, commercial agriculture that, from a scale and contextual perspective, is attractive and profitable for the farmer. Numerous government programs can exist that assist landowners who wish to promote wildlife habitat on their property. The Conservation Reserve Program, the Stewardship Incentive Program and the Wetland Reserve Program are but a few vehicles through which landowners can receive technical and financial support to achieve wildlife goals. Financial incentives include both cost-sharing for installation of measures and annual rent payments for acreage enrolled in the program. Benefits from participation can further assist in offsetting losses in commercial agriculture on site. These programs, and the people behind them, should be considered a necessary toolbox for anyone considering wildlife stewardship programming on their property. “Whether through outside sources or on-site means, an active agricultural program will be required to ensure that the property is managed in a manner that is productive and in concert with the other envisioned land uses.” The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 21
  22. 22. Equestrian Program Areas The map indicates those areas that are deemed suitable for various equestrian program components. Trails would be acceptable in nearly all areas of the site except on steep slopes and areas containing highly erodible soils.22 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  23. 23. EQUESTRIAN T wo components make up the equestrian program. The first is a husbandry project designed to purify the blood line of Irish draught horses. The second is development of a USCTA certifiable eventing facility. Both activities are to take place on land that has not supported livestock in any way in the recent past. This program will have to be built from the ground up. From a maintenance and security perspective, the equestrian facilities require constant monitoring and attention to detail in their upkeep. For the sake of efficiency the key components should be developed as a central equestrian complex. A full-service, state-of-the- art stable, storage and equipment barns, arenas, show rings, exercise pens and paddocks will need to be included in the primary horse compound and configured in a way that facilitates safe and fluid interaction between activity areas. To guarantee proper security and oversight it is recommended that residential quarters be included in the complex. Fenced pastures with run-in sheds, cross-country courses and a trail system can be located outboard of the equestrian nexus yet connected either physically or visibly to afford appropriate integration. Insofar as the caliber of horses to be maintained on the property is high and their security paramount, all primary equestrian facilities should be located toward the center of the property in a highly observable area. Since numerous structures and relatively level activity areas are necessary, it makes sense to place the equestrian complex away from the threat of flood and in an areas of gentle slope. Positive drainage and good air circulation are critical, however, locating a structure on an open promontory will invite the threat of a lightening strike. The best location for the equestrian complex is in an open, well-drained area on the side of a gentle slope that does not orient north, and one that offers a visual connection to other facilities on the property. Pastures, cross-country courses and the trail system should be partially visible and readily accessible from the main complex. Certain areas will need to be removed from cash crop production and placed in warm-season grasses and legumes to provide required pasturage and hay production opportunities. Cross-country courses can be designed to lay largely upon the natural grade along the perimeter of hay fields. The course surface itself should be maintained in cool-season grasses. This will serve as a visual counterpoint to the warm- season grasses in the hay fields and also act as an emergency firebreak. Hay fields can also provide desirable cover, forage and brooding conditions for ground-nesting fowl. The course should be developed around an area of high ground so as to provide adequate observation of distance events. The trail system could be laid out to offer access to remote and special places throughout the property. It is expected that, from time to time, horses may be the desired mode of transportation to and from non-equestrian venues. Proper accommodation for their staging should be provided in key locations. Respites, or guest cottages, are envisioned for the property. Visitors will be provided accommodations for both themselves and any horses they may be traveling with. Consequently, the program should include small paddocks with run-in sheds adjacent to some, if not all, of the respite cabins. The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 23
  24. 24. Shooting Sports Program Areas The map illustrates those areas best suited to the establishment of sporting clays venues.24 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  25. 25. SHOOTING SPORTS O f all of the programs constituting the overall vision for the property, shooting sports is the most independent. The provision of trap, skeet and sporting clays opportunities requires very little land and can be accommodated in a wide variety of configurations to suit almost any property. The main external consideration is the impact the shooting activity will have on other programs. Safety and awareness are the primary concerns. Shooting venues need to be located in areas and in such a manner as to all but preclude the possibility of harm to property, livestock and people. Locating these activities away from all other uses is one way to accomplish this. When shooting facilities have to be located in areas where other activities occur, shooting can be scheduled and monitored in a fashion that ensures conflicts are avoided. Whenever possible, shooting facilities should be placed in an area that can be monitored to prevent theft and vandalism. Currently, only sporting clays are being considered. The event could occur in an abbreviated format within an expanded trap/skeet range, or placed within the landscape. In the latter configuration, five to ten stations are developed along a course. Each station affords the shooter a series of different target presentations. The sport is most challenging when each station is situated in a natural setting, and the trap trajectories designed to mimic real-life field and flight conditions of a particular game species. This level of refinement requires a variety of topographic, vegetative and hydrologic conditions to be present or created artificially. Manual or automated trap machines can be employed, however, manual courses are labor intensive and tend to be used less frequently. The table entitled, Sporting Clays Course Design Considerations (Table 6) describes certain parameters that could be used to design a field-based sporting clays course. Ideally, the shooting venue would be located as far inside the property as possible for security reasons and a good distance from any equestrian complex. With the exception of the extreme northern section of the property, those areas regularly flooded, and a few steep, remote wooded areas, a very fine course could be installed at any number of locations. A five-stand venue could be accommodated on a standard trap and skeet range and would need to be on rather level terrain and preferably have a north-south orientation. A more sophisticated sporting clays course is less “The sport is most dependent on orientation and takes advantage of varied terrain, challenging when each clearings, ponds, wooded areas, ravines, bluffs and bottomland. station is situated in a natural setting, and the The shooting sports program can, and should, benefit, wherever trap trajectories designed possible, from the presence of other program elements. The to mimic real-life field creation of wildlife habitat throughout the property will and flight conditions of a provide excellent conditions for real-life hunting simulations. particular game species.” Unfortunately, regardless of location, the noise associated with shooting in any form is going to influence the habits of turkey and deer. The facilities should be placed a reasonable distance from any rearing pond associated with the mallard release program. Given creative placement, areas in the lowlands set aside for live duck hunting could also be employed as simulation areas for goose, duck and teal. During the waterfowl season clay shooting will need to be kept to a minimum, but this will likely prove to a minor inconvenience given the live shooting opportunities available at that time. Any tower constructed for a pheasant release program could also support a trap machine for simulated shooting of the same type. Trails and stations associated with sporting clays courses could be constructed and situated such that they could be used for horse trails and areas of repose. Proper planning would capitalize on opportunities to have the trail system connect various use areas to one another. If shooting is conscientiously scheduled, respite cabins could be placed in close proximity to shooting platforms where they also may serve as observation decks. A lodge could be placed in close proximity to the range or course to serve as headquarters for shooting activities. The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 25
  26. 26. The map illustrates those areas best suited to the various types of wildlife and hunting activities envisioned on the property .26 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study
  27. 27. WILDLIFE/HUNTING T he “build it and they will come” approach carries a lot of weight when promoting wildlife. One of the main reasons certain areas hold little value as hunting venues is that the conditions required by many game species are absent. The loss of habitat to development and clean farming practices has historically lead to a great reduction in many game species populations. Bag limits and hunting seasons have gone a long way to curtailing the decline, but to fully reverse that trend and jump-start the recovery of these species, man must proactively engage in alteration of the land through re-introduction of plant communities and re-establishment of environments that favor wildlife. Research and scientifically tested field trials, followed up by years of professional observation have proven that human intervention on behalf of the environment can significantly benefit wildlife. The numerous government programs mentioned earlier are designed to promote these methodologies. In a successful field sport venture, the agricultural program works hand in hand with the wildlife/hunting program by fostering the necessary habitat to support native, as well as introduced, wildlife species. Crop and timber management practices, modified to be more sensitive and beneficial to wildlife, result in healthy, productive populations of game and non- game animals. The challenge is to strike a balance in the cost/yield equation. In the case of The Fork property it is also paramount that a symbiosis be developed between the wildlife/ hunting program and the other envisioned activities. Game species for which the plantation will be tailored include deer, turkey, dove, duck and quail. Pheasant and chukar may be released as well and will undoubtedly benefit from the amendments made for the other species. Currently the property supports “In a successful field sport a sizeable population of deer and some turkey and quail. Waterfowl have been venture, the agricultural observed utilizing the rivers as flyways. The presence of corn in the agricultural program works hand in fields has been a boon to the above species as well as dove. One goal of the hand with the wildlife/ wildlife/hunting program is to increase the biomass of desired game species to hunting program by fostering near the maximum carrying capacity of the land while maintaining the health of the stock. In some species this goal may expand to include gender-balancing and the necessary habitat to trophy management. support native, as well as introduced, wildlife Overall, the plan should involve the alteration of the site’s topography, hydrology species. Crop and timber and vegetation to create suitable environments for each species. In some cases this management practices, may merely require monitoring of current conditions as they evolve. In others, a modified to be more sensitive complete retooling of existing site features may be in order. In between the two extremes are processes and applications such as setting aside field edges for native and beneficial to wildlife, plant communities, introduction of warm-season grass species and soft mass result in healthy, productive plants, developing impoundments, and instituting integrated pest management and populations of game and a controlled burn program. In fact all of these, and many other prescriptions, will non-game animals. The likely comprise a successful wildlife husbandry effort. challenge is to strike a balance in the cost/yield All of this comes at a cost. For the wildlife/hunting program to be successful many standard agricultural practices will have to be altered. Planting and harvesting equation.” times will need to be scheduled to preclude nest disturbance. Harvesting heights for hay and other crops will need to be sensitive to the needs of the animals utilizing the fields for cover. Pesticide applications will have to be abandoned or adjusted, and carefully monitored, to avoid poisoning of wildlife. And activities that generate significant noise will have to be regulated and directed to areas where the least impact on wildlife is experienced. To bring The Fork property up to the high standards desired, a portion of the cash crop fields will need to be removed from production. Typically the impact is minimal in that those areas best set aside for wildlife habitat tend to be those areas least productive from an agricultural perspective. Each effort to increase the wildlife population will bring with it a commensurate increase in predator populations. Those species having the greatest impact on game species include hawks, skunks, opossum, raccoons, foxes, and snakes. Management of predator species is permitted within strict guidelines. However, studies have yet to prove that reducing predator populations has a significant impact on the success of many gamebird species. The operative word in the wildlife program is “encouragement.” The following is a brief description of each species, their habitat requirements and the envisioned program particular to them. “The loss of habitat to development and clean farming practices has historically lead to a great reduction in many game species population.” The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study 27
  28. 28. Deer Program Areas The map indicates those areas where food plots and evergreen stands could be installed. In addition, it is recommended that all old fencing be dismantled and removed unless absolutely necessary. Deer will roam the entire property and benefit tremendously from activities attendant to all of the other programs. Arrangements should be made with the farmer to leave a small percentage of the cash crops standing in the field and to discourage disturbance of newly established transitional edges. As the hardwood ravines mature many more trees will reach mast-bearing age thereby increasing the deer carrying capacity of the property.28 The Fork, A Plantation Feasibility Study