Weeks Act Wayside Exhibit Dedication
OLD FORT, N.C. – On July 29, 2011, representatives of the USDA Forest Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park and the Mountain Gateway Museum will gather for a special ceremony on the Grandfather Ranger District to recognize the Weeks Act centennial.
During the event, partners will unveil a new permanent plaque on the Blue Ridge Parkway that overlooks the first tract of land purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911 establishing national forests in the eastern United States.
WHAT: Weeks Act Wayside Exhibit Dedication
WHO: John Crockett, Grandfather District Ranger, USDA Forest Service;
Phil Francis, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent, National Park Service;
Terrell Finley, Regional Museum Administrator; and
Jim Webb, retired Associate Deputy Chief, USDA Forest Service.
WHEN: Friday, July 29, 2011, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
WHERE: Blue Ridge Parkway, Laurel Knob Overlook, MP 349.2 (30 miles north of Asheville on the Parkway), Burke-McDowell Tract (travel a gravel road from the Parkway, through the original tract and Curtis Creek Campground to Old Fort, NC arriving at Mountain Gateway Museum, 102 Water St, Old Fort, 28762.
HOW: Meet at MP 349.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, approximately one-hour drive from US 70 Asheville and 45 minutes from Old Fort on Forest Road 482.
For more about the original purchase, see the Forest Society website. Excerpts:
[quote]The [National Forest Reservation Commission] held its first meeting on March 7, 1911. Twenty days later, Forest Service chief Henry Graves submitted recommendations for the "Purchase of Land under the Weeks Law in the Southern Appalachian and White Mountains," They totaled 13 areas in 9 eastern states, though only 11 of them were eventually purchased. (The Youghiogheny area in western Maryland and the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina were eventually "abandoned." The latter became a national park in 1939.) The first purchase made under the Weeks Act was in McDowell County, North Carolina, for 18,500 acres. The 10 tracts of land cost $100,000, or $5.41 an acre. The McDowell purchase was later incorporated into the Pisgah National Forest.
The Pisgah was the first national forest established in any eastern state from lands acquired under the Weeks Act. President Woodrow Wilson established it on October 17, 1916. Part of the Pisgah’s original lands included the forest that George Vanderbilt once owned. His widow, Edith Vanderbilt, sold 86,700 acres for $433,500, or $5 per acre, to the government to establish a national forest. To ensure her husband’s conservation legacy, she accepted $200,000 less than the government had offered.
What was the condition of the land being purchased in the East? According to the commission’s report in 1915, the condition of the 1.3 million acres approved for purchase by then was as follows: 51 percent were "culled and cut-over lands," with most of the valuable trees already cut; 28 percent were "virgin timberlands" (what is today often called "old growth"); 11 percent were reserved by the sellers for logging to be done, though cutting would be regulated by the government; 2 percent was abandoned farmland, some of which was reverting to forest; and 8 percent was considered "barren or covered by a nonmerchantable growth of timber," or timber in places that weren’t easily accessible to loggers. Those percentages would change over time; the percentage of abandoned farmland would skyrocket in the 1930s as farmers fled their worn-out agricultural lands. ... [/quote]