Eno River Association and Orange County Protect Historic Farm Property

Photo credit: Rich Shaw

On March 19, 2020, the Eno River Association in partnership with Orange County’s Lands Legacy Program, the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, and the City of Raleigh’s Watershed Protection Program, has secured the purchase of a “working lands” conservation easement on a 57-acre historic property in Hillsborough.  The easement serves the dual purpose of protecting prime farmland and protecting the quality of water that flows downstream of the farm.

The Holden-Roberts Farm is owned and operated by Nels and Nancy Anderson and is located on St. Mary’s Road. The farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contains a well preserved, rare Reconstruction-period I-house (circa 1873) and a large intact grouping of agricultural outbuildings constructed at various times from 1900 through 1950.  This project will ensure a historically significant farm property will remain as a tangible and meaningful link to the small farm culture dating from the 1800s.  Protecting this property will also help preserve the scenic viewshed and rural character of the historic St. Mary’s Road corridor. 

The property is located within the Lower Eno protected watershed and contains a headwater stream that flows into Buckquarter Creek, a major tributary to the Eno River.  The required vegetated riparian buffers along this stream provide not only protection against nutrient and sediment inputs to this important source of drinking water for the cities of Durham and Raleigh but also provide important travel corridors for wildlife.

Orange County Commissioner Chair Penny Rich said, “This conservation easement exemplifies the County’s steadfast dedication to preserving its natural and cultural resources.  As our communities continue to grow, it becomes even more important to protect these diminishing resources.  The County has been able to conserve even more land by partnering with other entities as was the case for this project.  This is a win-win for all citizens, and we thank the Andersons for their vision and commitment to conserving these resources.”

Don Moffitt, President of the Eno River Association agreed, adding “It is only with our partners and the commitment and generosity of landowners like the Andersons that this type of conservation is possible. This farm is now protected as a working farm forever. Increasing the conservation of private lands is absolutely necessary to preserve farmland and to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and the rural landscape.”

Conservation easements are written agreements that permanently protect land for its natural or cultural resource values while leaving it in private ownership. The Holden-Roberts Farm easement is Orange County’s 42nd conservation easement (totaling 2,743 acres), and the tenth conservation easement held by the Eno River Association (totaling 1,122 acres).  The project would not have been possible without the support and expertise of Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, NC Department of Agriculture, City of Raleigh, and, most importantly, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. 

The Eno River Association has been working on land and water quality conservation in the Eno River Basin for 53 years.  It was instrumental in the creation of the Eno River State Park in the early 1970s and continues to actively work to expand protected areas throughout the Eno River basin.  The Association’s efforts have resulted in the protection of more than 7,472 acres in the watershed.   

Orange County’s Lands Legacy Program was established in 2000 and has since conserved nearly 3,800 acres of land containing natural areas, riparian buffers, prime farm and forestland, cultural sites, and for future park sites.  Orange County has collaborated on many projects with the Eno River Association in the Eno River basin.