Students lend a helping held to bald restoration

out treepruningA group of Western Carolina University students lent a hand to help restore the open balds on the summit of Yellow Face, a peak off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Plott Balsams.

The once open, grassy summit has become overgrown with trees and vegetation — succumbing to a similar fate as many other balds throughout the Southern Appalachians.

The students, who are studying Natural Resource Conservation and Management, joined an effort led by The Nature Conservancy.

The Yellow Face summit, which rises to 6,032 feet in the vicinity of Waterrock Knob, has now grown up in high-elevation blackberry and fire cherries. The area is part of a 1,595-acre tract purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1997, protecting views along a two-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“The work was focused on reopening the bald and reclaiming that area,” said Megan Sutton, stewardship manager for the Nature Conservancy’s Asheville office. “Our hope is to clear a larger area every year.”

The Nature Conservancy will probably not try to restore the entire bald, but just enough of it to retain the view-shed and to maintain some early successional habitat, she said.

WCU student have been holding a workday each fall for the past six years to help maintain the trail that extends down the Plott Balsam ridgeline from Waterrock Knob to Black Rock, a peak overlooking the town of Sylva. That trail passes across the Yellow Face summit.

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