New protections for McAfee Knob Viewshed

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 7:49 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Hikers from far and wide visit the Star City to take in views from the top of McAfee Knob. Newly conserved lands are now protecting its landscape below.

The panoramic view of the Catawba and Roanoke Valleys, North Mountain, and Tinker Cliffs atop McAfee Knob are amongst the most popular overlooks of the Appalachian Trail. But as Appalachian Trail Conservancy Senior Regional Director, Andrew Downs notes--while the trails themselves are protected, the views that hikers have access to are not. Sparking the ATC to take action to preserve land between McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.

“I got a call from a local realtor, and he said he’d seen a large property that was about to go up for sale and be subdivided for development. So, I visited the property with him and almost immediately got concerned that this critical property was not only going to be sold but chopped up and developed and that development would be impactful to the vista from McAfee,” said Downs.

After a multi-year effort by the ATC and The Conservation Fund, a deal was reached to purchase and protect 850 acres beneath McAfee Knob in the Catawba Valley. It’s now known as the ATC’s McAfee Vista Preserve. Land that will be managed to protect its trail values.

And those trail values are ones that Downs said goes beyond protecting more than just the mountain top views.

“We want to manage the land to promote biodiversity and so the people enjoying the Appalachian Trail can experience these rich ecosystems, rare and healthy ecosystems. Hearing all the birds, enjoying the wildlife. Want to reforest a lot of the areas that have been clearcut in these properties that you can see from McAfee. They look artificial. They look manmade and we want to return that to a healthy forest so when you look about that, you sort of see the nature’s splendor instead of all these chopped up lines from the history of land use,” said Downs.

Downs said while there are still other parts of the valley they are working to preserve, The McAfee Vista is a huge milestone in the preservation of McAfee Knob and he Appalachian Trail.

The ATC’s McAfee Vista Preserve was made possible with funding from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Forest CORE Fund, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, and donations from the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and the ATC.