New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee


For the love of their land: Wade and Carolyn Penny sold their property to save it

The Chapel Hill News, July 26, 2006, page A1
© 2006 by The Chapel Hill News

by Matt Dees, Staff Writer

DURHAM -- Wade and Carolyn Penny held hands and walked gingerly down the bumpy, narrow trail.

New Hope Creek babbled beside them as they made their way to the craggy outcrop dubbed Hollow Rock, a former campsite for Native Americans that's since become a quiet spot for lovers.

And the Pennys do love this land: its history, its peacefulness, its natural beauty.

They loved it so much that they gave it up. It was the only way to save it.

"It's all any of us do anyway, temporarily have the use of it," Wade Penny, 70, said looking out on the forest last week as twilight crept in. "It's just too beautiful not to share."

Bargain sale
The Pennys recently sold 22 acres of their land to the Triangle Land Conservancy for $123,000, less than one-third of its estimated market value.

That coincided with four local governments -- Orange County, Chapel Hill, the city of Durham and Durham County -- teaming with two private agencies and the state to purchase an adjacent 43-acre tract.

The Pennys made the "bargain sale" of their land contingent on the governments buying and preserving the 43 acres.

Now, instead of being developed, the land will be home only to a low-impact recreational area, little more than a nature trail and a small parking lot.

The Pennys also plan to put a conservation easement on 30 of their remaining 37 acres.

None of it was a tough call for the environmentally minded Pennys.

"When you stand here and look around, this is the South that so many of us grew up in and loved," Wade Penny said.

Carolyn Penny chimed in, "It's so important to protect the environment for future generations."

Farm animals
The Pennys purchased the land from Bernice and Gertrude Rose, who bought the land in 1941.

The childless couple had a menagerie of farm animals. There were the white mare Mandy, chickens, peacocks and the like.

The Pennys' children and many others spent Sunday afternoons taking Mandy-drawn carriage rides and feeding the animals.

The Roses often picnicked on Hollow Rock.

"Mr. and Mrs. Rose would have never allowed subdivisions on this land," Wade Penny said.

"We kind of received it in trust and had an ethical obligation to keep it the way it is."

Much of the Penny tract is mature hardwood forest, home to raccoons, wild turkeys, hawks, owls and other wildlife.

The woods are interspersed with thick pastures. New Hope Creek meanders through.

It once was home to an Indian village. Bernice Rose used to unearth hundreds of arrowheads every time he plowed his field.

The Pennys still find one occasionally.

A road connecting Hillsborough and Fayetteville -- approved by the General Assembly in 1753 -- once traversed the tract.

It now will be the site of more field trips, more hikers and less solitude for the Pennys.

They say they don't mind. But there's a tinge of wistfulness as Wade Penny looks back on the creek before heading back to his SUV and his home.

"It'd be a great place to put a home, wouldn't it, overlooking New Hope Creek?" he said, allowing himself a brief moment of fantasy.

His no-nonsense wife chimed in, "Too late now."