After a fundraising effort by two local nonprofits, a protected view and better access to Panthertown Valley are closer to reality following a land transaction last month.

Mainspring Conservation Trust, a regional land trust based in Franklin, purchased 16 acres of private property that borders the western entrance to Panthertown Valley and Salt Rock Gap near Cashiers.

Panthertown is part of the Nantahala National Forest and consists of more than 10,000 acres of protected land with clifftop views, at least eight major waterfalls, trout streams, rare plant species and diverse habitat for wildlife.

Partnering with Friends of Panthertown, a nonprofit group of volunteers who work with the U.S. Forest Service to enhance the visitor experience, the two organizations raised more than $82,000 from groups and individuals of the $195,000 needed for the purchase.

The money raised by the nonprofits was matched dollar-for-dollar by Fred and Alice Stanback. Earlier this month, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to cover the balance left to complete the transaction.

“This project has really confirmed how important conservation in Western North Carolina is to people,” said Mainspring Board Chair Chris Brouwer. “Individuals from all over the country have contributed to this initiative, proving what a special place this region is. We are so happy that, when they visit to hike, fish, and enjoy that area, the view from inside Panthertown Valley will be forever undeveloped as they look up at Salt Rock Gap.”

Friends of Panthertown will now begin preparing the property for more parking, cutting trees and laying gravel to make more room for visitors who had previously been forced to park on the shoulder of Breedlove Road.

Mainspring will ultimately convey the 16 acres to the U.S. Forest Service, to become part of Panthertown Valley.