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News Release

For immediate use

Nov. 28, 2006 -- No. 564

Creative conservation benefits students,
Botanical Garden and rare plants

CHAPEL HILL - Two years ago, Eleanor Smith Pegg of Chapel Hill pledged a tract of land she owned to be sold, with the proceeds to go toward a proposed Visitor Education Center at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

She designated an adjacent tract to be given as a bequest to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That land was also to be sold with the proceeds funding a scholarship named for Pegg and her husband, the late Carl Pegg, a former UNC history professor.

But there was a problem: The two tracts, located along the Haw River south of Chapel Hill, support a rare plant, Phacelia covillei, commonly known as the eastern buttercup phacelia. Because the Botanical Garden Foundation, the North Carolina Botanical Garden's fund-raising arm, is dedicated both to conservation and supporting the garden, Pegg's offer created a dilemma: sell the land or save it?

On Nov. 7, the dilemma was solved when almost two years of negotiations resulted in a win-win situation. The land, which had been consolidated into one tract, was purchased by the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund for $1.2 million in a move of creative conservation spearheaded by the Triangle Land Conservancy. The new owners contributed $750,000 and $450,000, respectively.

The land will be saved as a natural area, the sale yields $1 million for the main exhibit hall in the Visitor Education Center and the balance made an early payment toward the Eleanor and Carl Pegg Scholarship Fund to benefit UNC students in need of financial support.

"Eighteen months ago, 10 people sat around a table at the Botanical Garden and made a pledge that these beautiful wooded slopes above the Haw River would be conserved for the rare plants and animals they support and for all to enjoy," said Dr. Peter White, director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. The Haw River Assembly, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division were also involved in the efforts.

"We've since met again to celebrate success. I am thrilled that the North Carolina Botanical Garden was able to play a role in its conservation," White said.

In the future, the Pegg tract may become a keystone parcel in the proposed Lower Haw River State Park, providing public access to the Haw from a spot upstream of the 15-501 bridge north of Bynum in Chatham County.

In addition to providing habitat for the eastern buttercup phacelia, this land protects about 2,000 feet of river frontage on the Haw and another 3,400 feet of buffer on both sides of two tributaries. With Pittsboro's water intake directly across the river, these buffers will help keep drinking water clean for a growing community.

That clean water also contributes to the protection of two other rare species - the Cape Fear shiner and the yellow lampmussel - whose presence in the Haw led the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program to rate the river as an aquatic habitat of national significance.

The Peggs' granddaughter, Suzanne Upton, said she was thrilled with the outcome.

"My grandparents, Carl and Eleanor Pegg, always shared a love and appreciation for nature and all its beauty," Upton said. "They held their Haw River land especially close to their hearts, often walking it to enjoy the serenity of the woods and river.

"My grandmother's wishes were to not only preserve the land, but also to assist the Botanical Garden with its expansion and create a scholarship fund for the university. It is with great pride that we see all our hard work and dedication make her dream a reality," Upton said.

The Botanical Garden plans to begin construction next year on the $11 million Visitor Education Center. The "green" structure will qualify for the highest rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, making it the first platinum recipient in North Carolina.

The 29,656-square-foot building's design includes features for renewable energy and energy conservation, as well as materials from sustainable and local sources. It will offer expanded space for programs and classes, not only to UNC students, but also to anyone who wants to learn more about the plants, and their environments, of the Southeast.

For information about the North Carolina Botanical Garden and its planned Visitor Education Center, visit

Proceeds from the land sale count toward the Carolina First Campaign, a comprehensive, multi-year, private fund-raising campaign with a goal of $2 billion to support Carolina's vision of becoming the nation's leading public university.


Note: Dr. Peter White can be reached at (919) 962-6939.

Development Communications contact: Scott Ragland, (919) 962-0027,

News Services contact: Clinton Colmenares (919)843-1991,