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2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

Nature Preserves & Natural Areas

Yellow indicator
The impact of the recession has limited the County's ability to acquire and protect open space to meet the 2008 Master Plan goals. 

Nature Preserves and Natural Areas
Since 1974, Mecklenburg County has been acquiring parklands to meet the physical, psychological, and social needs of the community. Parks do more than just provide places for people to play. New research shows they help decrease medical costs, improve health, increase life spans, increase property values, combat childhood obesity, help create a sense of community, clean the air, improve water quality, and boost tourism.

Of the 18,000+ acres of County parklands, over 7,200 acres are designated Nature Preserve. They range from the 1,464-acre Latta Plantation Nature Preserve to the 13-acre Shuffletown Prairie Nature Preserve. Over the past three years (2011-2013), the County has acquired parcels containing significant natural resources, including a 114-acre expansion of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, a 50-acre parcel off Winget Rd. and a remarkable 20+ acre wetland along Four-Mile Creek in south Charlotte. 

One of the results of the recession has been the ability to acquire land at prices not seen in decades. While prices remain low and demand remains high, it is in the best long-term interest of the county to acquire land now, prior to the county's eventual build out. The 2008 master plan calls for 9,747 acres to be acquired by 2018 for parks and nature preserves (excluding parcels needed for future greenway development), or an average of 1,000 acres/year. Over the past six years combined, over 1,000 acres have been acquired, with the majority of those in 2011. Hence while the county is doing all that it can in light of the recession and funding limitations, the trend is getting worse in terms of protecting open space in relation to the 2018 goal.

To contact a County staff member regarding nature preserves, please email  

What you can do to preserve and enjoy Nature Preserves & Natural Areas
  • Visit a County nature preserve or nature center close to your home. Walk the trails, canoe or kayak, wildlife watch, horseback ride, or enjoy a picnic in the great outdoors while receiving all of the physical, psychological, and social benefits of spending time in nature.
  • Volunteer! Opportunities are endless, such as: join the Stewardship Advisory Council (a citizen input group), help with a citizen science natural resources project, help to control invasive species, assist with nature center operations, or help with special events such as the annual Hummingbird Festival.
  • Start a hobby, or jump back into one that has been on hold for a while, such as birdwatching, nature photography, fishing, camping, hiking, etc. Staff at your local nature center can help you get started, and programs are offered year-round on these and other topics.

More Information

Return to Land Chapter Page 

The trends shown in the State of the Environment Report are not all based on tests of statistical significance. Data analysis, anecdotal evidence, and best professional judgment have been compiled to represent these trends. The State of the Environment Report takes a snapshot of important environmental indicators in an effort to educate the public while highlighting challenges, successes and the general direction of change for each indicator. For additional information on these indicators and the determination of trends, please follow the links and feel free to contact the appropriate resources.

Last updated 2/17/14