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Brumley Forest to be protected by Triangle Land Conservancy

Brumley Forest will be preserved by the Triangle Land Conservancy. Photo by Sonke Johnsen

By Susan Dickson, Staff Writer

Less than 20 years ago, a large forest north of Chapel Hill was under consideration to become an 800-homesite development. The property, filled with trees, ponds and wildlife, was to be known as the University Station development and would have housed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people.

On Monday, that property – now known as Brumley Forest – will instead be dedicated to the memory of George and Julia Brumley and their family as a Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) nature preserve.

The 613-acre property – the second-largest undeveloped parcel of land in Orange County – sits between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough near New Hope Church Road and N.C. 10. In the 1980s, George Brumley III, who lived on 30 acres nearby, worried about the size of the proposed development and decided to do something about it.

“The neighbors were up in arms about it and it was a big deal,” said Bo Howes, conservation project manager for TLC. “It would have changed the character of the area out there.”

Through 11 different transactions, Brumley purchased the land, piece by piece, until the proposed development was but a memory. He used the land to hunt, run a timber company, known as New Hope Timber, and farm crops for personal use.

“He intended to put a conservation easement on that property during his lifetime so that it wouldn’t be further developed,” Howes said.

“Our brother was a conservationist and hunter who had a great love of the land,” Marie Brumley Foster and Nancy Brumley Robitaille, George Brumley’s sisters, wrote in an email. “He knew a great deal about the local wildlife and vegetation and did a great deal to enhance the property.”

But in 2003, tragedy struck the Brumley family, when a plane carrying George and Julia Brumley, their two children and other family members crashed into a mountainside in Kenya, killing everyone on board.
“At that point, there was a lot of confusion about what would happen,” Howes said. The land was passed to the Zeist Foundation, an Atlanta-based foundation started by George Brumley’s father.

At the time of his death, George Brumley served on the board of TLC, and later the Zeist Foundation offered the land to TLC at a purchase price of $4 million, less than half of the property’s appraised value. Through grants, including a large grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, TLC was able to fund the purchase of the property.

“As a TLC board member, George believed strongly in its mission and worked on many of its land transactions,” Robitaille and Foster wrote. “We think he and Julia would be very happy that New Hope Timber is now part of their legacy of land conservation.”

TLC hasn’t yet determined how they’re going to use the land, Howes said, adding that there are dozens of potential uses. Over the next few years, TLC will determine how the property will be made accessible to the public.

“It’s just a gorgeous piece of property, and it’s a gorgeous place to connect with nature and see what’s out there,” Howes said. “It’s also a great place to go and walk and hike.”

Triangle residents’ drinking water will be protected along with the property, he added, since the property is host to streams and wetlands that feed the Eno River and ultimately Falls Lake.

TLC owns about 4,000 acres of land, and protects more than 14,000 through conservation easements and partnerships with other organizations.

  1. Bo Howes

    Great Article. However, Triangle Land Conservancy is not The Nature Conservancy. We work together on some projects and support each other but The Nature Conservancy is not involved with this project.