Naturally Inspired: Turning the Blue Ridge Parkway Green

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A development that actually improves the land for both natural beauty and wildlife habitat? At Cielo Falls, a luxury Log Home Community on the Blue RIdge Parkway, it's already happening.

We took streams so deteriorated they once ran brown with silt and began radical restoration. Now they run clear all the time, even when it rains

Cielo Falls announces the completion of phase one in a three phase restoration project that will bring ancient streams back to their original, pristine condition...trout are already beginning to re-populate.

The first rule of progressive sustainable development is much like the physician's oath: First do no harm.

But merely minimizing impacts is a far cry from the ultimate in environmental stewardship--actually improving habitat and making things better so the homeowners at Cielo Falls benefit. Preservation concerns and eco-consciousness are shared interests which is one reason why the .

"Naturally inspired living on the Parkway," Cielo Falls' mantra, shows commitment to doing much more: The goal is to actually enhance and restore as much of the habitat on the 1,100 scenic acres as possible, leaving it better than they found it. They consider this their legacy.

Actually, Cielo strives for a dual legacy.

The first goal of the legacy is to maintain the exclusive lifestyle by integrating "smart home" advanced features such as fiber optics--already coursing through the property--to create new mountain living with Heritage Log & Timber Frame Homes; the best of the rustic mountain lifestyle blended with cutting edge technologies and amenities.

The second: Cielo strives to develop this community in synch with responsible environmental practices and green technologies.

Cielo drains rainwater from 5,800 acres, and Mark Yates, Cielo Fall's Developer, set a goal to ensure that the waters here run more pure than before the land was purchased.

Evidence of great progress already abounds, and habitats on the property are already responding to the efforts. Streams that have undergone restoration are already running clearer; the wild trout population is growing, animals and birds such as deer, songbirds and wild turkey are benefitting. Numerous new lakes and ponds now under construction will provide wetlands and habitat. Already, three miles of once-renowned trout streams have received a new lease on life at Cielo, with three more to come.

"We took streams so deteriorated they once ran brown with silt and began radical restoration. Now they run clear all the time, even when it rains," says Yates. Cielo's developers are actually surpassing the federal government's standards, says Mike Sprague, of Trout Headwaters International, which oversaw restoration. Old trails and roads were a primary culprit, damaging the streams with runoff. Neglected, washed out roads have been changed into beautiful hiking paths that now wind through the forest; green and vibrant and planted with native foliage.

"These waters were once known as some of the best trout streams in Western North Carolina, before poor logging practices and unchecked erosion silted them in, decimating the fish and wildlife habitats," Yates said. "We have 6.5 miles of streams and 50 percent of that has already gone through the restoration process along with four of our nine miles of trails."

"We plan for wholly self-sustaining streams capable of breeding trout on their own--and some already are," Yates says. "Trout are appearing in abundance where they have not been seen in decades."

The rustic elegance of log and timber frame homes at Cielo Falls is an ideal model of desirability and beauty in sync with natural energy efficiency. With elegant 2,500 to 5,000 square foot log and timber frame homes, the community will boast a 40,000 square foot clubhouse and numerous social areas, all while preserving 83 percent of its 1,100 acres as green space.

Homeowners here also appreciate advanced rainwater retrieval and purification technologies that leave original aquifers and terrain intact while harvesting naturally soft and pure rainwater. Cielo's onsite wastewater treatment facility demonstrates the commitment to the surrounding region through sustainable and highly eco-conscious technologies integrated into the community's master plan and serving every home.

Ground is being broken now on the first of the new trout ponds. Located below the pavilion area, it will have a beautiful 12-foot tall waterwheel; a rustic touch that is part of an ancient whiskey still found on the property. THI will oversee pond development, including breeding large rainbow trout to create an exclusive-private catch-and-release fishing pond for residents.

"The view created will be beautiful. From the pavilion the views include Whiskey Still Pond, the waterwheel and grist mill and the Blue Ridge Parkway," Yates says. "Visitors staying in the five-suite guest house will walk out onto their deck overlooking this pond area."

Overall, the development is proceeding strongly. Ground is being broken on a recreational field and an amphitheater, the pavilion, and the new gatehouse connected to the community-wide electronic security systems. Soon progress will be broadcast online, linked through the community's high-tech fiber optic system.

"We're proving that you can enhance the environment and enjoy the ultimate in lifestyle amenities," says Yates.

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Bill Shea
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