Nonprofit holds fundraiser for Rich Fork Preserve Farmhouse

by Chanel Davis

Residents in High Point and the surrounding area will have a chance to learn more about the Hedgecock Farmhouse that sits on the Rich Fork Preserve by attending a “Hoe Down” fundraiser this weekend.

The Rich Fork Preserve Committee, made up of local residents interested in preserving the history of the Rich Fork area, will hold the fundraiser Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, at 836 W. Lexington Ave. in High Point, in an attempt to raise funds to match a $15,000 grant from the Covington Foundation in Greensboro, a foundation specializing in historic preservation. Fundraiser tickets cost $15 per person and include food from Carter Brothers Barbeque and music from groups Forever His and Payne Creek and John. Historical information about the property will be available and a guided tour of the farmstead is dependent on the weather.

“You can drop in, hear about the preserve and take a tour if the weather permits,” said Committee Member Dorothy Darr. “This is a meet and greet sort of thing and will also give neighbors and residents an opportunity to see the farmstead.”

The funds, along with the grant, will go toward the second phase of restoring the preserve. They’ll be used to stabilize the foundation of the farmhouse, be sure the roof is dried, restore an attic window, drain water from the root cellar and restore some of the wood inside.

Phase Three of the project calls for the restoration of the windows and doors of the farmhouse, the opening of the windows and doors from the inside and the placement of Plexiglas over them so people can look inside the home.

The organization completed phase one the restoration phase, to collect the history of the farm and hire a historic preservation architect for an evaluation of the property, with a previous grant from the Covington Foundation of $8,500.

“We were just going stabilize the farmstead and leave it as ruins in the area so hikers can come by, look inside the buildings and imagine how it was to be a subsistence farmer in 1890,” Darr said.

Darr was instrumental in acquiring the 115 acres of the Rich Fork Preserve and has been heavily involved with the restoration efforts of the farmhouse. Since the 1890s farmhouse and 12 outbuildings were built by her great-uncle it would make sense for her to be involved.

After residents approved a $10 million bond to acquire open space and improve parks in the county in 2004, staff called her in 2011 looking for places in High Point to spend the leftover $1.5 million, according to Darr.

After acquiring land in Southwest High Point for an orchard, Darr directed them toward 54 acres of family land in Northwest High Point, which eventually included the surrounding parcels.

“It was a wonderful piece of property that had been untouched. When they started walking it, they found the ruins of this farmstead. I’d always heard about it and my cousin would always say ‘let’s go back there and I’ll show it to you’ but we never did,” Darr said. “At the end of 2011, the Open Space Committee asked Dot Kearns and myself if we could put a committee together to explore the possibility of restoring these building and we did.”

Darr said that committee has experienced a stall since staff has changed and there have been talks about allowing mountain biking on the Rich Fork Preserve. While Guilford County Commissioners have yet to decide on that issue, the group feels like it would put the bikers in danger and ruin the untouched land.

“Open spaces don’t have rangers. They’re meant for walking, exploring nature and being in contact with the wildlife and botany in the area,” she explained. “The bluffs on that property are almost 80 feet down. Children riding their bikes would be in real peril and there would be no one there to help them. Active recreation is for parks or the YMCA but it was never supposed to be for open spaces.”

She also said that redefining the preserves as parks to allow mountain bikes is “a betrayal of trust of the people who voted for open space and the people who sold the land to preserved in its natural state” by Guilford County.

Despite the controversy, Darr said that it’s important to the committee to continue going on as originally planned.

“The Covington Foundation gave us three years to raise the money. We got the grant last year and would’ve gone forward immediately if not for the mountain biking controversy,” she said. “We want the farmstead to survive no matter what. We can only wait so long for the county to resolve this.”

For more information, donations or to purchase tickets, call the High Point Museum at 336-885-1859. !