WILMINGTON – Cape Fear Community College just got a lot more wilder – literally. Thanks to the generosity of local resident Nathan Sanders, CFCC has become the owner of the newly established Judia Blackburn Sanders Nature Preserve in New Hanover County.
Sanders recently donated 350 acres of undeveloped property along River Road to be used as a nature preserve by Cape Fear Community College. Sanders, who has owned the property for nearly 20 years, asked the college to name it after his wife, Judi. The nature preserve has been designated by its donor to be used for research, education and enjoyment of its natural beauty.
On March 13, CFCC officials, members of the Sanders family and friends gathered along River Road and surprised Judi by unveiling a sign on the property that was engraved with her name.
Sanders said that he chose to name the property after Judi because she ”supports everyone in her sphere of influence and never tries to draw attention to herself.” Sanders added that the ceremony had to be a surprise because if Judi knew the property was going to be named for her, she would never have allowed it.
“Since so many appreciate her, this seemed a good way to recognize her and to remind those who will benefit from the property of her generosity,” Sanders said.
CFCC President Eric McKeithan expressed his gratitude to Sanders for the gift, which is the first of its kind to the college. McKeithan said that the college considers this land a type of “living laboratory” for current and future students.
The property will serve as a valuable educational tool for students at the college. CFCC students in marine technology, biology, landscape gardening and others will be able to access the property to study the wide variety of wildlife and plants that live on the property. In addition to the plants and animals that exist on the property, the reserve has nearly a mile of frontage along the Cape Fear River and Motts Creek as well as several thousand feet of other creeks, fresh water ponds and marshes. The preserve features two distinctly different types of environments - brackish tidal-influenced areas and non-tidal freshwater areas.
Sanders is pleased that students will be able to use the property for research and study and chose to donate the property to CFCC because of the role it plays in preparing students to make a living.
“CFCC’s mission is teaching people skills with which they can obtain jobs and make a good living for themselves and their families. They do a superb job of this and are providing a great benefit to their students and the businesses of this area and to the economy and stability of our entire region,” Sanders said.
Some of the native animals that inhabit the property include hawks, deer, foxes, wildcats, herons, egrets and owls. Plant life includes various marsh grasses, cypress trees, red cedar, wild grapes, palmetto palms, wax myrtle, live oak and pitcher plants.