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The Origins of Green River Preserve

While in a foxhole in Italy during World War II, Sandy’s father, Alex Schenck, shared a dream with his best friend, Isadore Scott. He told Scotty, “If I ever get out of this war alive, I’m going back home to North Carolina and buy some land.”

Laurie and Alex Schenck purchased the 3,400 acres, now called The Green River Preserve, in the early 1950’s as a place to spend weekends and summers fishing, hiking, and exploring. Their son, Sandy Schenck, was fortunate to learn the lore of the Green River Valley not only from his parents, but also from the people who had lived in the Green River Valley for generations. Newman Levi, a lifelong resident, taught him about tracking, hunting, and valley customs. Charles and Pearl Cox, an old school mountain couple, introduced him to milking cows, churning butter and cooking on a woodstove. Alfred Heatherly, a logger, and his wife Lori taught him stories of Cherokee people, jack-o-lanterns, and life in the valley in the early 1900s. From these memorable teachers, Sandy learned a reverence for the land, a sense of valley history,and a joy and wonder of outdoor living. These kind and gentle mountain folks were Sandy’s counselors, and he was their camper.

In 1987, Sandy left a career in the business world to fulfill his lifelong dream of sharing the magic of the Green River Valley with children through an innovative, natural science-oriented summer camp. This would be a summer camp unlike any other, in that it would offer a community of bright, curious, and creative children a chance to learn about land stewardship and to grow as young leaders.

Construction of the base camp began in an old cornfield bordered by springs (complete with an old moonshine still). Timber harvested from the site became logs for the camp lodge and dining hall. Cabins were built on an old Native American campsite where artifacts are still found today. The corn patch became the playing field and the spring was dammed to create the fishing pond and swimming hole. From sawyer to carpenter, stonemason to electrician, the people who built the camp were from many of the same families that taught Sandy to love the valley so long ago.

Read more about GRP’s history and archeological findings. This article first appeared in the North Carolina Archaeological Society Newsletter 33(2):1-3.

In 2006, the Schenck family put 2,600 acres of Green River Preserve in a conservation easement with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. This action will preserve the land for perpetuity.

Curious about our camp traditions? Check out this blog.