John and Nancy Bray spend lots of time walking through their estate learning about plants, trees and learning about the environment around them. Since their land connects to parcels owned by Pitt County, the couple is working with the soil and water conservation department to provide a setting conducive for environmental education. If all goes well, John Bray says, people will be studying there by the end of the year.
Read more about how one couple can make a difference and about this exciting opportunity...
The Daily Reflector
October 9, 2007
Ayden couple to open more than 100 acres of their land to researchers, students
Ayden couple hope to open more than 100 acres of their land to researchers, students
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
AYDEN — When John and Nancy Bray trek through the land across from their Contentnea Creek Estates home, the couple speak of the wildflowers, ponds and trees as though they are family members.
Nancy's excitement over the vibrant colors of wild berries and John's concern for the low water levels are as real as their passion for nature.
The Brays hope to share that passion by opening the more than 100 acres to researchers and students soon.
"You can go through a lot of different eco-systems in a very short walk," said Nancy, a former teacher. "It is really pretty back there, and you can learn a lot."
With the Brays' land connecting to parcels owned by Pitt County, the couple is working with the soil and water conservation department to provide a setting conducive for environmental education. If all goes well, John Bray says, people will be studying there by the end of the year.
For 27 years, John and Nancy, now retired, lived in Lake Glenwood near Eastern Pines because they enjoyed the rural setting.
The skies were clear for telescopes, and trails were plentiful for exploring.
But as the land around them gave way to development, the Brays recognized a pattern.
"We lived in two other cities where we've seen development wipe out everything green," Nancy said.
"It was happening around us again."
In 2003, the Brays found another home nestled a couple of miles off of N.C. Highway 11 in southern Pitt County.
There, flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 had wiped out several houses and left a large chunk of the land desolate.
With its unique vegetation and wildlife, the spot was perfect for the Brays.
Not long after moving into their new home, John and Nancy began exploring the land spread beyond their huge front porch.
"We used to walk through some of the trails back there and we would say to each other how it would be nice to own all of the land so it wouldn't get developed," said John, co-founder of Greenville-based Metrics, Inc.
One year after moving in, the Brays began to buy more land. Homeowners and farmers started selling their properties and the Brays began buying them to ensure that everything that was green would stay that way.
"We wanted to keep everything natural," Nancy said. "We both have science backgrounds so nature is natural for us."
County officials already have marked nearly 20 different points of interest in the area.
Among them are rare trees and plants, Nancy said.
Also included in the project is access to Jackson's Point — a connection of Pitt, Lenoir and Greene County where N.C. pioneer John Lawson reportedly was murdered by a Tuscaroran tribe in 1711.
John Bray says when the park opens, it will be by appointment only.
"It will be by permit and be controlled," John said. "We allow some hunters out here along with the hikers so we have to be sure hunters and hikers aren't out here at the same time. Hunters and hikers don't mix."
Along with the preservation work with the county, the Brays are helping with the development of the Eastern North Carolina Regional Science Center in Greenville — a project that aims to enhance the level of science and math literacy in eastern North Carolina.
The couple also travels with a portable planetarium to schools teaching kids about astronomy.
Their schedule doesn't resemble that of most retired couples.
"I think we kind of recognized that science and technology and the literacy of the two is a requirement for the 21st century," John said. "There is a need for more scientists and engineers in this country, and we want to help with that."
John spends many of his days keeping the trails clear. When Nancy is not in her organic garden, she searches for rare vegetation and documents her findings back home.
"We have a really nice porch and we spent some time on it, but I think we get bored easily," Nancy said. "We always have to be up to something."
Brock Letchworth can be contacted at 329-9574 or email@example.com. Original article...