WILMINGTON — New leadership has been hired to lead the charge on conserving Eagles Island, located along the Cape Fear River. Last month, nonprofit Unique Places to Save announced it was under contract to purchase the 83 acres of land in the hopes of raising $16 million to do so.
If the group does not succeed by the close of 2022, current landowner Diamondback Development will move forward with its plans to build a hotel and spa on the property.
To oversee the Wilmington project, UP2S sought out an executive director, with a priority focus on fundraising efforts and reaching its end-of-the-year deadline. The Chapel Hill-based nonprofit announced Tuesday it hired Clark Harris to fill the role.
Harris will take the reigns immediately and is already familiar with the organization. He’s served on the UP2S board for four years, acting as secretary and treasurer, while co-founding and growing his own startup, LoLo — Locals Supporting Locals.
According to a press release, LoLo has been featured in Asheville, North Carolina’s 15 Fastest Growing Startups over the last three years (2019, 2020, 2021) and made the Inc. 5,000 list (No. 1770) of fastest growing companies in the country in 2022.
“His passion for conserving the natural world and devotion to serving local communities led him to step in as Executive Director where he applies his valuable business skill set to the nonprofit space,” the release states.
A North Carolina native, Harris was born in Wilson and spends his time in Asheville with his wife and two kids. He told city council at a Tuesday meeting he has family living in Wilmington and has been visiting the area for much of his life.
“I’m a nature lover by day and family man by night,” he said.
Harris also made a request to council. He asked for a letter of support in UP2S’s efforts to apply for a $12-million grant with the N.C. Land and Water Fund.
He’s also seeking letters from New Hanover and Brunswick counties, Battleship North Carolina, and Town of Navassa.
“We feel these letters of support would increase our chances of funding from the North Carolina fund, as well as from private endowments,” Harris said Tuesday.
UP2S was drawn to Eagles Island, according to Harris, because it hit “all three of its focus areas:” ecological resilience, conservation, and community enhancement.
With the property’s proximity to downtown and the opportunities for public access, the vision of UP2S includes walking trails, boardwalks over the wetlands with educational kiosks, access to water and a museum honoring the Gullah Geechee heritage.
UP2S launched a decade ago and comprises entrepreneurs in a variety of fields focusing on the merging of environmental efforts, public space and financial reward. The nonprofit is already undergoing a $2.1-million effort for the restoration of Alligator Creek, west of the waterfront of Eagle’s Island.
The 10-person team is also responsible for managing over 50 conservation easements across the country and has 20 projects currently in development.
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