Grandfather Mountain and its surrounding foothills have been the backdrop for childhood experiences and family memories for Tom and Katherine Bunn.
But in recent years, the couple has decided to place an increased focus on the mountain by supporting the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
“We were reconnected to the park through the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation … and we became increasingly aware of the difference between the foundation and the state park,” Tom Bunn said. “The more we learned about it, the more we felt like we needed to support it.”
As native North Carolinians, the couple frequented the North Carolina mountains throughout their childhoods. Tom’s parents possessed an innate love for the outdoors and often chose to spend their summer vacations in the cool mountain air when other families would head east for the beach.
Katherine recalled fond childhood memories of spending her summers in Montreat, N.C. Later in life, the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show would bring her family back to the area year after year. She had family connections to Linville, which increased her awareness of Grandfather Mountain and the nature park.
For Tom, his first experiences at Grandfather Mountain began during one of those summer trips he took with his family. As the youngest of three boys, he vividly recalled one trip in particular when he and his family ventured across the original Mile High Swinging Bridge back when a strong gust of wind would cause it to sway back and forth much more freely than it does today.
Over the years, the mountain has expanded its work in the areas of conservation, education and environmental protection. Tom has always loved the outdoors, and his conservation interests grew through his involvement with The Nature Conservancy, where he served first on the Ohio board and more recently on the North Carolina board.
Now, Tom and Katherine are supporting the efforts to expand and deepen educational experiences offered on the mountain through a new Conservation Campus, of which the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery is a central part.
“I love that Grandfather Mountain is combining things that we are passionate about: the outdoors, giving people access to it, education,” Katherine said. “We think these resources are more and more precious, and it makes sense to support the foundation.”
“We’re both very passionate about giving kids as much opportunity to learn as possible and letting them experience things we took for granted growing up,” Tom said. “We know how fortunate we are to live in a place that people travel thousands of miles to see, whether it’s the Linn Cove Viaduct, the Mile High Swinging Bridge or this whole area. Improving access for younger people in North Carolina is important to us, whether it’s supporting childhood education in Charlotte or conservation projects in North Carolina. This a combination of those two.”
About the Wilson Center
The Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, named after benefactors Bob and Susan Wilson, will nearly double the size of Grandfather Mountain’s current Nature Museum, featuring new, state-of-the-art museum exhibits, event space, educational classrooms, a catering kitchen, an outdoor learning space, amphitheater, botanical gardens and more.
The Wilson Center is set to open in early summer 2022. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com/wilson-center.
The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or click here to plan a trip.