The story of Southern Pines — and much of Moore County — these last few years has been the white-hot home construction market and lack of available land.

And so when the owner of more than 150 acres of it decided recently she was ready to sell, you’d think the outcome would be foretold. Surely we’d see more majestic longleaf pines come crashing down to make way for more faux cottages.

Barbara Sherman had another vision, though. And it is through that vision — and the goal of owners before her — that Southern Pines will get 157 acres of additional open space and nature trails for future generations to enjoy.

The Southern Pines Town Council, making one of its most important acquisitions in years, agreed earlier this month to pay $1.6 million for the property known as the Whitehall Tract. Located off Pee Dee Road and abutting the town’s stellar Reservoir Park, the land is home to protected wildlife species like the red-cockaded woodpecker and gorgeous longleaf pines that Sherman, a retired N.C. State veterinarian, spent years restoring. She used prescribed burns to encourage the natural biodiversity of the Sandhills to flourish.

“Developers have called. I wasn’t sure if I could work this out, but my dream was to have the town buy it,” Sherman said. “Isn’t it wonderful when your dreams come true?”

“Wonderful” about covers it. This land has long been appreciated for what it is. Before Sherman bought it in 1999, it was under the protection of David Drexel and his family.

Cassie Drexel said her family could not be more pleased with the deal Sherman struck with the town.

“We know our father is looking down and so happy. He has always just loved that land. This would make his heart sing to know it will be taken care of and not developed,” she said, “that it will always be a wonderful place for people to enjoy.”

Portions of the land are under a conservation easement, but other parts could have been developed. Southern Pines, in particular, has seen land values soar in recent years with new commercial and subdivision development interests flooding the market.

Southern Pines, through Drexel’s vision and Sherman’s continued stewardship and action, has added a valuable asset to its books.

“I’ve had so many phone calls from long-term residents who are so excited,” said Mayor Carol Haney. “So many are thrilled that this is what we are doing with it. It took a while, but it worked. This to me is a really exciting project.”

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