Burnsville, NC native Rex Coble and his wife Shawanda have made NC history by opening Coble’s Landing’s nature preserve. Coble's Landing is the only Black-owned private nature preserve in the southeast and second on the entire East coast.
The 25 acres of land is owned by the husband and wife team in Polkton, NC, the hometown of Rex and his maternal family. The Coble's, who have two children, have always participated in outdoor leisure such as camping, 4wheelers, and hiking; but during COVID, they increased their enjoyment of the outdoors for family morale.
As they spent more time outdoors, they noticed the disparities among treatment and the basic feeling of being welcome in the outdoor leisure space when it came to people of color. Rex accounts for times when he and his family were asked to leave certain parks or offered less than adequate camping spaces. After hearing similar stories from other families, the Coble's decided to create a safe space for POC who wanted to enjoy the outdoors for leisure, holistic practices, ceremonies, etc.
Fancy: When did your love for nature begin?
Rex: I am a native of Burnsville, NC, a rural area about an hour outside of Charlotte, NC. I grew up in nature, spending time with my family and friends outside hiking, camping, fishing, riding the four-wheelers, etc. This was our way of life, spending time in nature and getting close to your definition of peace. I introduced my kids to the outdoors because I didn't want them to be so dependent on outside influences. When you have a relationship with nature, you can find ways to look within and center yourself, whether it's from a hike or just meditation in the woods. It provides a positive and holistic outlet that you can't get anywhere else.
Fancy: What inspired Coble’s Landing?
Rex: I am a barber by trade and owned a shop, and during COVID, I was forced to shut down, so this left me with a little more time to spend at home and with my family. I began spending more time around where I was born and noticed that the land was for sale. It was land that my family had owned in the late 1800s, and it just felt right to get that back and create a space for people of color to be able to experience. I saw an opportunity to create something that would impact our people and community for generations.
Fancy: How long have you been in business? What does a typical workday look like for you all?
Rex: We officially launched in November of 2020, and it's been a continuous process since day one. A workday can look like our family cutting trees and clearing land, helping build new structures, running power lines, setting up for events, or even saging the area to make sure the energy is right and everyone who visits feels welcome. It's never typical but definitely aids in the progress to make it to the goal of what we want Coble's Landing to be.
Fancy: How did it make you feel when you were asked to leave certain camping sites basically because you are Black?
Rex: Yes, the scrutiny that our family, like many Black families, face just walking down the street or going into public places can be traumatizing. Imagine that in the woods! I didn't want my children or other families of color to miss out on the experience of the outdoors because of fear. I also didn't want non-people of color to miss out on the opportunity to see inclusion and understand that we can create this space for ourselves and be welcoming because the outdoors is an all-encompassing space.
Fancy: What’s your favorite family outdoor activity?
Rex: We love it all, riding ATVs, hiking, camping, even being able just to be silent and reflect. This land is for POC to feel comfortable doing traditional ceremonies, rites of passage, or just regular family activities for which they would get scrutinized or kicked out of other places.
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