Morrow Mountain Deer Translocation

Deer in box 2016 Deer on the qualla boundary 2 Deer under net Release of deer Released Deer tagged deer in snowBy Jay Greenwood, South District Superintendent

ALBEMARLE – Morrow Mountain State Park participated in a three-year project to relocate white-tailed deer from the park to reservation lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Partners in the initiative were the North Carolina State Parks, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, biologists from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management Program.

This effort was intended to benefit both sites. The reservation lands of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians would benefit from the release of white tailed deer. The Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management program has worked to protect the resources and have worked to restore native species to their region. These efforts will have lasting effects on their tribal community and on the region.  In turn, Morrow Mountain State Park could change the behavior of its deer population that have become habituated to its visitors.

Morrow Mountain State Park has an abundance of healthy native deer that could readily be identified and collected. The deer at Morrow Mountain state park had become habituated to human behavior. The deer in some areas were so tame they would approach visitors and eat from their hand.  This created an unnatural behavior for deer and also created a possibly dangerous situation for park visitors.

A 2013 herd health study by the state park and the Wildlife Resources Commission suggested that this project would benefit the herd and habitat at Morrow Mountain State Park. The relocation project was carried out under specialized scientific protocols developed by the Wildlife Resources Commission.

The agencies intended to augment the Cherokee reservation’s sparse population of white-tailed deer, an animal that figures prominently in Cherokee lore and cultural traditions. The deer were gradually released onto the 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary, in habitat improved for browsing and off-limits to hunting.

During this effort, 144 deer were relocated, primarily females in small family groups. Initial collections were in January 2014, with biologists using darts to tranquilize the animals, collecting data on age and health, and fitting each with a tag and radio collar. The deer were kept in a large pen on the reservation and closely monitored for about four weeks before they were released.

The effects on the population at Morrow Mountain State Park have been substantial. The parks deer population now acts like a wild population.  They will no longer approach visitors or eat directly from campsites.  This is a great benefit to the health of the population as well as the safety of our visitors.

A byproduct of the relocation project is a unique research opportunity that can offer insight into white-tailed deer health and best practices for rebuilding and sustaining healthy herds. This type of information will benefit wildlife management agencies as well as private, nonprofit groups involved in deer rehabilitation.

Many lessons can be learned over the next few years as the study continues of those deer released onto the reservation. However, we already have seen dramatic effects on deer behavior on the state park.  This was a very unique project that will hopefully benefit both sites far into the future.

LET’S CAMP AMERICA! all about building outdoor moments

Campers are often very passionate about their pastime, and for good reason. Camping is often the ultimate way to experience the outdoors, with opportunities to make memories, reconnect with family and with nature – and make use of all the cool gear found at outdoor retailers. So the latest initiative LET’S CAMP AMERICA!, announced today by the National Association of State Parks Directors (NASPD) should have plenty of fan appeal.

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According to the NASPD and its America’s State Parks affiliate, LET’S CAMP AMERICA! is a rededication to the love of the great outdoors and an all-inclusive invitation to experience and dedicate family time to camping in 2016. It’s about building outdoor moments in the 230,000 campsites and cabins in America’s 50 state parks systems, including more than 3,000 campsites in North Carolina.

LET’S CAMP AMERICA! will promote the first weekend in May and the last weekend in September as time set aside for camping. Many parks in the nation will hold special camping promotions on those weekends.

let'scamp 1“NASPD wants to turn that casual day-in-the-park into that weekend-in-the-park. We have the resources to help everyone feel vital and keep coming back,” said Lewis Ledford, NASPD executive director and the retired director of North Carolina’s state parks. “LET’S CAMP AMERICA! presents the vast outdoor experiences available across our 50 state parks system in a user-friendly format. It’s not lost on America’s State Parks that the park you find needs to be affordable, accessible and accommodating. State parks deliver this every day.”

“Looking ahead, LET’S CAMP AMERICA! has the potential to engage one million people camping in state parks at the same time on the first weekend in May and the last weekend in September,” he said.

Finding the science in and around state parks

The natural wonders of North Carolina’s state parks are even more spectacular when visitors discover the science in and around the parks. Part of the state parks 2016 Centennial celebration is a “high elevation” partnership with the North Carolina Science Festival going on now.

NCScienceFestival_logoCitizens worked to preserve Mount Mitchell as the first state park in 1916. They understood the science well enough to know that the unique alpine forest on the mountain needed protection. Since then, dozens of other parks have been championed by everyday folks who discover the science of these places enough to know how special they are.

The state parks partnership with the North Carolina Science Festival has been expanded with approximately 50 programs – beginning April 8 at 1:30 p.m. with a Statewide Star Party at William B. Umstead State Park and closing April 24 at 4:30 p.m. with an Emerging Spring Wildflower Walk at Grandfather Mountain State Park. Between those, there’ll be a Salamander Hike at South Mountains. S’More Science at Morrow Mountain and Swamp Life Discoveries at Goose Creek. Click here for a full list of programs.

science festivalThe NC Science Festival created great brochures for do-it-yourself science activities that park visitors can do at home or even in park campgrounds. Try activities such as searching for glowing spider eyes or observing marshmallow combustion for fun, outdoor science discovery. The list of do-it-yourself activities is found here.

Carvers Creek State Park has a ‘Blast from the Past’

cacr cent 2.jpgThe theme for Carvers Creek State Park’s 2016 Centennial event was “Blast from the Past.” That’s fitting since James Stillman Rockefeller, who built Long Valley Farm that makes up much of the park, lived to be 102 years old. Rockefeller bequeathed the Cumberland County farm to The Nature Conservancy, which in turn, gave it to the state parks system as a part of its newest state park. Tours of Rockefeller’s rustic country estate were a popular part of the day’s agenda along with a hayride, bluegrass music, visits with farm animals, crafts and fishing on the farm’s pond. Here is a photo gallery of the event; click any photo to begin.

Lumber River State Park expands by 1,054 acres with Trust for Public Land help

The Trust for Public Land has assisted Lumber River State Park in adding a 1,054-acre tract at its Princess Ann Access that will help protect water quality in the river and provide new recreation opportunities.

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Princess Ann Access at Lumber River State Park.

The conservation organization secured the land from Plum Creek Timber Co. last year, shortly before Plum Creek merged with Weyerhauser Inc. The property encompasses wetlands and sandy hills and has been a sought-after acquisition for the park for many years.

The $1.1 million project cost came from a combination of federal and state money. The N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund contributed $760,000, which was matched by $340,000 from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“The conservation of the Lumber River owes much to local citizens and conservation organizations that have assisted the state parks system in stewardship of this scenic resource, and this latest acquisition is an example of that assistance,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “This property will act as a buffer to protect water quality preserve wildlife habitat and offer more options for recreation in the state park.”

“North Carolina now has more than 10 million people and increasingly, they need places to get outdoors, get away from busy cities and towns, and enjoy nature. Our mission to protect land for people and this land is a perfect fit with that goal,” said Kent Whitehead, director of the Carolinas Office of The Trust for Public Land. “With the help of our supporters, we can do more work like this in the future.”

The Lumber River is a federally designated National Wild and Scenic River and the only blackwater river in North Carolina to have that designation. Lumber River State Park encompasses 11,259 acres at various locations along a 100-mile stretch of the river, offering 24 campsites and several boat and canoe launch points.

“The Lumber River State Park expansion joins a long list of Land and Water Conservation Fund success stories in North Carolina,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “LWCF makes it possible to give the incredible gift of conservation to future generations without relying on taxpayer funding. I’m thankful for the conservation advocates that fight to protect our natural treasures.”

“As a lifelong sportsman whose grandparents met as children playing on the banks of the Lumber River, I know how important it is to care for our environment and preserve our lands for future generations,” said U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. “I am thrilled that Lumber River State Park will continue to thrive and provide recreational opportunities for those in the Eighth District and across the state of North Carolina.”

Haw River State Park opens new access and trail

At its spring festival Saturday, Haw River State Park marked a major milestone in its development, opening the first public access outside of The Summit Environmental Education Center.

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The 3.2-mile Great Blue Heron Trail loops through the Iron Ore Belt Access

The Iron Ore Belt Access, off North Church Street north of NC 150, is the park’s initial development on a 692-acre property that was considered for a golf course community before it was acquired by the state parks system in 2008. The new access is just west of the environmental education complex, which is reserved for private retreats, conferences and training and is not open for public visitation on a regular basis.

The access offers a 0.75-mile roadway with bike lanes that leads to a trailhead with toilet facilities and parking for 29 vehicles. The 3.2-mile Great Blue Heron Trail, built by the park’s staff, loops through varied wildlife habitats and plant communities on property that includes headwaters of the Haw River. The park’s master plan calls for further development on the property, including camping facilities, picnic grounds and additional trails – amenities that will ultimately help support hikers on the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail. The opening is the first step toward realizing an ambitious master plan for the state park in northern Guilford and southern Rockingham counties.

The development represents a $1.7 million investment through the N.C. Park and Recreation Trust Fund. Stewart Engineering Inc. designed the project and general contractor was SIMCON Company LLC.

State parks planners began eyeing the property as a prime acquisition even before the park was authorized in 2003. Conservationists and park supporters in the community lobbied Guilford County government to use zoning tools to nudge the property toward state park ownership rather than commercial development. The state park now encompasses 1,379 acres.

Energetic egg hunt launches centennial event at Jones Lake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout 4,200 colored eggs were picked off the lawn of Jones Lake State Park within about three minutes Saturday as the community celebrated Easter and the 2016 Centennial of the state parks system.

The park’s centennial event incorporated a long-standing Easter egg tradition of the Bladen County park that has been a cherished part of the community since 1938. There were also crafts, energetic games, exhibits by the county’s emergency services and opportunities to just relax under the park’s live oaks and Spanish moss. Here’s a photo gallery of the event. Click any image to begin.