LandTrust for Central North Carolina transfers high-value property to Morrow Mountain

The LandTrust for Central North Carolina has transferred a unique five-acre property to Morrow Mountain State Park for the perpetual protection of a unique and nationally significant hillside seepage bog. This globally rare habitat is home to a rare plant and a variety of wildlife.

momo land1“The LandTrust is thrilled to transfer this small but important property to Morrow Mountain State Park,” said Executive Director Travis Morehead. “The unique natural area, wildlife habitat, and scenic views from atop this property are special features that merit permanent protection.”

Wildlife such as deer and turkey are found in the mature hardwood forest on the property, and it is home to a rare plant, the crested coralroot. The large rocks and boulders are habitat for timber rattlesnake, a state endangered species. The property will also add to the recreation, research, and education opportunities at the state park.

“We first began working to save this special piece of property more than eight years ago,” said Crystal Cockman land protection director. “It is very rewarding to see this naturally significant property finally become a part of Morrow Mountain State Park.”

“This five acres on Biles Mountain in northeast Stanly County is within a registered Significant Natural Heritage Area and is considered nationally significant due to its natural communities, rare plant and animal populations, and because its geologic features are among the highest quality in the nation,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Davidson. “Morrow Mountain State Park is fortunate to have such great support from The LandTrust for Central NC, the Friends of Morrow Mountain, and many others in the local community who stepped up and got involved to help purchase and transfer this land to the park to ensure it is now permanently protected.”

In addition to the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, The Cannon Foundation and the Stanly County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau contributed financially to the project.

momo land2The Friends of Morrow Mountain State Park were supportive of this transfer as well. “It is very important to protect and expand the boundaries of Morrow Mountain State Park so that the long range viewshed from atop Morrow Mountain remains natural and scenic,” says John Young of Friends of Morrow Mountain State Park.

“This property transfer echoes the same community support that established Morrow Mountain as North Carolina’s third state park in 1935 following an initial 1,800 acres of land donations made by local citizens, land protection groups, and community supporters,” Davidson said. “This new property will bring the park to 4,747 acres, with the majority of the land being donated throughout the park’s 81 year history.”

Piedmont Land Conservancy secures critical property for Mayo River State Park

Mayo River State Park will be expanded by 354 acres – including 3.6 miles of river frontage – thanks to a land acquisition arranged by Piedmont Land Conservancy and Duke Energy that was announced Thursday. The property is critical for development of the state park and offers much-needed river access for paddling and fishing.

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The property acquisition will allow more opportunities for paddling and fishing.

Piedmont Land Conservancy has pledged to make the property near the Town of Mayodan part of the 2,187-acre park in Rockingham County. Duke Energy provided $1.1 million to help the non-profit conservancy acquire the land as part of Duke Energy’s efforts to mitigate recreational losses in the Dan River basin following a coal ash spill near Eden two years ago. Locally known as the Trust Property, the land is in two parcels.

Created in 2003, Mayo River State Park was envisioned as a riverine park in the style of New River, Eno River and Lumber River state parks. The ultimate goal is to allow visitors to experience the entire length of the river from the Virginia state line to its confluence with the Dan River. The park is headquartered at the site of the former Mayo Park near Mayodan, built as a recreation site by Washington Mills in the 1940s. The park also has a presence on the river at the Virginia state line.


This new acquisition will allow for river access and recreation facilities between those two anchor points within a 12-mile river corridor. At Highway NC 770’s bridge across the Mayo River, the property offers frontage on both riverbanks.

The acquisition was announced at a small ceremony at the NC 770 bridge by officials from North Carolina State Parks, the conservancy and Duke Energy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“In 2015, Piedmont Land Conservancy celebrated our 25th anniversary, and this property is one that we’ve hoped to acquire from the very beginning,” said Kevin Redding, the conservancy’s executive director. “Given the property’s fascinating history and the miles of river frontage along the Mayo, this acquisition will provide a major boost to the growing recreational opportunities at Mayo River State Park.”

The conservancy has been active in the development of both Mayo River and Haw River state parks, identifying potential acquisitions and negotiating with landowners. It provided the first property acquired for Haw River State Park soon after that park was authorized in 2001.

Mike Murphy, state parks director, said. “To develop any great state park, we need partners and friends connected by a common vision and a commitment to protect a region’s special places. Piedmont Land Conservancy has stepped up as a critical partner in this region, and its dedication and tenacity are to be applauded.”

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Hanging Rock opens new accessible picnic shelter

Hanging Rock State Park has opened a new 1,440-square-foot picnic shelter near its swimming lake and bathhouse that’s accessible to visitors with disabilities.

The shelter complex is a result of a partnership with ACCESS North Carolina, a state program established to provide funding for accessibility projects at tourism-related venues. The $290,000 project also includes an accessible, paved walkway from the parking area and shelter to the lake and bathhouse and eventually will include four outdoor, accessible picnic sites.

haro_shelterThe shelter offers 10 picnic tables, four of which are specially built to allow accessibility to persons with disabilities. Its design by architect Edwin Bouldin of Winston-Salem, using massive timbers and stonework, complements the park’s older shelters and other structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

“This shelter complex is a tremendous addition to one of our oldest and most popular state parks,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “We are grateful to ACCESS North Carolina and the state’s accessibility community, not only for helping with projects such as this in our state parks system, but also for keeping us informed of accessibility issues.”

“Picnicking is a popular activity at Hanging Rock State Park, and this will give visitors with mobility disabilities, their family members and travel companions accessible picnic opportunities and a chance to experience a beautiful lake view surrounded by nature,” said Philip Woodward, former ACCESS specialist currently with the N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Hanging Rock State Park was created in 1935 and now encompasses 7,869 acres. It recorded visitation of 596,819 in 2015.

Hanging Rock State Park welcomes 136 new Junior Rangers to celebrate 100 years

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHanging Rock State Park’s goal was to train 100 new Junior Rangers to commemorate the 100th birthday of North Carolina State Parks.

The park easily surpassed that mark, welcoming 136 new Junior Rangers to the ranks, teaching them about stewardship of the natural resources, how to find nature’s secrets in the forest, state parks history and the finer points of a ranger’s duties.

Superintendent Robin Riddlebarger and the park’s staff cycled the candidates through learning stations. For a stewardship project, the youngsters helped fill landscaping steps with soil, forming a bucket brigade. Then, Mike Murphy, state parks director, swore them in with the oath and presented each with a Hanging Rock State Park Junior Ranger patch and certificate.

Learn more about the Junior Ranger program here. And, enjoy this photo gallery of the Centennial event. Click any photo to enlarge and navigate through the gallery.

Exhibit showcases rangers’ photos

There’s an old saying in the state parks that rangers are paid partially in sunsets. There’s enough truth in it that many rangers are inspired to keep cameras handy for those quiet moments before the gates open, after visitors leave or on patrols in the backcountry.

photo exhibit 1A new photographic exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History “See the Parks from Our Eyes” showcases some of the landscapes, plants and critters that rangers encounter in their work. A digital display allows visitors to explore each state park through the eyes of rangers and other employees of North Carolina State Parks. It follows a popular exhibit staged last year at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences called “I Spy with my Park Ranger Eye.”

In a nod to the North Carolina State Parks Centennial in 2016, there’s also a large display of historic photos of some of the parks. The exhibit is on the museum’s third floor and will be displayed until January.

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Exploring the mystique of Grandfather Mountain


Grandfather Mountain is not so much a landform as it is a massive eminence in the central Blue Ridge, with its sprawling flanks rising from deep within the culture, history and mystique of western North Carolina.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuch a definitive landmark in the state and the state parks system deserves a definitive tome, and a just-released book, Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, by Randy Johnson is just that. The author has prowled Grandfather’s slopes since the 1970s, working for a time as its backcountry manager. He’s currently a member of the Grandfather Mountain State Park Advisory Committee.

No detail is too insignificant or overlooked for this sprawling natural and cultural history – from Grandfather’s geological birth millennia ago to its elevation as a state park in 2009, when the 2,600-acre backcountry was separated in deed from the famed tourist attraction built by Hugh Morton and purchased by the state. Along this journey, Johnson stops at such cultural cairns as Tweetsie Railroad, the Scotland-inspired Invershiel resort and the den of Mildred the Bear.

Included are the stories of early exploration, Grandfather’s rough-hewn trail system and Morton’s dogged battle with the National Park Service over the route of the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as practical guides on how to hike the mountain and how to photograph it. For fans of Grandfather – and they are legion – more than 200 historical photos and stunning landscapes dress the book like rime ice on the summit.

In the 100-year history of North Carolina State Parks, few accomplishments have drawn as much applause as the acquisition of Grandfather Mountain. Johnson’s book goes a long way toward explaining why.

20-mile segment of Mountains-to-Sea State Trail opens

North Carolina State Parks officials joined Carolina Mountain Club volunteers on National Trails Day Saturday to formally open a new 20-mile segment of the Mountains-to-Sea (MST) State Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway and extending into the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Cherokee Reservation.

After much planning, work on the segment began in 2006, and more than 250 club members in multiple crews contributed almost 25,000 volunteer hours during some 250 workdays. The new trail section begins on the Blue Ridge Parkway, travels down BIA 407 for four miles and then back along the parkway for 16 miles to Balsam Gap.

mst dedicationThe opening of the MST segment brings closer the completion of a 30-mile gap. Once this gap is filled, there will be a 300-mile continuous section of the trail from Clingmans Dome to Stone Mountain State Park. The National Park Service is working on completing the final seven-mile section.

Touching upon North Carolina’s highest elevation at Mount Mitchell State Park and sea level at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, more than 600 miles of the MST are open as off-road trail. Along its planned path, the MST passes through more than 30 counties, numerous small towns, three national parks, several national forests and national wildlife refuges, state parks and larger towns and cities.