Reduced Camping Fees Offered

North Carolina state parks have embarked on a new pricing system for campsite rentals, facilities, and for special activity permits, which are issued for organized events, non-traditional activities and other commercial and non-commercial enterprises.

The system, known as dynamic pricing, is based upon supply and demand use patterns and current leisure, recreation and travel fee strategies. It was authorized by the 2015 General Assembly.

Dynamic Pricing will be implemented in several phases. A component of dynamic pricing will be simplified pricing and fee collection for group campsites – by charging a flat rate rather than a per-camper fee – so groups can better plan for fees regardless of attendance.

As part of our Centennial Celebration in 2016, we are hoping people from across the state take the time to visit some relatively undiscovered parks at off-peak times. To encourage that behavior, weekday camping in our state parks are now being offered at a special promotional rate, which will save our visitors a couple of bucks each night of camping. You can reserve your campsite at http://www.ncparks.gov/make-a-reservation

The fee for special activity permits is also changing. Until recently, the Division of Parks and Recreation was only authorized to charge a flat fee of $35 for any activity requiring a special activity permit, regardless of the impact on park staff, the park’s natural resource and potential impact to park operations.

The new pricing system allows the fee to be commensurate with the amount of disruption, consumptive or cumulative use of park facilities and resources, redirection of staff resources, or private financial gain using publicly owned facilities and property.

The state park system has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of North Carolina for adequate financial return for the use of public resources for private financial gain and the new pricing system will help us do that.

The new pricing structure is designed to assess a more appropriate fee based upon the activity to be conducted. In other words, the greater the impact, the greater the fee.

 

Volunteers help restore Atlantic white cedar forest in Dismal Swamp State Park

More than 40 volunteers worked to restore native habitat in Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County by planting 3,000 Atlantic white cedar seedlings during a three-day project in late April and early May.

The restoration effort began in 2013 and has been co-sponsored by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, which helped obtain the trees raised by the N.C. Forest Service. Since 2013, 16,000 seedlings have been planted in the park, and the initial planting included 10,000 trees in an area heavily damaged by Hurricane Isabel and subsequently burned in a forest fire. Those have taken hold and are growing, helping to store floodwaters, protect against drought and improve water quality.

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Mature stand of Atlantic white cedar.

The volunteers included members of Friends of Dismal Swamp State Park, the local Cub Scout Pack 158 and community residents. The group also involved more than 30 members of the U.S. Navy Search and Rescue Unit Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 from Norfolk, Va.

Atlantic white cedar – also known as juniper, southern white cedar and swamp cedar – was once a dominant feature of the Great Dismal Swamp and other forested wetlands of the Albemarle-Pamlico region. Though now recognized as ecologically valuable, the species was historically used for shingles, boats and siding, and extensive logging, draining and clearing for agriculture led to its decline from coverage of more than 200,000 acres in the late 1890s to less than 10,000 acres today. Cedar forests support rich ecosystems, numerous songbirds and the rare Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly.

Dismal Swamp State Park, encompassing 14,432 acres of the larger Great Dismal Swamp, is one of only a few places where visitors can experience the swamp and view an Atlantic white cedar forest. The swamp is a unique feature of the 28,000-square-mile area that drains into the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. The estuary partnership has also been involved in restoration of the important peatland hydrology in the park with partners The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Remember Centennial visits in 2016 with state parks passport

Over the years, many people have taken on the challenge of visiting every state park, but bragging rights to that accomplishment have been difficult to back up until now with the introduction of the North Carolina State Parks Passport.

PrintIn celebration of our 2016 Centennial, the passport program allows outdoor lovers to carry a keepsake passport to be stamped at any of the 41 states parks visited. For a limited time, the passport is free and every visitor completing the challenge will get a Centennial prize pack. The more state parks you visit and stamps you collect, the more prizes you can earn.

There are other simple requirements, so be sure to read complete details about the passport program to be found here.

PrintIf you can’t get to a park right away, you can also get a passport from our online store. Just for fun, many of our parks are offering stickers at interpretive programs and special events, which can also be placed into the passport. If you have kids, consider helping them earn Junior Ranger patches at the parks you visit. Complete details on the Junior Ranger program are found here.

Pettigrew wetlands get recognition

The soggy-bottom wetlands of the world have long gotten a bad rap, having been considered “just in the way” and impediments to progress.

pett wetlands 2A new organization, the Carolina Wetlands Association, is out to change that and this month selected a shoreline at Pettigrew State Park as one of the first Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas. The 550 acres of unique wetlands along the north shore of Lake Phelps, North Carolina’s second largest natural lake, offers cypress and willow forest, a rare natural community found on bay lakes and an area of mature lakeshore swamp. The site contains one of the last old growth forests in eastern North Carolina, including some bald cypress trees 10 feet in diameter.

Amin Davis, the organization’s outreach coordinator, said the program “seeks to recast wetlands in a way that increases public awareness and appreciation of wetlands and to generate community pride…” for areas that are nurseries for aquatic life, support a stunning array of bird, plant and animal life and are beautiful in their own way. In the case of Lake Phelps, the designated area is also part of the red wolf reintroduction program.

The organization led a field trip onto the Lake Phelps shoreline at Pettigrew on Saturday and presented Park Superintendent Charles “Steve” Rogers with a plaque recognizing the designation.

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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.