Trust fund authority approves new state parks projects

Merchants Millpond State Park Superintendent Jay Greenwood, right, gives authority members an overview of the park's history.
Merchants Millpond State Park Superintendent Jay Greenwood, right, gives authority members an overview of the park’s history.

The N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority approved $745,000 for capital projects in three state parks and the reallocation of funds to support land acquisitions. The board met March 15 at Merchants Millpond State Park in Gates County.

Authority members agreed to fund tent and boat-in camping facilities at Lake James State Park in Burke and McDowell Counties. The project includes the design of 35 tent-only campsites, a bathhouse serving the tent camping loop, a gravel access road and 30 primitive, boat-in campsites to be built by park staff along the shoreline.

The authority also provided funding for an exhibit pavilion at Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County and a master plan for the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, a continuous, off-road trail from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The trail is a unit of the state parks system, but on the ground it is a partnership among the towns, counties, federal and state landowners and volunteer groups along the trail route. The distance is approximately 1,000 miles, with 530 miles completed. Detailed planning is needed for the remaining 470 miles.

The board also approved land acquisition projects at Chimney Rock, Eno River, New River and Grandfather Mountain state parks.

Division Director Lewis Ledford provided an update on the state parks system’s efforts and the new leadership team in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He highlighted a recent conference held by Friends of State Parks, which brought support groups from across the state to focus on collaboration, fundraising and strategic planning. Ledford called it “a very successful meeting,” with representation from 30 local friends groups.

Linda Peterson of the Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. described recent partnership projects that benefitted several state parks. The nonprofit organization helps community groups and local governments in northeastern North Carolina develop projects that protect natural and human resources while promoting economic development. The council sponsored a project to build three raised camping platforms and three primitive campsites along Bennett’s Creek, which begins at the lower end of Merchants Millpond and meanders 22 miles to the Chowan River.

At the conclusion of meeting, Park Superintendent Jay Greenwood provided a description of the park and its history and took authority members on a canoe tour of the millpond.

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