Carvers Creek State Park in Cumberland County, North Carolina’s newest state park, will open its gates to the public Monday, inviting North Carolinians to enjoy hiking, picnicking, fishing and interpretive programs at interim facilities at its historic Long Valley Farm access.
Carvers Creek becomes the 42nd state park unit open to the public. Those include 36 state parks, four state recreation areas and two publicly available state natural areas (among a total 20 state natural areas). Authorized by the legislature in 2005 as part of the division’s New Parks for a New Century initiative, Carvers Creek encompasses 4,332 acres in two principal parcels. It is the eighth state park opened since 2001.
“Carvers Creek State Park opens with tremendous strengths, combining significant natural resources, such as longleaf pine forests, with the impressive cultural resources of a historic estate,” said Lewis Ledford, division director. “We’re excited about the continued development of this state park for recreation, conservation and education and its long-range potential in a dynamic and fast-growing region of the state.”
Carvers Creek was created in close partnership with The Nature Conservancy, which donated the 1,420-acre Long Valley Farm and aided in the acquisition of important tracts in the park’s nearby Sandhills area adjoining the U.S. Army military installation at Fort Bragg. The conservancy gradually closed out a working farm operation at the site and turned the tract over to the state parks system in 2010 after an intensive longleaf pine planting effort and a stream restoration project.
A 2012 master plan for the state park directs that the 2,912-acre Sandhills area will ultimately be the site for a visitor center, camping and other park amenities, but that much of the property, with its fragile ecosystem, will be preserved in its natural state.
Long Valley Farm was originally the estate of James Stillman Rockefeller, who bequeathed it to The Nature Conservancy upon his death in 2004. It was once part of the Rockefeller family’s larger Overhills estate. At the site, traditional state park facilities such as hiking trails, picnic grounds, fishing areas and a ranger contact station have been integrated among the historic structures. The estate’s residence, built in 1939, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is complemented by a large pavilion, a 100-acre lake, a small mill/power plant and numerous agricultural outbuildings. Some of these buildings will eventually be renovated and opened to the public to interpret the land’s agricultural history that dates to the mid-1800s.
In addition to stands of longleaf pine, the farm is home to federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, fox squirrels and carnivorous pitcher plants. The interim facilities at the park represent an investment of $756,000 from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. In addition, the park has held a series of volunteer workdays to get people in the community involved in its development.
The four-person staff at Carvers Creek State Park is under the direction of Superintendent Jane Conolly. The park will be open daily except for Christmas Day, and hours during the fall season are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The park is located off East Manchester Road, just east of Spring Lake.