Crowders Mountain State Park in Gaston County has been named the North Carolina 2013 Park of the Year by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The park was chosen for its “exemplary contribution to the North Carolina state parks mission of stewardship, public service and education,” and specifically recognized for initiatives in natural resource management, volunteerism and expanded recreation opportunities
“Crowders Mountain has developed into one of our busiest state parks with more than 300,000 visitors each year, yet the staff has found time to develop new ideas in recreation, protection of natural resources and involvement with the community,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “This exemplary performance led to its selection as Park of the Year.”
During the year, Crowders Mountain arranged regular volunteer workdays to expand its 20-mile system of hiking trails, enlarged and improved a popular family campground and safely hosted about 10,000 rock climbers. Its central parking area was doubled in size, yet consistently fills on weekends. The park developed aggressive plans to remove invasive species and schedule prescribed burns, and partnered with nearby Belmont Abbey College to complete a comprehensive plant survey.
The state parks system began choosing a Park of the Year in 2010 with nominations from each of four districts. Each of 40 state parks and recreation areas submits an annual report that is objectively scored on progress in recreation, natural resource protection, sustainability, public safety and environmental education. Final judging is by senior and peer administrators. To honor the Park of the Year, a medallion is attached to a hiking staff that is passed to the current award recipient each year. Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County was honored in 2012.
Crowders Mountain State Park was authorized in 1971 following a citizen-led campaign to protect the Crowders and Pinnacle summits from mining, and is under the direction of Superintendent Larry Hyde. The park encompasses 5,126 acres and reported 321,448 visitors in 2012.