Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County will expand with the addition of a former 4-H camp on 716 acres, following action by the N.C. General Assembly in its 2014 session.
Operations of the former Camp Sertoma 4-H Education Center, also known as the Vade Mecum Springs property with Moore Springs Campground, will be folded into those of the state park. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the N.C. Department of Administration to transfer the property for inclusion in the state parks system.
Vade Mecum Springs is a Stokes County landmark, having been developed in the 1890s as a resort. It was operated as a retreat and summer camp by the Episcopal Diocese and Easter Seals until its acquisition by North Carolina State University in 1981 for its 4-H program. (Sertoma clubs were directly involved with that acquisition.) The Vade Mecum facilities include a 398-acre campground complex with nine miles of mountain biking trails and access on the Dan River, a lodge, recreation hall, swimming pool, 13 cabins, equestrian barn and trails, chapel and athletic fields. The property is located about one-half mile northwest of the state park boundary across Moore Springs Road.
“The Vade Mecum Springs property is a tremendous recreational and educational asset and will give a new dimension to one of our oldest and most beloved state parks,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “In true North Carolina tradition, members of the community initiated and supported this addition to the park, and that interest and energy will allow the camp to continue to contribute to the fabric of the community and the economic health of the region.”
The Friends of Sauratown Mountains, which supports both Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain state parks, the Stokes County Board of Commissioners, the Stokes County Economic Development Commission, and other community leaders approached the state parks system about a potential transfer soon after a decision was made in late 2013 to close four of the state’s six 4-H camps, including Vade Mecum Springs. The group persuaded the local legislative delegation to introduce the transfer legislation.
In coming months, the state parks system will begin a detailed assessment of the property and its facilities and begin development of a long-range management plan for reopening those facilities that can contribute to the state park’s mission. Friends of Sauratown Mountains is developing volunteer resources to assist the state park.
The Vade Mecum Springs property has a long history. Entrepreneurs John Sparks and J. Cicero Tise developed Vade Mecum Springs at the turn of the 20th Century as a resort revolving around the healthful Moore Springs. Vade Mecum is Latin for “go with me,” and local history suggests the businessmen borrowed the name from a legend involving a Saura American Indian princess and her lover. In recent decades, nonprofit organizations relied on the camp for summer programs, and the state park often referred visitors to Moore Springs Campground when its campground was full.