Trust fund authority reviews statewide parks and recreation needs

TROUTMAN – North Carolina’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) for 2015 has received widespread public interest and involvement as the state has compiled information for the five-year planning document, according to state park officials.

Tim Johnson, head of grants and special studies for the state parks system, describes a statewide outdoor recreation plan for authority members.
Tim Johnson, head of grants and special studies, describes a statewide outdoor recreation plan for authority members.

“The SCORP provides a framework for addressing issues, needs and opportunities related to improving outdoor recreation,” Tim Johnson, head of grants and special studies for the Division of Parks and Recreation, said at a meeting of the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority March 27 at Lake Norman State Park.

The meeting was held in the park’s new visitor center. A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility is tentatively scheduled for April 23.

Johnson said the SCORP, which is under final review, is required under the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Program. LWCF, which sunsets this year unless Congress acts to extend the program, has provided $80 million for more than 900 state and local projects since 1965. Staff provided the boards with information about efforts under way in support of preserving LWCF.

Johnson also told board members local governments have submitted 69 grant applications requesting $13.1 million from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund during this year’s local grants cycle. The board will consider the applications after the state’s budget is approved later this year.

In other news, Brian Strong, the division’s chief of planning and natural resources, said the master plan for the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail is nearing completion. The 1,000-mile trail corridor will ultimately link Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. Nearly two thirds of the cross-state route has been completed as a continuous, off-road trail experience, offering opportunities for hiking, biking and horseback riding through some of North Carolina’s most scenic landscapes. Where the trail has not yet been completed, detours along secondary roads allow ambitious hikers to complete the trek.

“We need strong partners and a strong plan with some flexibility as we continue to move forward with this very ambitious effort,” Strong said.

The completed master plan will chart a path toward official designation of remaining portions by setting priorities for completing trail sub-sections. It will also unify regional planning efforts, identify potential new partners and funding strategies, and establish guidelines for signs and publicity.

The PARTF trustees also learned about the purpose and history of the state’s Recreation Resources Service, which provides assistance to public and private segments of the leisure service industry within North Carolina, including municipal and county park and recreation departments, nonprofit agencies, private recreation agencies, recreation consumer groups, and recreation and park board and commission members.

RRS, the nation’s oldest technical assistance program for parks and recreation agencies, provides technical assistance, applied research, and continuing education for the state, RRS Director Pete Armstrong said. Services are provided through a partnership of the Division of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management at N.C. State University.

Mike Murphy, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation, provided board members with updates on the 2015 General Assembly, division activities and plans for the state parks system’s 100th anniversary in 2016.

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