Gov. Pat McCrory, the family of the late Park Superintendent Casey Rhinehart and more than 100 park supporters and officials together dedicated a new visitor center and district office Thursday at Lake Norman State Park.
The completion of the 11,000-square-foot facility and adjacent amenities, under the guidance of Rhinehart and Ranger Jarid Church, is a benchmark in the park’s history and an example of sustainable development, designed to national green building standards. The project represents an investment of $4.3 million from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
Before cutting a ribbon with Rhinehart’s family to open the facility, Gov. McCrory said it also represents an improvement in infrastructure such as those he seeks in a pair of proposed bond referendums now before the General Assembly. Investment in state parks – proposed at $67 million within the total $2.85 billion – are an important part of the bond package, he said.
“These parks give access for all citizens to these beautiful places,” McCrory said. “The parks need to expand and be exposed to all income levels so that all can enjoy the best of North Carolina.”
The role of state parks as contributors to quality of life and to local economies was a common theme for the event’s speakers, including Jeff Archer, a parks advisory committee member and owner of a local bike shop, David Pearson, executive director of Friends of State Parks, and W.E. “Bill” Russell, president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.
Russell commented, “What do parks and recreation have to do with business? I’d say ‘everything.’ If it’s not going to be a great place to live, it’s not going to be a great place to work.”
Mike Murphy, state parks director, said the visitor center as a place to educate is a tribute to Rhinehart, who died Feb. 25 of cancer after serving as superintendent at the park for 11 years. “He wanted to have a place to serve visitors and to teach about stewardship,” Murphy said.
Gov. McCrory presented a plaque honoring Rhinehart’s service to his wife Jill, children Kinsey and Nick and parents Bill and Scarlett Rhinehart, and then invited them to help him officially open the facility.
Similar to visitor centers built at 22 state parks and state recreation areas since 1994, the Lake Norman facility offers an architectural design styled to its lakeside setting, classrooms and interior and exterior exhibits. A paved exhibits trail leading to lake viewing platforms and a renovated picnic shelter and picnic grounds are fully accessible.
The visitor center is built to gold-level standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program of the U.S. Green Building Council. A few of the features that will contribute to certification include active and passive solar energy systems, geothermal HVAC systems, natural lighting, water-saving fixtures and natural landscaping. The structure was designed by Architectural Design Studio PA of Asheville, and the general contractor was Southern Constructors Inc. of Mooresville.