Pilot Mountain State Park provided the scenery and Gov. Pat McCrory provided the strong argument Thursday for supporting the Connect NC bond package that includes $67.3 million for state parks.
On a visit to the iconic mountain, McCrory said the state parks system’s 2016 centennial gives North Carolinians a chance to honor its founders by “pushing forward” with the proposal that will finance projects in 28 state parks. The first step in that process is to convince the N.C General Assembly that a bond referendum should be put before voters in November, he said.
“Our state parks system is a major reason businesses and people relocate to North Carolina and a point of pride for those of us who call North Carolina home,” McCrory said. “The Connect NC bond proposal will address critical needs throughout the parks and improve the quality of life for everyone in the state.
The Connect NC proposal encompasses two bond issues totaling $2.85 billion for transportation and other infrastructure such as state parks, state historic sites and North Carolina’s zoo. McCrory’s team on the visit included Transportation Secretary Tony Tata, State Budget Director Lee Roberts, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Donald van der Vaart and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Klutz.
Roberts told state park supporters that the bond projects reflect strategic priorities and are tailored to different areas of the state. “We’re not doing anything extravagant. We’re just trying to keep with the necessary maintenance,” he said.
McCrory noted that the state parks system now serves more than 15 million visitors each year – including about 400,000 at Pilot Mountain – and that the demand for more park facilities will only grow with added population. The bond package includes almost $6 million for a visitor center and related facilities at Pilot Mountain. Across the system, the bonds would include funding for other visitor centers, trail development, campground and access improvements, day use areas and land acquisitions. The parks’ modern visitor centers are designed to green building standards and offer classrooms, exhibits and other educational features.
Connect NC projects will benefit every community across the state while creating thousands of jobs along the way. Because of the state’s fiscal strength and strong balance sheet, no tax increase is needed to fund the bonds and the state’s AAA bond rating would be preserved.