Authority approves land acquisition, critical maintenance projects for parks

ASHEBORO – The N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority approved $2.4 million for critical repair and renovation projects and $1.5 million for land acquisitions at several state parks and natural areas.

The authority, which met Thursday at the North Carolina Zoological Park’s Schindler Wildlife Learning Center, also approved $1.48 million to go toward remaining acquisition costs of mainland property at Hammocks Beach State Park and $1.55 million for constructing a much-needed parking lot for trail access at Grandfather Mountain State Park.

NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund met at the N.C. Zoological Park.
NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority met at the N.C. Zoological Park.

In April, the state announced the phased in acquisition of a 289-acre mainland addition to Hammocks Beach State Park. The waterfront tract on Queen’s Creek has long been identified as a critical need for the state park for traditional park facilities and to enhance protection of water quality, subaquatic vegetation and scenic assets on the creek. Prior to this acquisition, the park included only 30 mainland acres.

The land acquisition allocations approved by the authority will be combined with other funding sources to purchase 1,387 acres at Bullhead Mountain State Natural Area and Lake James, Chimney Rock, Elk Knob, New River and Lumber River state parks.

Maintenance and repair funds will be used for systemwide major maintenance and trails work, building demolitions, elevator repairs at Chimney Rock State Park, toilet building renovations at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and channel dredging for ferry access at Hammocks Beach State Park. The funding for the projects is contingent upon the inclusion of PARTF funding and approval of the state’s budget by the General Assembly.

In other business, the authority began the review process for the local parks and recreation grant side of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The Division of Parks and Recreation has received 69 applications requesting $13 million, according to Tim Johnson, chief of the Grants and Special Studies Section, who said the amount of funds available for the grants has not been determined.

PARTF is the primary source of funding to build and renovate facilities in the state parks as well as to buy land for new and existing parks. The PARTF program also provides dollar-for-dollar grants to local governments. Recipients use the grants to acquire land and/or to develop parks and recreational projects that serve the general public.

Mike Murphy, division director, provided authority members with an update on the 2015 legislative session, summarized the division’s activities in preparation for the North Carolina state parks system’s Centennial Celebration in 2016 and outlined Gov. Pat McCrory’s ConnectNC bond initiative and efforts to educate citizens about the initiative and the state’s infrastructure needs. The ConnectNC initiative would earmark $67.3 million for projects in 28 state parks.

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