Documentary celebrates state parks for 2016 centennial

After nearly a year of intense videography – and decades spent visiting state parks – Tom Earnhardt is unveiling a new, hour-long documentary celebrating the centennial celebration of North Carolina’s state parks system. Saving The Best will air at 8 p.m. Jan. 27 on UNC-TV and will likely be shown several more times during 2016 as well as holding a place on UNC-TV’s website.

Tom Earnhardt, left, gives directions to the Southern String Band at Pilot Mountain State Park.

Visits to state parks have long been a staple of Earnhardt’s Exploring North Carolina segments on UNC-TV. That background and his commitment to a larger centennial project drew the interest of the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU), which financed the effort. Earlier this week, SECU Board of Directors member David King gathered with Mike Murphy, state parks director, Earnhardt, the video crew and state parks staff to preview promotional spots that will appear in coming weeks.

“This film is a terrific story about North Carolina; it’s about who we are and where we came from. It’s also about the people who make our parks run, probably the most dedicated people as servants in our parks system, an extraordinary group of stewards,” Earnhardt said. “The goal of this program is to excite the people of North Carolina about the parks system and to educate them about the great efforts of those who work in the parks.”

SECU’s King said, “This documentary is a wonderful way to preserve and share the historical, educational and economic value of our parks, reaching into the depth of the land and our natural resources to bring awareness to our great heritage. State Employees’ Credit Union is extremely proud to be a behind-the-scenes partner.”

Earnhardt teamed with videographers and co-producers Mark Crews and Tucker Hayes to visit each of the 41 state parks at least once, often bringing out a new drone to capture stunning aerial footage of the parks’ landscapes. A high point came in October when the Southern String Band performed for the crew on a rocky ledge at Pilot Mountain State Park to supply the soundtrack.

Videographers Mark Crews and Tucker Hayes launch a drone for aerial shots.

Earnhardt said that excerpts from Saving The Best will be adapted for educational purposes in the parks and school systems. And, the documentary will have a long shelf life since centennial events will be held at every state park during the year.

Murphy said, “Tom Earnhardt has been a trusted friend of state parks for many years, and his partnership with the State Employees’ Credit Union has resulted in an outstanding study of the history, beauty and commitment to conservation on display in our state parks every day.”

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