ATLANTIC BEACH – In the last five years, the North Carolina state parks system has grown by 15,326 acres, according toa wide-ranging and long-term report on the system by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The system, which now has 74 managed units, continues to draw visitors at a faster pace than the state’s population growth, Brian Strong, the division’s chief of planning and natural resources, told members of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority at its meeting Friday at Fort Macon State Park.
Strong reviewed the Systemwide Plan for State Parks, which includes descriptions of recent accomplishments, the state of the system, resource evaluation, trends affecting outdoor recreation and strategic directions for the state parks system. The plan is updated every five years in accordance with the State Parks Act. The systemwide plan can be found here.
Building upon the information outlined in the systemwide plan, Deputy Director Carol Tingley, described plans and priorities for the state parks, state trails and natural areas added to the system in recent years.
In other business, Division Director Mike Murphy provided authority members updates on the ConnectNC Bond initiative, outreach efforts and special events planned as part of the North Carolina State Parks Centennial Celebration and Division of Parks and Recreation activities since their most recent meeting in December.
Tim Johnson, head of grants and special studies, shared plans for a survey to gather local government feedback on proposed changes to the trust fund’s scoring system for local parks and recreation grant projects and provided a preliminary outline of how the $3 million included for PARTF projects in the ConnectNC Bond initiative would be administered.
According to the bond legislation, eligible projects will include construction of special facilities or adaptation of existing facilities. Projects must meet the unique needs of children or veterans with physical and developmental disabilities, and enable them to participate in recreation and sporting activities regardless of their abilities.
At the outset of the meeting, Lewis Ledford, former state parks director and current executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors, was sworn in as the newest member of the trust fund authority.
Following the meeting, the Fort Macon State Park Superintendent Randy Newman gave a tour of the fort and its exhibits.
The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund provides dollar-for-dollar matching grants to local governments for parks and recreational projects to serve the public. It 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.