State parks projects get trust fund support

BURNSVILLE – The N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority allocated $8,944,597 for improvements and repairs in four state parks and for land acquisitions in seven state parks during its meeting Friday at Mount Mitchell State Park.

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State Parks Director Mike Murphy briefs authority members on legislative activity.

Authority members approved $700,000 for trail improvements at Chimney Rock State Park; $60,000 for design work on a planned family campground shower house at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park; $750,000 for dredging access to Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park, and $2,750,000 for wastewater system improvements at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.

The authority earmarked $4,484,597 to be used in the acquisition of 2,775 acres at Hammocks Beach, Hanging Rock, Carver Creek, Chimney Rock, Merchants Millpond, New River and Mount Mitchell state parks. The new park lands will protect natural resources, improve park access and management and provide land for new visitor facilities.

Tim Johnson, head of the Division of Parks and Recreation’s Grants and Outreach Program, told authority members the division has received 69 grant requests totaling $19,450,000 for local government parks and recreation projects. The estimated total amount available for local government projects is $6,772,204. Awarding the funds for both state park projects and local grants is contingent on passage of the 2016-17 state budget. An additional $3 million from the ConnectNC Bond will be available for local government projects to provide recreational facilities for disabled children and veterans. Grant applications for bond funding will be available in June.

Johnson also shared feedback on the scoring system used to rank local government projects the division received through surveys of parks and recreation directors and private consultants. He outlined the strengths and weaknesses identified in the survey for consideration if any changes should be made in the future.

At the start of the meeting, new PARTF authority member Chad Brown was sworn in.

In other business, Division Deputy Director Carol Tingley outlined plans and timetables for the projects identified in the $75 million ConnectNC bond initiative. Director Mike Murphy provided an update on division activities, and Bryan Wilder, Mount Mitchell State Park superintendent, provided a description of the extreme weather on Mount Mitchell.

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