The state parks system, and specifically Chimney Rock State Park, were recognized and played a role in the 2016 Land Trust Assembly and its attendant Legislative Lobby Day in Raleigh this week.
Chimney Rock State Park’s close work with local land trusts to grow and improve that park in the Hickory Nut Gorge resulted in its being named the State Government Conservation Partner of the Year.
And in the Legislative Building, state park rangers and education specialists staged an exhibit and talked about parks and the 2016 Centennial with legislators, staff, lobbyists and visitors.
The N.C. Land Trust Awards, sponsored by the state’s 24 local land trusts, are given annually to businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals who lead efforts to protect natural resources. The park was nominated by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina.
“Chimney Rock State Park contains habitat of national significance,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “We are so grateful to have a partner in the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation that understands the importance of active land management, particularly the control of invasive species for long-term habitat protection.”
The state park joined the conservancies on the inaugural steering committee of the Weed Action Coalition of the Hickory Nut Gorge in 2012. Since then, the partners have used the program to leverage state park funds for the treatment of non-native invasive species on nearly 300 acres in the park. One of the principal projects was using goats to control kudzu.
Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood said, “Our partnerships with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund have been so instrumental not only in purchasing and protecting land but assisting in active management of that land.”
The state parks exhibit near legislative offices was designed to be playful and featured an oversized s’more, kayaks, wildlife puppets, taxidermy and duck decoys floating in an indoor fountain. It was staffed by education manager Sean Higgins, education specialists Brittany Hurtado and Brian Bockhahn and Rangers Jessica Phillips and Michael Walker.
Along with legislators and staff, the exhibit was visited by Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Deputy Secretary Dr. Kevin Cherry and state parks Deputy Director Carol Tingley.