A bill under consideration by the N.C. General Assembly would authorize a new state park in southeastern North Carolina and three new state natural areas.
Black River State Park is proposed in House Bill 353 within Sampson, Bladen and Pender Counties along the slow-moving river channel that presents some of the oldest trees in the eastern U.S. within its cypress groves. The Nature Conservancy now owns much of the 2,600 acres that could be acquired for a state park, having purchased the property in the 1990s to protect the cypress.
Authorization by the legislature is the first step in creating a new state park or state natural area. It allows the Division of Parks and Recreation to purchase or accept donation of property for that purpose. The General Assembly is not being asked for funding through the legislation. Funding would be sought through the state Parks and Recreation and Clean Water Management trust funds and perhaps the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The three proposed state natural areas would also be created with help from conservation organizations. State natural areas differ from state parks in that they’re more directly focused on protecting areas of scientific and ecological value. They sometimes offer more limited recreation such as trails, educational activities and low-impact recreation.
The three proposed state natural areas are:
- Bob’s Pocket State Natural Area, McDowell County. About 2,900 acres could be acquired with the help of The Foothills Conservancy. The site has forested connections into the South Mountains and could offer trail connections to nearby areas.
- Warwick Mill Bay State Natural Area, Robeson County. About 1,000 acres could be acquired with the help of Audubon North Carolina and The Conservation Fund. The Carolina bay offers high-quality breeding habitat for many species of waterbirds.
- Salmon Creek State Natural Area, Bertie County. About 1,000 acres could be acquired with the help of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. The property covers an American Indian occupation site that has yielded artifacts that may be linked to the “Lost Colony,” as well as 18 identified archaeological sites, including remains of the plantation house of colonial governor Thomas Pollock.
The Bob’s Pocket and Salmon Creek units would be managed by staff from nearby state parks, and Audubon North Carolina has offered to help manage Warwick Mill Bay. The funding needed for initial land acquisitions is estimated at between $3.88 million and $5.78 million.