Tags: chimney rock
If you're looking for something a little bit different this weekend or next, there's the rock climbing Santa at Chimney Rock State Park.
St. Nick will be scaling western North Carolina's biggest chimney at 10 and 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. on December 3 and 10. There will also be live holiday music, hot cocoa and cookies, live animals and children's activities.
The holiday event is presented as part of normal admission to the park, a public/private partnership as the state takes control of 4,500 acres in Hickory Nut Gorge.
Several state parks and forests could close next year to save the state money toward the $3.5 billion budget shortfall projected for the 2011-12 fiscal year, The News & Observer said today. Other parks could be closed three days of the week.
The proposal calls for closing Mount Jefferson State Natural Area in Ashe County, Singletary Lake State Park in Bladen County, Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest in Wilkes County, and Turnbull Creek Educational State Forest in Bladen County.
Other state parks would close on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, except for Carolina Beach, Chimney Rock, Fort Macon, Haw River, Jockey's Ridge and Mount Mitchell, which have contracts requiring them to remain open, according to The N&O, and Hammocks Beach and Umstead, which are impractical to close.
"The proposals are just the first step in what is likely to be a long and winding political path as the Democratic governor considers her options and then the new Republican legislature enacts a budget, probably some time next summer," Rob Christensen writes for The N&O. "But the options are the clearest indications yet that the lives of millions of North Carolinians will likely be touched by a new wave of austerity in state government that has not been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s."
Singletary Lake State Park, which is set up as a camp for recognized nonprofit groups, has had 22,670 visitors this year through September, a 12 percent increase from last year, according to The Steward, the state parks' employee newsletter. Mount Jefferson State Natural Area's attendance figures, which are reported lumped with figures from New River State Park, show 291,012 visitors this year through September, up 30 percent from last year.
The Educational State Forests program is designed to teach the public - especially school children - about the forest environment with seven forests across the state that feature self-guided trails, exhibits, tree identification signs, a forest education center and a talking tree trail.
The park encompasses some 4,300 acres in the Hickory Nut Gorge area at Lake Lure, including the formerly private Chimney Rock Park tourist attraction.
Nearly 200 people, most of them from the area, attended the day-long public planning session in Lake Lure.
The article describes three types of development plans:
- The “conservation-focused” alternative, which considers protection of eight significant natural heritage areas to be paramount and would allow limited public access. "It includes about 10 miles of hiking trails, two new day use areas, and a visitor center near Lake Lure, but otherwise, very little development outside of the existing Chimney Rock access."
- The “low impact recreation” alternative proposes using only previously disturbed areas for future park development. It would establish a visitor center at “the Meadows,” which is at the lower elevation of the existing Chimney Rock Park and would serve as a hub opening to an extensive network of trails and backcountry camping options on the gorge’s south side. The park would have three day use areas leading to mountain biking, climbing and additional hiking trails, with two of these on the north side of Hickory Nut Gorge.
- The “intensive recreation and use” plan calls for a visitor center on the summit of Chimney Rock Mountain above the developed area, in an abandoned 25-acre orchard. It would be a hub for backcountry and tent/trailer camping, picnicking and hiking. There would be five day use areas on the north and south sides of the gorge with access to camping, mountain biking, climbing, equestrian and hiking opportunities. A secondary visitor center and satellite park administrative offices would be built on the Rumbling Bald Mountain access area – property now under the protection of The Nature Conservancy.
The intensive recreation plan would require either access to the visitor center from the side of the park farthest from the Lake Lure area or construction of a "very expensive" road through the eastern area of the park.
Chuck Flink, president of Greenways Inc., the Durham-based environmental planning and landscape architecture firm responsible for completing the plan this year, said it’s highly likely the final master plan proposal will be a hybrid that sifts the best ideas from all three versions, the article says.
The public comment period for development of the Chimney Rock State Park master plan closed June 23, the Greenways site says.