Category: State Parks
Fort Macon State Park, home to the Civil War fortress located near Atlantic Beach, installed two new replica cannons this week, bringing to three the number of guns built for the park in a partnership between the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation and Wayne County Community College.
"The cannons will be star attractions later this month when the fort holds several events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Macon, when Union forces took the fort," the Carteret County News-Times said Wednesday.
The cannons, known as "32-pounders" because of the size of the shell they fire, are 20-foot-long, 4,200-pound replica weapons made with aluminum carriages instead of wooden bases, which quickly rot in the salted sea air. The first of three made was acquired in December 2010, and the park demonstrated its first working cannon the following month.
Commemorative events on April 21 and 22 will include a night cannonade at 8 p.m. Saturday re-enacting the continuous artillery fire that dispersed Federal soldiers who had been spotted on the beach, the News-Times said.
The cannons will be fired again at 10 a.m. on April 23 and 24, then at 4 p.m. on April 25, which is the actual anniversary of the Battle of Fort Macon.
Weekend events will also include flag talks, Civil War music, Civil War uniform talks, musket firing demonstrations, drills and children's activities put on by reenactors portraying soldiers of the North and South, according to the parks Web page (search with "April 2012" here for an event schedule).
The North Carolina state parks' automated reservation system is undergoing an upgrade and will be down until March 21, a news release says.
During the two weeks of downtime, walk-in reservations at individual state parks will be accepted for access to campsites, picnic shelters and other amenities. If you made reservation for a time between March 7 and 21 before the system was taken offline, it will be honored.
Like always, reservations are not required if campsites are available when campers show up.
The work being done is described as "a major upgrade of the Internet- and call center-based service" introduced in 2009.
The reservation system provides guaranteed access to 3,000 campsites and other visitor facilities in 39 state parks and state recreation areas. A $3 surcharge for each reservation or night’s stay pays for the automated system.
A study by a General Assembly committee suggests that the state could save more than $2 million annually by closing state parks during the winter and closing other state-supported attractions all together.
The study by the Program Evaluation Division (.pdf) for the North Carolina General Assembly was received by a legislative oversight committee and sent to a subcommittee for further examination, WRAL reported Tuesday.
The legislature ordered the study last year to determine whether the state could save money by consolidating administration "and to suggest optimal operating schedules for sites," a cover letter with the study says.
The review included sites administered by the Department of Cultural Resources (23 state historic sites, nine museums, and three commissions) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (39 state parks and recreation areas, three aquariums, Jennette's Pier, the North Carolina Zoological Park, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the North Carolina Museum of Forestry).
The study calls for DENR to record daily visitation at all of its parks and recreation areas, and to use this data to determine the impact of closing December through February. “The Program Evaluation Division estimated the state could save $2.4 million by closing all state parks and recreation areas for three months during the winter season, but the division determined it was premature to recommend that level of closure without daily visitation data,” it says.
The study’s other recommendations include:
• Adopting a five-day schedule for seven historic sites and closing two: the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City and the CSS Neuse/Richard Caswell Memorial in Kinston. On a cost-per-visitor basis, they are among the system’s most expensive to operate.
• Privatizing the N.C. Zoo and aquariums, and developing or expanding private-public partnerships or private sponsorships for other sites.
• Consolidating management of sites in close proximity to each other, such as Singletary Lake State Park and the undeveloped Bay Tree Lake State Park in Bladen County, and at Bennett Place, Duke Homestead, and Historic Stagville in Durham County.
• Increasing admission fees or eliminating fee discounts (such as for senior citizens) at the zoo and aquariums.
In letters attached to the report, officials from DENR and Cultural Resources dispute some of the study's findings, downplay projected savings and reject the study’s recommendations.
Lewis Ledford, director of the state Division of Parks and Recreation, told WRAL that most state parks aren't designed to keep people out, and trying to close them for the winter could pose safety and security risks for people and the facilities.
Officials with both agencies point out that in some rural areas, the state sites are the only recreational attractions available to residents.
The controlled fire is to cover a 155-acre area near the public entrance to the RV campsites and shoreline at the Vista Point Access.
"Some plant communities and animal species rely on periodic fire for their existence," a state parks news release says. "The prescribed burn will also reduce the amount of potential wildfire fuel. The prescribed burn will help protect the park’s resources and neighboring landowners if lightning, arson or carelessness spark a wildfire."
The fire will be set when weather conditions make it safe. Monitor the state parks website page for Jordan Lake (through the link above) or our Twitter feed, @NCOutdoorsGuide, for notice of the burn.
Vista Point, one of five campgrounds at Jordan Lake, has 50 group camping sites for RVs and five group camping sites for tents. Vista Point is off of U.S. 64 and North Pea Ridge Road north of Pittsboro.
The burn in 2.5 acres containing the Schweinitz's sunflower is scheduled for this winter or early spring, as weather permits.
The Schweinitz's sunflower is endemic to the Piedmont of North and South Carolina, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It is a perennial herb that grows from 1 to 2 meters tall from a cluster of tuberous roots (see below).
Regular fire cycles are necessary for the flower to survive, the state parks news release says, and the burn is to remove competing Virginia pines and other shrubby vegetation shading the sunflowers.
Schweinitz's sunflower (Helianthus schweinitzii)
North Carolina's state parks had a banner year in 2011, recording 14.25 million visits, which matches the all-time record set in 2009 and slightly exceeds the 14.19 million park visits in 2010, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation said in a news release today.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County had the highest attendance last year at 1.32 million visits, which was actually a bit fewer than 2010's 1.47 million.
Among 39 state parks and state recreation areas, 15 reported increases in attendance in 2011.
Parks with significant increases in visitation include Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County (34 percent), Elk Knob State Park in Watauga County (50 percent), Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County (26 percent), Kerr Lake State Recreation Area in Vance County (24 percent) and Medoc Mountain State Park in Halifax County (31 percent).
Several parks with new or improved amenities opening last year saw big jumps in attendance. A new 700-foot swim beach and picnic area at Lake James State Park opened for its first full season, and the park saw a 70 percent jump in visitation. A renovated marina opened at Carolina Beach State Park, a new equestrian trail network opened at Medoc Mountain and a number of hiking trails, including a volunteer-built summit trail, opened at Elk Knob.
Full attendance figures are available here.
Bridle trails at Morrow Mountain State Park are to be closed for "several months" this year for rehabilitation and rerouting, the state parks system said today.
About two miles of trail in three segments among the 16-mile equestrian trail network will be re-routed because they are unstable and cannot be properly maintained, a news release says. The trail system will grow by nearly a mile in the process.
Also, two trailheads will be consolidated into a single access point for all equestrians.
Work could begin by mid-February and, once it is complete, the trails will remain closed for several weeks for the trails to compact and harden.
The release further explains that, once they're renovated, bridle trails at Morrow Mountain will begin to operate under an inclement weather policy that closes them during ran and snow and keeps them closed afterward until they can be checked for damage.
The inclement weather policy is already followed at several other state parks, the release says. Notice of opening and closings will be posted to the park's page on the state parks website, as well as to the site's "alerts" page (see here).
Update: The burn is to be conducted on 600 acres near the park’s northern boundary and adjoining Alcoa property, a news release posted Thursday says. Once a day is selected, the burn will begin in the late morning and will end by late afternoon.
State Parks officials announced a prescribed burn at Morrow Mountain State Park that will close several sites and trails in the park's Fall Mountain area sometime between January 4 and 13.
On the day of the burn, the park will close the the boathouse and boat ramp areas, the group campground, the lower picnic area with Shelters B and C, the Kron House reconstruction site, and the Long Loop of the Bridle Trail, the Fall Mountain Trail, Three Rivers Trail and Quarry Trail.
The weather will determine the precise date of the burn, and closures won't be confirmed until the day they commence. Notice of the burn was on the park system's alert page as well as the Morrow Mountain page.
The alert advises checking the website or phoning the park at 704-982-4402 during the indicated week before going to the park.
The alert does not indicate the size of the burn nor how long the affected areas will remain closed.
North Carolina's State Parks are initiating a new tradition for New Year’s Day by offering ranger- and volunteer-led First Day Hikes at 28 state parks across the state.
First Day Hikes is a national effort by America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors to "promote a healthy lifestyle as well as appreciation of natural resources," a news release from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says.
All of North Carolina's state parks and state recreation areas will be open on New Year's Day. Find First Day Hikes by searching "Fun and Free Programs at Parks" under the Education tab on the state parks website.
First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts, according to America’s State Parks, and this will be the first time all 50 state park systems have joined to sponsor First Day Hikes.
The state's purchase of land around Rumbling Bald Mountain will expand Chimney Rock State Park by more than 20 percent, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.
The N.C. Council of State agreed Tuesday to pay the Nature Conservancy $4.2 million for 1,222 acres at Rumbling Bald, which is just north of Chimney Rock in the Hickory Nut Gorge.
The tract includes Rumbling Bald Mountain, with its a massive rock face visible from Lake Lure, steep cliffs, granite domes and a mature hickory forest, Nature Conservancy in North Carolina spokesman Debbie Crane told the newspaper.
The state established Chimney Rock State Park in 2007 after buying the Rutherford County tourist attraction from private owners in 2005, and has continued to add adjacent land to it. The park now comprises more than 5,700 acres.
The master plan for Chimney Rock State Park calls for development of three day use areas in phases over the next 20 years. The Rumbling Bald area, which is popular with rock climbers, is to be developed in phase three.