RALEIGH --State natural areas at Dismal Swamp in Camden County and Elk Knob in Watauga County have been re-designated as state parks as a result of legislative action by the 2007 General Assembly, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
Alterations to the State Nature and Historic Preserve Act also changed the name of Hickory Nut Gorge State Park in Rutherford County to Chimney Rock State Park.
The changes better reflect the status of those units of the state parks system, said Lewis Ledford, director of the division.
?Dismal Swamp at 14,344 acres and Elk Knob at 2,316 acres are certainly of sufficient size to be state parks, and they are likely to develop in such a way that suits state park status,? Ledford said. ?In the case of Chimney Rock, it is traditional for our state parks to be named after a dominant natural feature, and our acquisition of Chimney Rock earlier this year made the name change practical.?
The General Assembly authorized a state park at Hickory Nut Gorge in 2005. Chimney Rock Park, with its signature 315-foot rock spire, is among a number of land acquisitions there. The park was formerly a privately owned attraction and maintains its presence as a popular visitor destination under a contract held by Chimney Rock Company Management LLC.
Dismal Swamp was created as a state natural area in 1974 with the help of The Nature Conservancy. It will soon be open to the public with a new visitor center, exhibit hall and hiking trails.
Elk Knob became a unit of the state parks system in 2002 after the 5,520-foot summit was acquired in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Other tracts in Watauga and Ashe counties have since been added to the park, and interim visitor facilities are being built.
State parks and state natural areas are sometimes managed in similar fashion. But, the broad category of state natural areas includes some tracts not suitable for traditional state park facilities because of their fragile natural resources or because they are too small for development. There are now 33 state parks, three of which remain under development and not open to the public. There are 17 state natural areas and four state recreation areas.
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