North Carolina’s state parks system units serve the state’s citizens in many ways. They preserve splendid scenic landmarks that help define the character of North Carolina. They provide refuge for many plant animal species that are declining as North Carolina urbanizes. They offer refreshing and healthful outdoor recreation of a type that generally cannot be provided by private enterprises. They provide educational and research opportunities for North Carolina’s children, students and scientists.
All of these services depend on an adequate land base for the parks. Park boundaries should encompass and buffer the park’s major natural and cultural resources, and should contain enough relatively flat, well drained land for construction of park facilities. Including appropriate lands within the park boundaries can also protect watersheds that drain into park streams and lakes, and can protect scenic views that make the parks particularly pleasing to visitors.
What We Do
Land protection/acquisition activities are within the planning program and include development and implementation of land protection plans and land acquisition projects. This includes writing grant proposals for the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition projects. Land protection/acquisition staff also manage the resulting land acquisition projects from meeting the landowners to notifying the park staff the property is now part of the park. Staff also work with the State Property Office to resolve encroachments on the park land and easement requests. Assessment of potential new units of the state parks system is also a duty of the land staff.
Ongoing planning efforts result in recent updates to the boundaries of most of the parks to better address resource protection and facility needs. In some cases, new natural heritage inventories have identified lands that should be protected adjacent to the parks. In other cases, master plans have been expanded to provide land more suitable for development of park facilities, to more effectively buffer park resources and activities from incompatible activities on adjacent lands, or to tie an existing park to other conservation lands for a creation of a larger protected complex. Nearly half of the units on the system are smaller than 2,000 acres and 25 of the units are larger than 3,000 acres. As a result, activities on the landscape beyond park boundaries increasingly affect the ecological integrity of the parks. A long range goal in park protection is to maintain the ecological viability of the parks by encouraging the environmental compatibility of activities on surrounding lands.
Pete Colwell, Land Protection Specialist
N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation
MSC 1615 Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1615