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Authorization Bill for Grandfather Mountain State Park Submitted

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Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor
Dee Freeman, Secretary

Release Note: 
Immediate
Contact: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Phone: 
919-218-4622

Authorization Bill for Grandfather Mountain State Park Submitted

RALEIGH -- Bills to formally authorize Grandfather Mountain State Park, setting the stage for creation of North Carolina's newest state park alongside the famous attraction, have been introduced in both houses of the N.C. General Assembly, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Approval would formally name the new state park and allow the state parks system to designate as parkland 2,456 acres to be purchased from the Morton family. Primary sponsors of Senate Bill 89 are senators Joe Sam Queen of Haywood County, Steve Goss of Watauga County and Jim Jacumin of Burke County. Primary sponsors of House Bill 128 are Representatives Phillip Frye of Mitchell County, Edgar V. Starnes of Caldwell County and Cullie M. Tarleton of Watauga County.

An agreement for the state to purchase the undeveloped, backcountry portion of Grandfather Mountain was announced in September. Funding for the $12 million acquisition will come equally from the Parks and Recreation and Natural Heritage trust funds.

'Along with approval of the purchase by the Council of State and the formal closing, this is a benchmark in the creation of what will become one of North Carolina's signature state parks, and we're grateful for such broad legislative support,' said Lewis Ledford, director of state parks.

'We have been meeting regularly with Crae Morton and other officials of Grandfather Mountain Inc. to finalize a plan for management of this property and its 12 miles of trails during the transition.'

The heirs of company founder Hugh Morton continue to operate the travel destination with its nature center, wildlife habitats and 'mile-high' swinging bridge on a paid admission basis. The acquisition agreement gives the state a conservation easement on that 749 acres of the original property.

The acquisition was arranged in 2008 with the help of The Conservation Fund and one of its directors, Mike Leonard, and The Nature Conservancy, which holds conservation easements on the mountain and surrounding properties totaling close to 4,000 acres. The property lies in Watauga, Avery and Caldwell counties, and contains the headwaters of both the Watauga and Linville Rivers. Developed as an attraction by Hugh Morton in the 1950s, it boasts 73 rare species and is distinguished by the 5,946-foot Calloway Peak.