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Development of Expanded Lake James State Park Set to Begin

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Michael F. Easley, Governor
William G. Ross, Jr., Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Monday, February 27, 2006

Development of Expanded Lake James State Park Set to Begin

RALEIGH -- The state parks system is entering the design phase of recreation facilities on newly acquired property at Lake James State Park, to be known as West End Development, Phase I.

Infrastructure such as roads and utilities as well as recreation facilities, including a swim beach, bathhouse and picnic grounds will be included in plans for initial development on a 2,915-acre tract purchased from Crescent Resources Inc, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. Financing for the construction was approved in October by the N.C. Parks and Recreation Authority.

"A design team is being formed for this project and we're anxious to get started," said Lewis Ledford, director of the division. "The citizens in that region worked long and tirelessly to help expand Lake James State Park with a stunning piece of property, and the community deserves a world class state park in a reasonable time. We're optimistic that construction can begin this year."

The state and Crescent Resources reached agreement in 2004 to add the land to the state park for $18.36 million, well below its appraised value. The acquisition expanded the park to six times its former size and allows the conservation of more than 30 miles of shoreline on the 6,500-acre lake in Burke and McDowell counties. The purchase was made possible through the use of certificates of participation, financing instruments similar to bonds that are to be guaranteed with future revenues to the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The N.C. General Assembly's authorization for the certificates also allows them to be used to finance some capital improvements. In October, the Parks and Recreation Authority approved the issuance of $2.5 million in certificates for the design and partial construction of the West End Development, Phase I. The total cost of this initial development phase is estimated at $7.6 million, with future funding expected from annual revenues of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

Initial construction will take place in the western portion of the former Crescent Resources property near NC 126 and Paddy's Creek. Phase I development will include a two-mile-long, paved entrance road from NC 126, a temporary ranger contact station, picnic grounds with two picnic shelters and toilets, a bathhouse and a 700-foot-wide swim beach. This development will also be supported by underground utilities, a maintenance compound and two parking areas with a combined capacity of 590 vehicles.

An improved swim beach was one of the recreation amenities most often requested during public meetings last year when area residents were asked for ideas about an expanded state park. More than 380,000 visitors came to Lake James State Park in 2005 and, due to overcrowding, many were turned away from the existing swim beach and parking areas on weekends and holidays.

To prepare for construction on the former Crescent Resources property, the division in coming months will conduct an environmental assessment of the project and a comprehensive archaeological review in order to comply with state standards on protection of the property's natural and cultural resources. And, designs for the facilities will be submitted to the Office of State Construction, the Department of Insurance and other regulatory agencies for review.