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Expanded Lake James State Park Guided by New Master Plan

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

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Expanded Lake James State Park Guided by New Master Plan

RALEIGH --The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation has adopted a sweeping master plan for 2,915 acres added to Lake James State Park that calls for an array of camping options, vacation cabins, a visitor center, community building, fishing and boating opportunities and an extensive network of hiking and biking trails.

The N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority allocated $5.1 million Oct. 19 to complete funding for the first phase of park development to include a bathhouse and 700-foot-long swim beach, picnic grounds and infrastructure on the property acquired from Crescent Resources Inc. in 2004. That acquisition expanded the park to six times its former size and allowed the conservation of more than 24 miles of shoreline on the 6,500-acre lake in Burke and McDowell counties.

"When the state parks system and its partners first considered acquiring this property from Crescent Resources, we saw the potential for creating a world class state park at Lake James, and we now begin the realization of that vision," said Lewis Ledford, director of the division. "This master plan gives us a thoughtful and realistic blueprint for success, and the support of the General Assembly and the trust fund gives us the means."

The total cost of the first development phase is estimated at $7.6 million. The authority had earlier set aside $2.5 million for design and initial construction using certificates of deposit backed by trust fund revenues. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2007.

The process of rewriting the master plan for Lake James State Park began in early 2005 by LandDesign of Charlotte and included public meetings and a lengthy public comment period. The long-term master plans for state parks guide facility development and land acquisition.

For planning purposes, the property on Lake James' north shore is divided into three sections: the Paddy Creek peninsula to the southwest; a center parcel of watershed area; and the Long Arm peninsula, a steep and heavily wooded ridge that overlooks the Linville Gorge area to the northeast. Most park facilities will be located on the 1,000-acre Paddy Creek peninsula, which offers the largest concentration of developable land. The main entrance to those facilities will be from NC 126 north of Nebo in Burke County.

A two-mile, paved entrance road will lead to a facilities complex that will ultimately include a visitor center, community building, swim beach area, maintenance compound, picnic grounds, boating and fishing access and separate campgrounds for RVs and trailers, for tent camping and for group camping. The master plan also calls for primitive, "hike-in" campsites as well as boat-in campsites on the Long Arm peninsula.

In addition, the plan calls for 14 vacation cabins near the center of the facilities complex. These will be similar to cabins at Morrow Mountain and Hanging Rock state parks.

A second entrance from NC 126 onto the 1,300-acre Long Arm peninsula will lead to trailhead parking as well as a tent-only campground, "hike-in" campsites and a network of multi-use trails for hiking and biking. This entrance will also provide access to Crescent Resources property that is considered a future site for a commercial lodge and conference center. An 80-acre parcel at the tip of Long Arm peninsula will be reserved for hiking and primitive camping.

Despite the size of the former Crescent Resources property, facility development will be limited to a relatively small area. About 1,300 acres must be reserved for riparian buffer to protect water quality, and some of the remaining acreage has slopes of 15 percent or more.

"As at all state parks, we must balance recreational opportunities with responsible stewardship of the land. LandDesign and state parks planners have gone to great lengths to plan for responsible development that won't harm the resource in any way," Ledford said.

As development progresses, the state park's management center will shift from the current park offices to the north shore property. The park, dedicated in 1987, has 690 acres on the lake's south shore.