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Jones Presented President's Award from State Parks Group

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

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Sunday, December 17, 2006

Jones Presented President's Award from State Parks Group

RALEIGH -- Susie Hamrick Jones, executive director of The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, was presented the 2006 President's Award of the National Association of State Park Directors Sunday (Dec. 17) for her contributions to conservation and to the development of state parks in western North Carolina. Lewis Ledford, director of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation presented the award to Jones during the dedication of a new visitor center at South Mountains State Park in Burke County.

The association offers the award annually to an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution at the state, regional or national level to furthering the goal of a national system of state parks.

"Susie has been directly involved in significant expansions at South Mountains and Lake James state parks and is at the forefront of support for a new park under development at Hickory Nut Gorge. She has been a tireless advocate and friend of North Carolina's state parks for many years," Ledford said. "Her passion and perseverance have led to the conservation of tens of thousands of acres in the Blue Ridge foothills."

Jones, who lives in Burke County, helped found the South Mountains Coalition in 1994 with the intent of helping the state park grow, and in 1997, the organization changed to The Foothills Conservancy with an expanded mission of protecting an eight-county area that includes the headwaters of the Catawba, Yadkin and Broad rivers.

Since that time, the organization has been directly involved in the conservation of about 40,000 acres in the Blue Ridge foothills region, including 21,000 acres that was added to South Mountains State Park and nearby state gamelands.

Jones was instrumental in forging an agreement in 2003 creating the opportunity for the State of North Carolina to purchase 2,915 acres from Crescent Resources Inc. to add to Lake James State Park. The acquisition protects more than 24 miles of shoreline on the lake and expands the park to six times its former size. She encouraged Crescent and Burke County government to develop a long-range development plan for the Lake James region that seeks to balance conservation and development goals.

The conservancy has also helped to protect another 5,000 acres north of the park near the Linville River gorge.

"The National Association of State Park Directors recognizes the essential contributions made to our nation's system of parks by volunteers, friends organizations and allied conservation organizations. Susie and The Foothills Conservancy represent the very finest of these citizen efforts," said Charles Salkin, president of the organization and director of Delaware's state parks system. "Not only can the people of North Carolina be proud of Susie's dedication to them, but all Americans benefit from her advocacy and successes."