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Lake James State Park to Develop Master Plan for Former Crescent Property

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

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lake James State Park to Develop Master Plan for Former Crescent Property

RALEIGH -- Lake James State Park is beginning a long-range master planning process that will essentially be a blueprint for how 2,915 acres recently acquired from Crescent Resources Inc. is developed in coming decades, according to the NC Division of Parks and Recreation.

The master plan will take about a year to complete and the process will include an opportunity for the public to provide comments and recommendations. Two public workshops will be conducted in the Lake James area in Burke and McDowell counties in late spring.

LandDesign, a Charlotte planning and landscape architecture firm, will produce the master plan under an $86,000 contract with the state parks system with funding authorized by the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

"Development at each of our state parks is guided by a master plan, so this is a very important step," Lewis Ledford, director of the division, said. "This tract at Lake James is such an important addition to the state parks system that we are determined to proceed carefully and use the best planning methods available. What facilities we build in the expanded Lake James State Park will be there for a very long time."

An agreement was reached last summer for Crescent Resources Inc. to sell the land on the north shore of the lake to the state for $18.36 million. The acquisition, completed in January, expanded the state park to six times its former size and allows the conservation of more than 30 miles of lakeshore. The purchase was made possible through the use of certificates of participation backed by future revenues to the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Developing a master plan involves making critical decisions that will guide almost every aspect of development in a state park that already attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year. Some of the issues that the master plan will address include:

' Which areas of the Longarm peninsula and Paddy Creek watershed are suitable as sites for facilities and which areas should be left to nature.

' What types of recreational and educational facilities - such as visitor center, swim beaches, boating access, campgrounds, picnic areas and trails - will be provided.

' Where land and water access, road systems, maintenance compounds and other infrastructure will be located.

' How trails and overlooks can be configured to take advantage of scenic viewsheds and provide for greatest visitor enjoyment.

During the master planning process, LandDesign will consult with the park's staff and its citizens Park Advisory Committee as well as the division's planning, natural resource protection and park operations teams.

While the master planning process is getting under way and the park's boundaries are being firmly established, the former Crescent Resources property will not be accessible to the public. Park rangers will patrol the acreage, and all standard park regulations - such as those prohibiting hunting and the possession of firearms and alcohol -- will be enforced. Camping will not be permitted on the property.

In coming months, the division will assess whether interim facilities, such as parking areas, hiking trails and picnic areas can be constructed in the short term.

"We know that people in the region are anxious to begin enjoying this property and we're just as eager to begin incorporating it into the state park," Ledford said. "However, allowing public access would be unwise, during this interim period, before we can ensure outdoor recreational opportunities in a safe and healthy environment as well as protection of the natural resources on the property."