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Master Plan Updated for South Mountains State Park

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

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Master Plan Updated for South Mountains State Park

RALEIGH --The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation has updated a broad master plan for South Mountains State Park that will guide development of new facilities, including a residential environmental education center as the centerpiece of a new gateway at the park's western edge.

The plan for the 17,832-acre state park in Burke County, the state's largest, also calls for expanding camping and day use facilities, upgrading the park's popular equestrian center and trails system and universal design features to serve special needs populations at the planned environmental education center, dormitory-style cabins and a dining hall.

The original master plan was written in 1979 when the park was about half its current size. Most of the land added since that time is near U.S. 64 and west of a mountain ridge that bisects the park.

In 2000, the N.C. Department of Agriculture transferred the 2,556-acre Broughton Watershed to the park. In 2003, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services dedicated 450 acres to the park and pledged to help create an environmental education center that would serve all citizens, but offer state-of-the-art accessibility features for special needs populations.

'The growth of South Mountains State Park presents challenges but also creates exciting opportunities,' said Lewis Ledford, division director. 'This master plan will allow the park to develop its potential as a place where all citizens can connect with the natural world in very special ways and where some of the region's most stunning natural resources are protected.'

The master plan was prepared by Swanson and Associates, P.A. of Carrboro with input from the division's planning staff and from the park staff as well as from citizens through a public meeting and written comments.

For planning purposes, the park was divided into three distinct sections. The Jacob Fork section in the east is where all existing park facilities are located, including a new visitor center. The Clear Creek section near U.S. 64 is the planned site of the environmental education center and related facilities. The Henry's Fork section in the park's interior will be left largely undisturbed.

Much of the park's interior is a dedicated nature preserve with extremely rugged terrain. Planners were intent on keeping new facilities near the park's boundaries and maintaining a backcountry experience in the interior with trails and primitive campsites.

The master plan calls for the campus of the environmental education center in the Clear Creek section to include picnic grounds, an interpretive hiking trail, fishing and boating piers on a 20-acre lake, open play fields, an amphitheater, group campsites, cabins and a dining hall.

In the Jacob's Fork section, tent and trailer camping will be expanded and improvements will be made to an equestrian center. The park's maintenance compound will also be moved and expanded.