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South Mountains State Park to Dedicate New Visitor Center

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

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

South Mountains State Park to Dedicate New Visitor Center

RALEIGH -- A new 7,500-square-foot visitor center at South Mountains State Park in Burke County will be formally dedicated Dec. 17 by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.


The 2 p.m. ceremony is open to the public and will celebrate an important milestone in the history of North Carolina's largest state park.

The project represents an investment of $2.9 million, funded by the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, which in turn, is supported by the state's tax on real estate deed transfers. It is the principal funding source for land acquisition and capital improvements in the state parks system.

"Nearly 200,000 visitors make their way into this stunning state park each year, and this facility will add to their experience," said Lewis Ledford, director of the division. "Beyond being a focal point for the park and a gathering place for visitors, the visitor center will serve an important educational role as an integrated exhibit hall is completed that will explore and interpret the rich natural and cultural resources of the region."

Museum-quality exhibits in that portion of the visitor center are expected to be completed in mid-2007 and will be augmented by the center's teaching auditorium, laboratory/classroom and staff offices. The South Mountains project is the latest in a program to equip state parks with modern visitor centers and exhibit halls, begun in the mid-1990s when the trust fund was established.

The site of the visitor center near the park's main entrance has a history in education. Nearby on the knoll, the one-room, log York schoolhouse operated from 1840 until 1928. It was an educational and community center for the farm families in this once-remote region of the foothills. The structure has been relocated to the Asheville home of a descendent of builder James York.

The park's new visitor center, a steel-framed building faced with siding and native stone, incorporates a number of environmentally sustainable features to conserve energy. Deep roof overhangs and the extensive use of glass on the building's north side are calculated to save cooling and lighting costs. Native stone was quarried nearby, which saves on gasoline costs. And, natural landscaping will be used extensively.