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State Parks System to Dedicate Observation Deck at Mount Mitchell

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Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor
Dee Freeman, Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Sunday, May 3, 2009

State Parks System to Dedicate Observation Deck at Mount Mitchell

RALEIGH -- A new, low-profile observation deck at the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern United States, will be dedicated May 9 by the N.C Division of Parks and Recreation.

The circular platform presenting a 360-degree view of the surrounding Black Mountains crowns the 6,684-foot peak and becomes a new focal point for Mount Mitchell State Park, the oldest state park in the North Carolina system and one of the oldest in the nation.

The project also includes extensive renovation of the 850-foot walking trail to the summit from the park's main parking area. The trail has been realigned slightly and paved and features intermittent 'rest areas' with benches along the route.

'To stand on Mount Mitchell's summit and enjoy the breathtaking scenery from the highest peak in eastern America is one of the most satisfying traditions of our state parks system and this new facility allows the park to continue to offer that experience,' said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. 'Observation structures on the mountain have been part of its history, and it was important to develop a design that is in harmony with the area's beauty, fits comfortably with the natural contours of the mountain and is accessible to all visitors.'

The observation deck replaces a 25-foot-high tower built in 1959 that had become unsafe after decades of exposure to the mountain's harsh climate. The deck is the fifth structure built on the summit since 1888. At that time, a monument was erected next to the grave of geographer Elisha Mitchell, the mountain's namesake. By 1915, a ladder about 15 feet high stood on three poles that formed a pyramid-shaped base. In 1916, at the time Mount Mitchell State Park was created, the summit offered a covered wooden platform about 15 feet high. That was replaced by the state in 1926 with a stone tower in a medieval motif.

The new observation deck is 10 feet high and 36.5 feet in diameter with a curved and gently sloping ramp for accessibility. The 135-foot ramp is supported by circular columns, and the entire structure has a stone fa'ade and stonework accents. A granite insert in the deck's floor features an outline of the North Carolina map with a survey monument marking the mountain's location.

The project, including the trail improvements, represents a $1.5 million investment by the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the principal source of support for state park land acquisitions and capital improvements.

Vaughn and Melton Consulting Engineers of Asheville designed the structure, and Taylor and Murphy Construction Company, Inc. of Asheville, was the principal contractor.

The dedication ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the mountain's summit.