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McCrory Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Legislation Establishing N.C.’s First Park

Governor Pat McCrory signed and issued a proclamation at William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh today celebrating March 3 as the 100th anniversary of legislation authorizing Mount Mitchell as North Carolina’s first state park.

“North Carolina’s state parks connect us all with our rich natural heritage and our history and contribute significantly to the state’s economy, especially in rural areas where many of the parks are located,” Governor McCrory said. “This is a premier opportunity to recognize the visionary leaders of our state who set the wheels in motion to create a parks system that delights more than 15 million visitors each year.”

In commemorating the 100th anniversary of the state parks system, Governor McCroryon Tuesday signed a proclamation to start observing the first week in March as “North Carolina State Parks Week.” The governor encouraged people to visit, volunteer, support and learn about North Carolina state parks.

North Carolina conservation groups and business leaders joined the governor and Donald van der Vaart, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for the celebration. Jean Spooner, chair of the Umstead Coalition, spoke about the natural and cultural significance of North Carolina’s state parks. Alex Bernhardt, chairman of Lenoir-based Bernhardt Furniture, spoke about the value of state parks and how they provide a greater quality of life in North Carolina for businesses and their employees.

Today’s event provided an opportunity to promote state parks and the 2016 Centennial Celebration of the State Parks System.

“This is a great kickoff to our celebration of state parks in North Carolina,” van der Vaart said. “Beginning in 1916, North Carolina set a standard for the nation in protecting its natural resources. The state parks centennial in 2016 will be an opportunity for all North Carolinians to renew a shared commitment of stewardship of those resources.”

North Carolina plans to celebrate the state parks system’s centennial throughout 2016 with a series of special events and a public-private partnership campaign with the Friends of State Parks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting North Carolina’s state parks. The General Assembly authorized the purchase of land for a state park at Mount Mitchell on March 3, 1915, and 795 acres on the summit were acquired by the end of 1916, which firmly established the first state park in the southeastern United States. The parks system encompasses more than 225,000 acres and attracts more than 15 million visitors each year. State parks protect North Carolina’s natural heritage, educate citizens about how to be responsible environmental stewards and offer a myriad of recreational opportunities for enjoyment and health benefits. They also contribute significantly to the state’s tourism economy.

Click here for a copy of the proclamation.