Mount Mitchell State Park To Double in Size Through Conservation Fund Conveyance

Published Friday, March 25, 2016 at 2:38 pm

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By Jesse Wood

The 100-year-old Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville could more than double in size during its centennial anniversary.

Today, Mount Mitchell State Park consists of 1,996 acres, and The Conservation Fund is looking to convey 2,744 acres in Yancey County that it has acquired in the past couple years to the N.C. State Parks system.

The property in the Black Mountains is adjacent to Mount Mitchell and includes Cattail Peak, the fifth highest peak in the eastern U.S., and also runs down into the Cane River Valley. Bill Holman, state director with The Conservation Fund, mentioned that this conveyance to the state parks system is significant for multiple reasons.

For one, Holman said that Mount Mitchell State Park isn’t accessible for four months out of the year because of Old Man Winter. Consider that in January and the first half of February in 2016, Mount Mitchell received 90 inches of snow, according to RaysWeather.com.

“Mt. Mitchell is an iconic place in North Carolina. It’s a wonderful state park, and unfortunately sometimes four months out of the year, the public can’t get there because of the snow,” Holman said. “This expansion would lend itself to year-round public access.”

He noted that the expansion of Mount Mitchell State Park could also improve the local economy.

“I also think the expansion is good for Yancey County because a lot of the visitors to the park currently don’t actually spend much time in Yancey County, and so I think this will create more traffic and visitors in Yancey County and hopefully boost Yancey County’s economy,” Holman said.

Holman said that the timing of the conveyance of these properties hinge on grant funding to balance out bargain sales and private donations. The Conservation Fund is currently seeking another $1.2 million grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund and a $900,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

The Conservation Fund won’t know if it’s awarded the grants until August and September. Holman said a portion of the property would be conveyed this year, but ideally the grants would be awarded and all of the property would be conveyed to the state in 2016.

Charlie Peek, spokesman for N.C. State Parks, noted that stakeholders are still working on the financing details and that the timing of the entire conveyance is based on grant cycles and, of course, successful grant applications.

“It would be nice for all of us it we get this wound up in 2016,” Peek said, “but it’s far from guaranteed.”

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