By Joe Johnson
During a meeting on December 17, the NC State Department of Parks and Recreation moved one step closer toward the execution of a master plan for Elk Knob State Park that seeks to implement major additions to the park’s facilities and services.
Representatives from NC Parks and Recreation displayed images of their current master plan for various would-be implementations to Elk Knob State Park. These additions to the park were determined via previous community surveys; now, NC Parks and Recreation are in the stage of the planning process where they need to determine which additions are priorities for the community. Hypothetical new installations to the state park include a visitor’s center with a gift shop, information center, nature playground, and warming foyer, a day use area with picnic setups and a pavilion, backcountry trails with shelters and tent platforms, and The Peak Campground which would include cabins and campgrounds for tents.
“This is a master plan for Elk Knob State Park,” said David Head, Planning Program Manager for NC State Parks and Recreation, “We finally got to the point where we have enough land and we want to move forward with the 20-year vision for the park. We’re about 70% done with the planning process and a final report will be shared in the springtime. Part of the final report will be a prioritized list of projects, specifying near-term, 0-5 year, midterm, and long-term projects, and what we think we can do based on community importance and funding availability during those time frames.”
Even though the NC Parks Department is getting further into the Elk Knob planning process on a daily basis, there is still much work left to do. NC State Park projects are prioritized based on how long the department has been planning them and when funding becomes available; afterward, the project goes into a pool with other project funding priorities. The project is then presented to the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority, who will hopefully give the department permission to begin the future developments planned for Elk Knob State Park.
“This is just one of 41 staffed parks and recreation areas where people can visit in North Carolina,” said Katie Hall, Public Information Officer for NC State Parks and Recreation, “A tremendous amount of planning has already taken place as the community has identified what they want to see in the park and we have already identified which areas which would serve various uses best, there’s not too much left to do!”
Blue Ridge Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting working farmland and state natural areas, has recently acquired 1,000 acres over Three Top Mountain, much of which will be available for the Northern Peaks Trail, a planned hiking trail that will partially extend through Elk Knob.
Northern Peaks Trail will be a world-class hiking trail that traverses an ancient mountain chain while educating and connecting users to unforgettable landscapes entirely unique to this region. “We only designate state trails on lands that are permanently protected; that means the trail will be there forever,” said Smith Raynor, State Trails Planner, “We also take care to pick the trails based on environmental sustainability; we work really hard to have trails that will last for all time. State Parks will construct, manage, and maintain the portion of Northern Peaks Trail that is on Elk Knob State Park property. We work with the other groups who own the rest of the property to guide them through the trail contracting process if they haven’t done it before. When you’re hiking Northern Peaks Trail in the Elk Knob section, you’re not going to be hunting, and you’re not going to be drinking alcohol. When you get into wildlife property: it’s their rules.”
Although employees at NC Parks and Recreation are nearing the end of the master planning process for new developments at Elk Knob State Park, suggestions will be taken through the month of January by filling out a form with your comments at https://www.ncparks.gov/contact-us
For more information about Elk Knob State Park and developing news on the park visit https://www.ncparks.gov/elk-knob-state-park/home
Photos taken at the most recent public meeting