By Josiah Clark
With parking a major issue for the thousands of annual visitors to Grandfather Mountain State Park, a larger parking area is planned that will allow for easier access to the Profile Trail. The expanded parking area will add an estimated 125 new spaces.
Sue McBean, the Superintendent of Grandfather Mountain State Park, said the 125-space parking area will be constructed adjacent to the Lowe’s grocery store off N.C. 105, and a paved road will extend just north of Lowe’s to Profile Trail.
She confirmed that it would be constructed on state-owned property, though the planned parking area will be close to the Nature Conservancy Ownership, 1,460 acres of permanently protected Grandfather Mountain ridgeline.
According to McBean, the project has already been designed. She said construction would begin once funding is secured.
Much of the funding for the new parking area will come from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PRTF), if the bid request is approved in July.
The 125 parking spaces are a much-needed addition to Grandfather Mountain State Park.
“Parking is definitely an issue, certainly on busy weekends when the weather is nice and we have blockbuster crowds,” said Kellen Short, the Director of Marketing & Communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
Superintendent McBean described the current Profile Trail parking situation as “terrible” and said that the lot only fits a few dozen cars.
“Operationally speaking, it’s very frustrating. The sooner it is constructed, then the better it will be for us and our visitors,” said McBean.
If the request for funding is not approved by the PRTF in July, then the park may be able to secure funds through a bond proposal that has set aside money for the development of many parks across the state.
Charlie Peek, with the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, said the Connect NC Bond Proposal has set aside as much as $2 million for the development of state parks in North Carolina. If the bond package passes a referendum vote in November, then some of that money could go towards the development of Grandfather Mountain State Park.
“Adding easier trail access is a very high priority for us since the trail systems there are so important for the whole Grandfather Mountain experience,” said Peek.
The expanded parking area is a part of a two-phase project. Phase one will be to construct the parking area and add new restrooms for the Profile Trail. Phase two will be to build a new park office and maintenance area.
Whether or not funding will be secured remains to be seen. For now, McBean has made the addition of new parking spaces one of her top priorities for the development of Grandfather Mountain State Park.
She said, “Having a larger area where people can park is going to make a big difference for us, our visitors, and for the face of the park.”
Established in 2009, Grandfather Mountain State Park encompasses approximately 2,600 acres and has 12 miles of hiking trails.
The Profile Trail, which is one of the West Side Trails, is 3.1 miles in length and stretches from trailhead to the Calloway Gap / Grandfather Trail junction.