By Jesse Wood
The first phase of improvement projects at Grandfather Mountain State Park, which included the new parking lot for the Profile Trail, won’t be finished in time for Thanksgiving weekend as initially planned.
“I don’t see it happening before January. They are making progress but have a lot of work still to go,” Grandfather Mountain State Park Supt. Sue McBean said.
The current parking lot for the Profile Trail is located off of N.C. 105 near The Pedalin’ Pig. This area will be closed to the public for park maintenance once the improvement projects are finished near the Lowes Food in Tynecastle.
This phase of improvement projects at the state park include a new 100-vehicle parking lot, restroom facility and new trailhead for the Profile Trail. While the giant parking lot has been paved, much work is left to do before the facilities open up to the public, including finishing the interior of the restroom facility, completing the trailhead and finishing the access at N.C. 105, which includes creating a turn lane on N.C. 105.
The contractor is Pilot Mountain-based Garanco, and $1.4 million in funding for the first phase is derived from the state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
The second phase of improvement projects, which include an on-site office, visitor contact station, a possible maintenance facility and loop extension of the trail, won’t begin until at least 2018. The second phase currently has a budget of $1.4 million and is being funded through the $2 billion Connect NC Public Improvement Bond that voters approved in May.
Earlier this year, McBean highlighted the need for the new parking area as she recounted the story of about 40 vehicles overflowing onto the shoulders of N.C. 105 during Memorial Day weekend. The current parking area holds about 27 vehicles.
As popular as the Profile Trail and Grandfather Mountain State Park is for backcountry hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, McBean just hopes that the extra 75 or so spaces will be enough, especially during peak tourist times like leaf season.
“When we first started planning this [improvement project], 100 spaces seemed like so many, but visitation has increased every year and there are more hikers for that trail,” McBean said. “While it’s a big difference, we hope it will be enough.”