07/16/09 — OUTDOORS - Chimney Rock

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OUTDOORS - Chimney Rock

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on July 16, 2009 1:46 PM

In just four years under the State Park designation, Chimney Rock has become one of the most popular parks in all of North Carolina.

It's rustic trails lure hikers and mountain bikers, and the scenic overlooks attract bird watchers and sight-seers by the thousands.

With the park's recent success in mind, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation is developing a plan to make the tourist attraction even better and is asking North Carolinians who have visited the rock to give suggestions.

The division has begun the process of creating a master plan for Chimney Rock to guide the long-term development of facilities and protection of natural resources in and around the park.

Greenways, Inc., an environmental planning and landscape architecture firm, has been asked to develop the master plan with input from the division's planning, natural resource and operations staffs as well as from the public. The compnay previously worked with the state parks system to develop an action plan for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

The target date for completion of the proposal is spring 2010.

"Creating a world class state park is a combined effort of the state parks system and the community," said Lewis Ledford, director of the division. "A plan that thoughtfully balances conservation and recreation in such a stunning landscape as Chimney Rock is a vital component in that process."

Chimney Rock was authorized by the N.C. General Assembly in 2005 and currently encompasses more than 4,300 acres. The 996-acre Chimney Rock area purchased by the state in 2007 is the only portion of the state park available for public access thus far.

Land acquisition efforts for the park, which include the so-called "world's edge" escarpment, continue with the help of several land conservancies. The undeveloped portion of the park includes properties on six different mountains.

The state's master plan will address such issues as the type and scope of recreation facilities, the proper protection of sensitive habitats and rare species, the visitor experience at the Chimney Rock access point, and a visitor center with a comprehensive trail system.

The planning process will include an opportunity for written public comment and a public meeting to present a draft plan to the division.