NC – Lake James one of top boating, fishing sites in US

Lake James one of top boating, fishing sites in US

Nine of top ten in State Parks

 

NEBO – Forget about hauling the boat to the Great Lakes for spectacular fishing and boating. One of the best places to take in those summertime recreational stalwarts is right here in Western North Carolina.

Lake James State Park, about an hour east of Asheville in McDowell and Burke counties, has just been voted No. 10 out of the  Top 100 Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat by Take Me Fishing, part of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The winners were based on 650,000 votes cast by 35,000 anglers and boaters to support their favorite fishing and boating locations to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 4-12.

For the second consecutive year, Florida’s Everglades National Park snagged the No.1 spot as the best place to fish and boat in the U.S. But Lake James has been steadily growing in popularity since the poll began three years ago. Lake James was voted into the top 100 every year of the survey. In 2014 it was No. 40 and in 2015 it was No. 19.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which contains 2,900 miles of streams and Lake Fontana, was honored at No. 17 on this year’s list.

Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar brought back America’s Top Family Fishing and Boating Spots Instant Win and Sweepstakes for its third consecutive year, with the goal of finding great family-friendly fishing areas and getting more families out on the water. More than 300 sites representing all 50 states were pre-selected from across the U.S. and entrants were able to vote daily for their favorite places, said Steve Bailey of TakeMeFishing.org.

“The criteria for the Top 100 included having a public body of water within driving distance of a major city, good fishing opportunities and family-friendly amenities,” Bailey said.

There was a six-week voting process in March where people were offered 310 pre-selected family-friendly parks from across the U.S. Entrants voted daily for the three parks they felt offered the best fishing and boating experience based on family amenities, location and the likeliness to catch a fish or enjoy a day on the water. The parks with the most votes made the list of the 2016 America’s Top 100 Family Fishing and Boating Spots.

Lake James State Park, established in 1987, is a 6,812-acre reservoir that offers canoeing, kayaking and motor boating, fishing from lakeside and from boats, a swim beach at the Paddy’s Creek access areas, (and a swim beach at the Catawba River open by reservation only for large groups), waterfront campsites and new boat-in-only campsites and four public boat ramps – the Canal Bridge Access and Hidden Cove Access are managed by the state park.

Lake James State Park encompasses 3,644 acres on the north and south shores of the lake. Over the last few years, with the addition of the Paddy’s Creek area, mountain biking trails and more campsites, visitation at the park has continued to mushroom. There were just over a half-million visitors in 2015, with 504,660 people splashing in the lake. That’s a nearly 27 percent increase from 2013, when there were 398,148 visitors. Lake James is the most visited park in WNC.

In January, two parcels totaling 129 acres, including the scenic, 125-acre “Lodge Tract,” where Crescent Communities had planned to build a lodge, were conserved through the aid of the Foothills Conservancy, and added to the park, to forever protecting more of the lake from development.

Park Superintendent Nora Coffey said she’s not surprised the park has moved into the top 10 spot.

“The state park is the only public access on the lake,” she said. “We have many family friendly amenities including fishing piers, boat ramps, a picnic area, campground and swim area. We also have great fishing. Anywhere people can access the water, we allow them to fish – they can fish the entire shoreline except at the swim area and boat ramps.”

Popular fish include large-mouth and small-mouth bass, walleye and crappie. Anyone age 16 and older must have a valid fishing license to fish at Lake James, but entry to the park, fishing and boat launching are free.

Coffey believes people enjoy the fishing, but the setting is what takes the cake. Lake James sits in the shadow of the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

“You cannot beat the beautiful mountain view from the lake,” she said. “We get people from all over the Southeast.”

TakeMeFishing.org’s Top 10 Family Friendly Places to Boat and Fish:

  1. Everglades National Park, Florida
  2. Bahia Honda State Park, Atlantic Ocean, Florida
  3. Blue Springs State Park, St. Johns River, Florida
  4. Kissimmee State Park, Lake Kissimmee, Florida
  5. Clear Lake State Park, Clear Lake, California
  6. Brannon Island State Park, Sacramento River, California
  7. Dockweiler State Beach, Santa Monica Bay, California
  8. Hanging Rock State Park, Hanging Rock Park Lake, N.C.  
  9. Guntersville State Park, Guntersville Lake, Alabama
  10. Lake James State Park, Lake James, Nebo, N.C.

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VA – Natural Bridge moves closer to becoming a state park

NATURAL BRIDGE — After a rocky start under new ownership, Natural Bridge Park faces yet another transformation.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is moving forward with plans to manage the privately owned limestone arch and surrounding property as one of its 37 state parks – a transition first set for July 1 that has been pushed back to Sept. 24.

The agency recently appointed James Jones, currently the assistant manager of James River State Park, as the manager of what will become Natural Bridge State Park.

Jones will start his new job July 11 as the state continues to work out the details of an operating agreement with the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, a nonprofit organization that currently owns the 1,500-acre property.

“There are a lot of moving parts to a state park’s operation, so by Sept. 24 we will be ready to go,” said Craig Seaver, the department’s director of state parks. Seaver announced Jones’ appointment last week at a meeting of an advisory committee that is overseeing the transition.

After purchasing the Rockbridge County attraction in 2014 with the goal of eventually donating it to Virginia for a state park, VCLF ran into financial problems. The organization, created by health care executive Tom Clarke of Botetourt County, defaulted on a state-financed loan in October as other unpaid bills piled up.

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WI – Teen Rescued From Waterfall In Wis. State Park

Teen Rescued From Waterfall In Wis. State Park

 

Some make the mile hike to Willow Falls for relaxation, some come for peace. But the situation that unfolded on June 13 was anything but peaceful.

Park Ranger Arek Feidt was high above the falls tending to a dying tree with Rob Juetten, a visiting arborist and professional competitive tree climber, when he heard a yell that someone needed help.

“It was just kind of on instinct of, ‘We got to get this kid out of the water, what’s the best way?’ and we just used our best judgment at that time,” said Feidt.

The boy said he was losing his grip. He’d fallen down the first fall and was about to fall about 25 feet more down the long fall. Juetten, who was still harnessed, clipped into a rock climber’s grip and the two quickly improvised.

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PA – Resorts, golf courses for Pa. state parks?

Resorts, golf courses for Pa. state parks?

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering legislation that would open up state parks to resort development and golf courses.

“We lag behind neighboring states in not providing a variety of modern and improved lodging and recreational opportunities,” said Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler County, and Paul Costa, D-Allegheny County.  “West Virginia, for example, has a number of state parks with sizeable lodging facilities, conference centers and golfing.  Ohio has similar facilities at nine of its state parks.  Pennsylvania, however, has one small bed and breakfast-type lodge at Bald Eagle State Park.”

Ellis and Costa are co-sponsoring legislation (House Bill 2013) that the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee approved 22-4 on Tuesday. Committee members Rob Kauffman, R-Chambersburg, and Dan Moul, R-Gettysburg, voted with the majority. The bill currently is in the Rules Committee.

Environmental groups are opposing both HB 2013 and HB 2188, which calls for the development of at least four golf courses in state parks. PennFuture, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment, Pennsylvania Forest Coalition and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania say the real issue is the growing backlog of projects in state parks while the legislature diverts funds away from them.

HB 2013 would allow hotels, inns, restaurants, amusement parks, water parks, outdoor sports facilities, golf courses, swimming pools and recreational office buildings in state parks. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would contract a private company to develop, finance, build and operate a facility for up to 25 years.

The Public-Private State Park Partnership Board would be established to inventory state park assets, recommend additional facilities and solicit private offers for development.

HB 2013 would encourage development in areas originally intended as “access to the natural world and healthy outdoor recreation,” according to Marci Mowery, president of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation. Such non-traditional use of state parks has not been supported by recent public surveys.

DCNR funds also would be diverted from needed upkeep of existing facilities to planning and overseeing the new facilities, she said.

“Resort-like developments have a long history of failure in state parks across the nation,” Mowrey said. “Too often, concessionaires do not reinvest in the infrastructure they are renting, placing a burden on the taxpayer to do so. And the creation of a contractual relationship through a public-private partnership is not a guarantee of success.”

Ellis and Costa say any developments will “fit the natural beauty of our parks and at the same time accommodate consumer demand” for modern recreational activities.

Pennsylvania has 121 state parks covering more than 200,000 acres. The nationally acclaimed state park system annually attracts 40 million visitors.

Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, is sponsoring HB 2188, which requires the state to contract for the design, construction and management of golf courses at select state parks.

The golf course revenue stream would be separate from other DCNR programs.

The Department of General Services with DCNR, would call for proposals within 6 months for at least four golf courses, consistent with the Arnold Palmer design.

The Arnold Palmer Trails Program would honor a Pennsylvania native “who has had a global impact on the sport of golf,” according to Christiana. It would increase tourism and “diversify and encourage avid use of our state parks.”

The state parks currently have are more than 150 public-private partnerships for concessions and other facilities.

CT – State reducing hours, season-length at state parks, beaches, campgrounds amid budget cuts

 

State reducing hours, season-length at state parks, beaches, campgrounds amid budget cuts

HARTFORD–The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which operates the state’s 109 state parks and 32 state forests, is reducing hours and staffing at some the state parks, campgrounds and beaches due to budget restraints.

Currently, about 9 million visitors come through the parks each year, and operating costs are about $18 million, which funds everything including salaries for 70 staff and 500 seasonal workers. However, the General Fund budget for DEEP was cut by $10 million for the fiscal year starting July 1, and the following cuts will reduce spending by $1.8 million. No layoffs are planned.

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CA – Hundreds oppose Anza-Borrego park rule changes

Hundreds oppose Anza-Borrego park rule changes

Many drive 85 miles to attend state parks public hearing

 — Hundreds of people packed a public hearing in Kearny Mesa on Wednesday to demand that access remain open to popular visitor destinations within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The hearing focused on a proposed rule change by the California Department of Parks and Recreation that appeared to prohibit off-trail access to cultural and natural preserves within the entire park system.

State officials say the changes won’t affect Anza-Borrego, however, because decisions on limiting access would be left to individual park districts — and the one that oversees Anza-Borrego doesn’t want the restrictions.

That didn’t stop roughly 250 people from flooding Wednesday’s meeting to argue against the proposed rules. The crowd was so big that some had to be turned away for fire safety reasons.

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ME – Shortage of lifeguards hits seasonal beaches hard around US

Shortage of lifeguards hits seasonal beaches hard around US

 

GEORGETOWN, Maine (AP) — Cities, states and private beach owners around the country are scrambling to fill lifeguard positions as summer kicks off, especially in states where lifeguarding is a seasonal enterprise.

There are likely between 30,000 and 50,000 lifeguards at beaches in the U.S., and more are needed, said Tom Gill, a spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association.

The need is most acute in states where beaches, ponds and lakes are only open in the summer. Officials in states such as Maine, where thousands of people flock to the beach in the summer, said they face a shortage as July 4 nears.

At Reid State Park in Georgetown, Maine, 19-year-old lifeguard Kyle Hummel said the lack of lifeguards makes the job more stressful.

“More eyes mean more safety,” he said. “You’re totally responsible for everything that happens.”

Maine parks officials put out a call in April for lifeguards to staff several of its state beaches and still haven’t filled all the positions, said Gary Best, a spokesman for Maine State Parks. He said the department is currently rotating some of its lifeguards between multiple beaches to keep them covered.

Lifeguard shortages have been reported in other states from Pennsylvania to Colorado.

Filling seasonal lifeguard positions can be difficult because the job requires prior training and earned certification, Best said. Turnover is also heavy.

“Like many positions that are that length of time, people move on,” Best said. “It’s understandable why every year we have openings.”

Another issue is that many seasonal lifeguards aren’t well compensated. The average pay for a lifeguard in the U.S. is about $9 an hour; Maine pays $10.64 to lifeguards and $11.12 to lifeguard supervisors.

Full-time lifeguards in some West Coast cities can earn more than $100,000 per year, but seasonal lifeguards make much less. Gill, the United States Lifesaving Association spokesman and a Virginia Beach lifeguard himself, said offering a competitive wage helps alleviate lifeguard shortages.

“It’s been our finding that if lifeguards are paid properly, trained well and in good working conditions, you have no problem finding lifeguards,” he said.

 

Kids to Parks Day 2016 Breaks Records!

Kids to Parks Day 2016 Breaks Records!

Saturday, May 21st was a record breaking Kids to Parks Day with more than 731,000 participants at 1,137 park events in 50 states and Washington D.C.

Event Distribution

  • –  State Park Events           651 (55% increase)
  • –  Local Park Events          252 (18% increase)
  • –  National Park Events    234 (54% increase)

Special thanks to Grace Lee and the NPT for all the coordination.

TN – Long Hunter debuts Reading Ranger Story Trail

Long Hunter debuts Reading Ranger Story Trail

Long Hunter State Park ranger Leslie Anne Rawlings stands beside one of the signs on the new Reading Ranger Story Trail and peruses Marianne Berkes’ Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek. The state park will play host to the grand opening of the Story Trail at 11 a.m. Saturday. Photo submitted

Hey, mom and dad. What would you think about taking your kid or kiddos on a short hike where, along the pathway, colorful illustrations teach your youngsters about the creatures that inhabit the neighborhood?

Long Hunter State Park has just the place. The Reading Ranger Story Trail, which debuts at 11 a.m. Saturday, pairs Mother Nature with literacy and exercise and challenges your kids to stretch their legs and imaginations.

The brainchild of Long Hunter park ranger Leslie Anne Rawlings, the Story Trail shares Marianne Berkes‘ children’s book Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek. It features 10 colorful signs depicting deer, possums, turkeys, box turtles, squirrels, woodpeckers, raccoons, skunks, red fox and beaver–all critters that live in the park–and even shows their little tracks.

The Reading Ranger Story Trail is also a first for Tennessee State Parks, a coup for Long Hunter.

LHSP the perfect location

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CA – Assembly approves $3.1-billion park bond measure for November ballot – LA Times

Assembly approves $3.1-billion park bond measure for November ballot

A view of a blanket of clouds from Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Northern California. A report has found that the state parks department lacks a system to track spending at individual parks. (California State Parks)
A view of a blanket of clouds from Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Northern California. A report has found that the state parks department lacks a system to track spending at individual parks. (California State Parks) 

The Assembly on Thursday gave initial approval to putting a $3.1-billion bond measure on the November ballot for parks, water and climate change action.

The proposal, which next goes to the state Senate for consideration, addresses concerns that California’s parks have not been properly maintained.

Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) noted that it has been 14 years since the state approved substantial new funding for park maintenance and improvements.

“We know that state parks have a deferred maintenance  backlog  of over $1 billion,” Garcia told his colleagues.

The measure was approved on a 55-14 bipartisan vote. Assemblywoman Catherine Baker (R-San Ramon) said operators of local parks in her district would welcome the ability to compete for matching funds.

However, the measure was opposed by Brian Jones (R-Santee), who said the state could fund the parks improvements from the current budget without borrowing and there are other bonds available for water and land conservation.

“We don’t have to go into additional debt for those programs,” Jones told his colleagues. “The money is there.”

At the last minute, Garcia amended the bill to increase the bond from $2.95 billion to $3.12 billion and to increase the amount going to disadvantaged communities from 10% to 20%.

As he worked to win support, Garcia also agreed to amend his bill to earmark tens of millions of dollars to specific park programs including those in San Diego, Ventura County, Central Valley and the High Desert/Coachella area.