NC – Mount Mitchell: State’s first park growing, poised for future

MOUNT MITCHELL – Jake Blood likes nothing more than a hard, calf-burning climb up a high mountain peak, the more patches of wild blackberries and need for bushwhacking, the better.

That’s why he finds such satisfaction in a hike amid the Black Mountains, which buttress Mount Mitchell and its sky-scraping elevation of 6,684 feet, the highest east of the Mississippi.

But the retired Air Force intelligence officer, and founding member of the High Peaks Trail Association in Burnsville, was always bothered by something as he pored over topographic maps of Pisgah National Forest, which surrounds Mount Mitchell.

“I always wondered, what is that?” Blood said, pointing to a spit of land colored in white denoting private property, jutting in between the boundaries of the state park in Yancey County. “It always baffled me. What was it doing there?”

He was leading a hiking group last week across the Black Mountain Crest Trail, which scales the spine of the Blacks’ most prominent peaks in Yancey County – Mount Craig (6,645 feet), Big Tom Wilson (6,552 feet), Balsam Cone (6,611 feet), and Cattail Peak (6,583 feet), until now, the highest elevation, privately owned peak in the Eastern United States.

Thanks to recent events, the maps will change, with the white piece of the jigsaw puzzle soon to be colored purple – indicating state-owned land for public enjoyment.

The Conservation Fund, a Raleigh-based land trust, has purchased 2,744 acres in the Black Mountains – 783 acres in the Laurel Branch Area and 1,961 acres in the Cattail Peak area, including Cattail Peak – adjoining the state park. The fund will convey the land to the state this year, timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the N.C. State Park System and Mount Mitchell, the state’s first park.

The park expansion and centennial will be marked by a party Saturday and Sunday at Mount Mitchell. The land acquisition will more than double the size of Mount Mitchell State Park, which was 1,996 acres.

Funding is complete for the Laurel Branch area, valued at $3 million, said Bill Holman, N.C. director of the Conservation Fund. Gifts from philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback covered most of the costs, with $130,000 coming from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The Stanbacks, of Salisbury, provided half the funding for the Cattail Peak to Cane River properties, Holman said. Those carry a value of $7.25 million. The Clean Water fund provided $1.2 million last year and earlier this year, the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund set aside $728,000.

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NPS – Obama names Maine’s Katahdin Woods as newest national park site

President announces on the eve of NPS centennialBy

(CNN) – On the eve of the National Park Service’s centennial, President Barack Obama named Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on Wednesday as the newest national park site.

People can already visit the 87,000-acre national monument, which has a park service superintendent on the ground and two visitor centers opening today.

The new monument is located east of Baxter State Park and includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and part of the Maine Woods, where visitors will be able to hike, canoe, hunt, snowmobile, cross-country ski and more.

Burt’s Bees co-founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation, Elliotsville Plantation, donated the land and additional funds to the park service with assistance from the National Park Foundation as part of its centennial parks campaign. Quimby is a member of the foundation’s board of directors.

The $100 million gift includes the land, which is valued at about $60 million; $20 million to help fund initial park operational needs and infrastructure development; and a pledge of another $20 million of future support, the White House said.

“I grew up in this part of Maine,” said Lucas St. Clair, Quimby’s son and president of her foundation, calling the land sacred to his family.

“To have it designated as a national monument is an incredible moment,” he told CNN.

“I look forward to people coming and exploring landscape on their own, and I look forward to these communities that have been really struggling starting to realize some of the economic benefits that national parks can bring,” he said.

St. Clair said his mother started buying land in the late 1990s and has been “working incredibly hard for decades” to preserve the land.

Quimby’s gift has been debated for years among residents of Maine, where the paper industry once dominated the economy. As with some national park designations in the western United States, many objected to a land transfer to the federal government.

August 25, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the United States’ National Park Service, which now oversees 413 sites encompassing more than 84 million acres.


KS – The great outdoors are calling, and you can enjoy a Healthy Adventure free of charge

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is hoping to get you out of your normal routine.

BCBS is hosting the second Healthy Trails Adventure Day. On Oct. 1, admission will be free at all 26 Kansas State Parks.

“A lot of times kids are too busy with the adventure games and things like as opposed to having their own adventure,” said Any Corbin, president and CEO, BCBS of Kansas. “State parks offer that wonderful relationship, whether it’s Frisbee or a campfire or just a good hard walk.”

Healthy Trails Adventure Day is another way for Kansans to get out of the house. BCBS says getting outdoors can make you happier, promotes a healthy body and even help you live longer.

“It also creates family bonding that you just don’t get otherwise,” Corbin said. “[It’s] a little bit away from your normal routine.”

Kansas State Parks include more than 500 miles of trails, 32,300 acres of land, 10,000 campsites with utility hookups and cabins and access to more than 130,000 surface-acres of water.

“Our Kansas State Parks offer unique terrain, amazing trails, and scenic landscapes for everyone to enjoy,” said Robin Jennison, secretary, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “We’re pleased that for a second year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has chosen the Kansas State Parks to serve as the centerpiece of this campaign.”

To help kids get out and enjoy the outdoors, BCBS is offering a coloring book at all state park locations, rest stops, local tourism offices and the Kansas State Fair. It features a map of all 26 state parks, information about the parks and educational tips.

When you hit the trail Oct. 1 make to tag all your adventure posts with the hashtag #HealthyAdventure.

To learn more and pick the perfect state park for your next adventure head to


NY – U.S. Interior Secretary Kicks Off NPS Centennial Week In The Hudson Valley


That was part of a gun salute from living history re-enactors following the unveiling of signs for the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail at FDR State Park in Westchester County. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was on hand for the unveiling and to kick off the National Park Service’s centennial week.

“The Hudson Valley has been working together for a long time to say we’ve got important parts of our nation’s history that need to be told right here. The Revolutionary War, the Industrial Revolution, the channel of the waterways here that was such an important part of moving goods and things as we became a young nation,” Jewell says. “So this is a place to celebrate how the community comes together and works with the National Park Service and city parks, state parks, to highlight these important places. And it’s been a National Heritage Area for some time. So, it’s an important part of the National Park Service and that’s why I’m here to kick off our celebration.”

“What’s your impression?” Dunne asks.

“It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. The only thing I’d say is, where are the kids?  So we need to get New Yorkers to bring their kids out to places like this park.”

Yorktown resident and history teacher Gregory Smith attended the unveiling with his wife and two kids.

“And when we heard about it, we thought it’d be an exciting thing not only for us to see but really for our kids to be exposed to the history of the region but also kind of how it’s all linked together to the story of us, sustainability, the environment, community,” Smith says. “It’s a beautiful way to see it all intertwined together. And I think the speakers made an impression on us and hopefully on our kids as well.”

Jewell joined Congresswoman Nita Lowey. FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights is in the Democrat’s 17th district.

“Our parks are an invaluable resource. And it’s important today to tell our children what we are doing and what we have done to preserve their heritage,” Lowey says. “But, right now, this is just a special place and I hope that all the families who hear this will come to the parks, bring the children, and then remember that investing in our parks creates jobs, it’s economic opportunity and we have got to make sure that we protect and preserve them for future generations.”

The unveiling ceremony also marked the 235th anniversary of General Washington’s Continental Army joining forces with General Rochambeau’s French army in the lower Hudson Valley. Mark Castiglione is acting executive director of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Greenway.

“This location is one of 20 in the lower Hudson Valley where signs like these will mark the Washington Rochambeau National Historic Trail,” Castiglione says. “Collectively, they represent the first interpretive elements of the newest national historic trail in the nation.”

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey says that about four months ago the state began using the Every-Kid-in-a-Park pass program from the National Park Service. It’s a pass for free entry into all state parks in 2016 for fourth graders.

“We’re also going to make transportation available to Title 1 schools to our historic sites and to our environmental education centers that are near those communities,” Harvey says.

Following her visit to FDR State Park, Jewell led an historic preservation roundtable at Bear Mountain State Park, with Lowey and Harvey.

PA – Outdoors with Tom Venesky: When it comes to the outdoors, the future is bright

It’s easy to get caught up in bad news when it comes to the future of hunting, fishing and the outdoors.

I often hear claims that hunters and anglers are aging, their ranks are dwindling and, especially for hunters, issues such as access, lack of game and time are driving many away from the sport and the future is doomed.

I don’t believe it.

I think hunting, and interest in the outdoors in general, has a bright future. While others can waste time preaching doom and gloom, I think it’s better to focus on the positive and the up-and-coming hunters, anglers and conservationists.

There’s plenty to focus on.

The newly created Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation is a good place to start. It mirrors the Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation and will be comprised of 20 high school students, ranging in age from 14 to 18. Council members will be charged with providing the Governor ideas on how to engage youth in conservation issues and our outdoor heritage.

I have no doubt it’s going to be a success and the council is a somewhat refreshing approach to addressing the issue of getting kids involved in the outdoors. It seems that every time there’s a push to connect kids to the outdoors, the legwork is being done by adults. While the work is admirable, I think it’s going to be more effective to let teens tell us how best to get youth interested in the outdoors.

It’s a more direct approach, and one we should all be optimistic about.

But the youth council isn’t the only reason to be encouraged about the future of our outdoor heritage. Despite the common beliefs that kids just aren’t interested, are too busy or would rather play video games than hit the woods, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that the future generation shares our passion for the outdoors.

I saw it when I stopped by Frances Slocum State Park recently to meet with the kids involved with the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. The program is essentially a summer job, but the kids work at state parks and forests gaining valuable job training and educational opportunities while experiencing some of the most impressive public natural areas in the region.

And while the money is nice, it’s not what motivates the kids. The group I spent time with including a few individuals who wanted to become park rangers or pursue other conservation-related careers. And they all loved spending time working outdoors, getting to see our state parks firsthand.

I wrote a story about the group and since it appeared, I’ve been contacted by a few young people wanting to know how they can get involved with the program.

It was encouraging.

But there’s more.

I see a bright future for our outdoor sports when I see the number of kids that show up at the wildlife programs given by the Pennsylvania Game Commission each month at the Northeast Region Office in Dallas. I see it when I walk the banks of any stocked waterway on the first day of trout season and youngsters learning to cast and families spending the day together.

I see it when a mother told me her young son wants to learn about hunting and if I could recommend anything to help him get an opportunity. He enjoyed a pheasant hunt last winter and I’m working on a fall turkey hunt that is sure to give him the memory of a lifetime.

Want more evidence that today’s kids are interested in the outdoors?

The North Mountain Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association held an outdoors skills day for kids ages 5-17 last month in Noxen and 84 kids participated.

Kids don’t care about the outdoors?

I’m not convinced.

By Tom Venesky – Click for more information on Tom – @TLTomVenesky – 570-991-6395

CA – Wildfire Threatens California’s Iconic Hearst Castle, Officials Say

Aug 21 2016 12:00 AM EDT
By Pam Wright
Story Highlights

Authorities closed California’s Hearst Castle Saturday.

The fast-moving Chimney fire came within two miles of the former playground for the famous.

Hearst Castle, one of California’s most iconic landmarks, was closed Saturday as the fast-moving Chimney fire drew closer to the grounds, according to authorities.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Emily Hjortstorp told the Los Angeles Times that the leading edge of the fire that broke out on Aug. 13 near Lake Nacimiento in central California was just two miles away from the mansion.

“It is fire, and it is traveling in that direction, but it’s not raging the way it has been in the past,” Hjortstorp told the newspaper.

While no evacuation orders have been issued for the area, the castle was closed and a contingency plan to move some of the pieces of the massive art and antique collection should it become necessary, according to Dan Falat, a State Parks district superintendent, who noted that not all of the rare pieces could be moved.

(MORE: Firefighters Have a Strong Hold On California’s Blue Cut Fire, Which Has Destroyed Dozens of Homes, Officials Say)

State Parks supervising ranger Robert Chambers told The Associated Press the castle has closed for various reasons, he could not recall a time when Hearst Castle closed because of a wildfire.

“A fire has never come this close before,” Chambers told the AP.

On Sunday, Cal Fire reported that the blaze had destroyed 48 buildings, damaged seven more and was 35 percent contained. About 232 other structures, including Hearst Castle, remain threatened by the fire that has burned almost 20,000 acres.

A helicopter flies past Hearst Castle on its way to fight a wildfire in San Simeon, California, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. A growing wildfire in central California has forced the closure of the historic Hearst Castle. Fire officials say the blaze was about 3 ½ miles from the hilltop estate on Saturday.(Joe Johnston/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP)

According to the Hearst Castle website, the landmark which is generally open for daily tours and events is closed until further notice.

The castle was built in 1919 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Today, the 165-room mansion with its 127 acres of gardens is a museum, state park and is home to an extensive European art collection. In its heydey, it was a playground for Hollywood celebrities, according to the AP.

MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Blue Cut Fire Turns California Skies Red

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DE – DNREC Sec. cites value of First State natural resources place in Gov’s weekly message 

Gov. Jack Markell’s weekly message highlights the importance of the state’s recreational and natural resources to Delaware’s economy.

Sitting in for Gov. Markell, DNREC Sec. David Small says the state parks alone attract 6 million visitors annually and one out of three Delawareans participates in some type of outdoor recreation.

“Each year nearly 350,000 people fish, hunt and observe wildlife and 60,000 boats are registered here,” Small said.

He says that translates into about $4 billion of economic impact for the state.

Small adds the abundance of natural spaces in the state also has a positive impact on water quality and keeping storm related floods at bay.

Full text of Gov. Markell’s weekly message:

Attention to our natural resources isn’t just about environmental protection – we must recognize and take advantage of how they contribute to our economy and the quality of life.

Delaware’s beaches, waterways, campgrounds, trails, award-winning state parks and wildlife areas form the backbone of Delaware’s conservation economy. That’s especially evident this time of the year as residents and visitors enjoy Delaware’s great outdoors by kayaking, camping, fishing, bicycling, and playing in the surf and sand.

Our state parks are at the center of our conversation economy, and together they attract more than 6 million visitors annually.  Each year nearly 350,000 people fish, hunt and observe wildlife, and 60,000 boats are registered here.  Through these and more, two out of every three Delawareans participate in some type of outdoor recreation.  That generates about $4 billion in economic impact – creating tens of thousands of jobs, over a billion dollars in wages, and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues.

In addition, Delaware’s open spaces provide incredible value as wildlife habitat, help protect water quality and reduce flooding, while making our communities more attractive places to live, work, and raise a family. Finally, studies demonstrate that spending time outdoors enhances cognitive skills and physical health.

So, just like other important infrastructure such as bridges and roads, we must continue to invest in our open spaces and conservation economy.  We’re making progress with recent legislation to generate additional funds to support waterways and wildlife habitat. By the end of the year, the Markell Administration will have added more than 50 miles of bike trails and walking paths statewide. And we’re creating one of the best Oceanside camping experiences in the country at Delaware Seashore Park, and opening new visitor centers along Delaware’s Bayshore.

I hope you are finding time this summer to experience our great outdoors and to see first-hand why a commitment to our conservation economy will keep Delaware moving forward.

PA – DCNR officials praise work of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps to improve state parks

Hikers travel a path at the Seven Tubs Recreation Area Wednesday.

State forester Dan Devlin delivers remarks at the newly renovated Seven Tubs Recreation Area Wednesday morning.


BEAR CREEK TWP. — Maintaining all 46,274 acres comprising the Pinchot State Forest is a major task, but the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources had a little help this summer.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps spent the last six weeks working at DCNR’s state forests and parks in five locations throughout the state. The corps is made up of youths ages 15 to 18 who are paid for their time and travel from various parks and forests, doing the jobs that DCNR staff didn’t have time to do during the busy season.

On Wednesday, DCNR officials gave the kids a pat on the back as they gathered at the Seven Tubs Recreation Area to highlight the work performed by the crew of 10 high school students from the Wilkes-Barre area.

“The Pinchot State Forest is a new setting for us and a lot of work needs to be done,” said state forester Dan Devlin. “This youth program will help.”

Among the jobs tackled by the kids this summer were removing invasive plant species at Nescopeck State Park, staining and rebuilding stairs and conducting trail improvements at Frances Slocum State Park and building an informational kiosk at Seven Tubs.

This summer marked the first year for the program, which Devlin said was crucial to connecting youth to the outdoors. Over the last two decades, he said, the disconnect between youth and the outdoors has grown as agencies such as DCNR search for ways to reverse the trend.

“It’s something that has reached our radar,” he said. “Part of the purpose of this program is to connect youth with the outdoors, and have these young adults learn some skills for a potential job.”

State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, reflected on the efforts with the state Legislature and Luzerne County to add acreage to the Pinchot State Forest, such as Moon Lake State Park and the Seven Tubs. When the state took the areas over, Mullery said, they needed work but still had potential.

The work of the kids in the corps is helping to realize that potential, he said.

“When we worked with Luzerne County to make this happen, this is what we envisioned,” Mullery said. “Anything we can do as a commonwealth to get more young people out into the woods is worthwhile.”

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is currently a pilot program, and a similar group for those ages 18 to 25 will begin in March.

Devlin was optimistic that the program will be brought back next summer.

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NC – Preserved and Protected: Celebrate State Parks Centennial at Grandfather Aug. 26-27

Comprised of rock formations that have towered over the North Carolina highlands for centuries, our beloved Grandfather Mountain is a natural treasure like no other.

Stately and majestic, he’s long been known as an Appalachian icon — the enduring guardian of the Blue Ridge Mountains with an abiding legacy one billion years in the making.

Our venerable forefather, zenith of the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge, anchors the history of life in the High Country. However, as the newest protected park in the Old North State, he also stands as a beacon for progress and change.

After a prolonged era of private ownership, his grandeur and glory are now preserved for generations to come, and new leadership promises improvements that will make his peaks and valleys more accessible to the public.

As the North Carolina State Parks system celebrates its centennial this year, we, too, are invited to celebrate its steadfast commitment to our natural resources through its latest acquisition, Grandfather Mountain.

Preserved and Protected

For generations, Grandfather Mountain has been known as one of the most popular and iconic attractions in the Southeast. Although the state parks system purchased much of the mountain several years ago, the continued operation of the for-profit attraction has yielded some confusion amongst the general public over who, or what, oversees the mountain.

Folks want to know: Is it privately owned? Is it state property?

The answer is, while the for-profit attraction is still alive and well, the remaining acreage is now government owned and operated as Grandfather Mountain State Park.

Sue McBean

In the 1952, conservationist and photographer Hugh Morton inherited more than 4,000 acres on Grandfather Mountain from his grandfather, Hugh MacRae. Morton worked to develop the land, which was first purchased into his family by his great-grandfather in the late 1880s, and make it more accessible to tourists.

From then on, Morton established and grew the now iconic mountaintop attraction. Upon his death in 2006, Morton’s heirs struggled with the decision they would have to make regarding whether to sell the property or keep it in the family.

Ultimately, they elected to ensure the continuation of Morton’s legacy by selling the majority of the property to the state of North Carolina.

In 2008, trustees of the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Natural Heritage Trust Fund each designated $6 million to purchase the undeveloped “back country” acreage of the property, and the general assembly was later asked to formally authorize Grandfather Mountain State Park as a unit of the state parks system.

Details of the purchase were released to the public in a press statement from the state parks office in January 2009:

“An agreement announced by Gov. Mike Easley in September calls for the state to acquire 2,456 acres on the landmark mountain for $12 million from the Morton Family and Grandfather Mountain Inc. The acquisition will also include a conservation easement of 749 acres that will be retained by the heirs of Hugh Morton.”

The Morton family then established the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, a non-profit that now operates and manages the attraction, which sits on the 749 acres retained by the family and includes the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, animal habitats, restaurant and nature museum.

Thus, Grandfather Mountain State Park was born, and new leadership soon arrived to ensure the property’s natural resources would remain preserved and protected for years to come.

Full Article->

AL – Why we must vote to protect Alabama’s state parks


Clay Scofield headshot.jpgState Sen. Clay Scofield

By State Sen. Clay Scofield, who represents District Nine and holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Business and Economics from Auburn University, and is a farmer. 

Like many of you, I have such fond memories of growing up here in Alabama. I can vividly recall a number of hot summer days filled with laughter and lots of time outdoors. At Lake Guntersville State Park, nestled along the banks of the Tennessee River in Northeast Alabama, you can find the colors of the rainbow in the sunset and the crush of fall leaves. You can also witness eagles soar and some of the most beautiful views in Alabama. As Marshall County has been my home for many years, Lake Guntersville State Park holds a distinct place in my heart and mind.

Protecting this memory, protecting this park, and the operation of all Alabama State Parks, is the reason I sponsored Alabama Senate Bill 260 (AL SB260) in the 2016 Regular Session. After passing the Senate and House with substantial majorities, AL SB260 will now be on the general election ballot for your consideration on November 8th as Amendment #2.

The full text of Amendment #2 could be considered a little overwhelming. In plain English, Amendment #2 is our opportunity to stabilize the Alabama State Parks’ finances and budget as well as allow for future planning. If Amendment #2 passes, we’ll be able to continue enjoying our traditions of fishing from the scenic Meaher State Park Pier; taking guided cave tours at Rickwood or Cathedral Caverns State Parks to see the ancient formations; and enjoying the trails at Frank Jackson State Park.

While I can’t decide which of Alabama’s State Parks to revisit first, it’s clear to me – and a number of likeminded folks that call this great state home – that support of Amendment #2 will keep state park gates open and ready for families like yours to enjoy for years to come.

May all who enter as guests, leave as friends 

Native trees, panoramic views and the calls of songbirds welcome the millions of guests each year that visit Alabama State Parks. Here, folks can explore, relax and receive a first-hand account of the reason it’s called Alabama the Beautiful. In crafting the legislation that has become Amendment #2, I was keenly aware of what’s at stake if we don’t protect these natural treasures. It all boils down to a responsibility to protect the land and to ensure continued service to current and future Alabamians. At Alabama State Parks, your family, my family, and the visitors who enter as guests will continue to leave as friends.

In addition to beautiful landscapes, world-renowned habitats and countless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, Alabama’s State Parks provide a significant economic benefit to the state: approximately $375 million a year, according to the Alabama State Parks 75th Anniversary Report.

Amendment #2 is our opportunity to safeguard funding to support Alabama State Parks so future generations can also have vivid memories of our Sweet Home.