Century-old Mount Mitchell State Park is getting ready to expand. State parks officials are working on a big land purchase, with the help of a national conservation group and private donors, that will double the park’s size.
For the past two years, The Conservation Fund of Arlington, Va., has been buying privately-owned property north and west of 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. The property includes land along the Cane River as well as Cattail Peak - the fifth highest in the East at 6,584 feet.
“We wanted to create a part of Mount Mitchell State Park that would be accessible to the public year round. Mount Mitchell state Park is a wonderful resource, but due to extreme weather, it's not open to the public year round,” said Bill Holman, North Carolina director for the fund.
Holman said these properties will provide new hiking and fishing opportunities.
“They provide public access to the Cane River, as well as Cattail Peak. And the Cane River is a great trout fishing stream,” he said.
The park now is just under 2,000 acres. The purchase will add 2,744 acres.
The Conservation Fund paid $8.6 million for all the land, with the help of environmental philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury. It’s selling to the state for less than that - $3.2 million.
That money will come from two state land conservation trust funds, according to state parks spokesman Charlie Peek said.
Peek said the deal is a good example of something the state is doing all the time - expanding parks to serve the state's growing population.
“The land is perpetually protected now and I think that's the most important thing, because it's more and more difficult for us to acquire large tracts to add to state parks,” he said.
State parks officials now are planning how they'll manage all the extra land. The sale is expected to happen later this year. It comes as Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s first state park, celebrates its hundredth anniversary.
WFAE's Allison Braden contributed to this story.
TheConservationFund.org, “Black Mountains”
NCParks.gov, “Mount Mitchell State Park”
Aug. 27, 2016, press release, "Governor McCrory Celebrates Mount Mitchell State Park 100th Anniversary."