Click the links below to learn about the different parts of our organization and how they function
While the system of 29 state parks and four recreation areas is familiar to most North Carolinians and their visitors, there are many other facets of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The division is one of the premier land conservation agencies in the state. Its role is steward of more than 186,000 acres, including many of North Carolina's most treasured natural resources. More than 75,000 acres are protected as state natural areas, fragile samples of the state's natural diversity. And, the division manages the state's natural and scenic rivers system. A State Trails Program, with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail as its centerpiece, works with local and regional agencies to build a network of natural corridors through North Carolina for recreation and conservation. And, the division's staff is deeply involved in research and the development of new techniques for protecting the land, its habitats and its inhabitants.
The division works closely with the Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage and Clean Water Management trust funds towards a unified state conservation effort. Also in support of that effort, similar partnerships extend to a broad coalition of nonprofit land trusts and conservancies as well as universities and organizations involved in conservation management and research. Strong working relationships have been forged with other government agencies such as the Natural Heritage Trust Fund and the Wildlife Resources Commission.
The division is a leader in environmental education. More than 150 of its rangers and park superintendents are certified environmental educators, and more than 250,000 people attend interpretive programs in state parks each year. Most state parks offer modern exhibit halls where children and adults learn through museum-quality presentations. The division operates environmental education centers at Goose Creek and Haw River state parks and plans a third at South Mountains State Park. Schoolteachers and other educators find opportunities for advanced training and certification in state parks.
The division's administration of the local grant program of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund has resulted in new and expanded parks in nearly all the state's 100 counties. The 50 percent-match grants have funded a variety of recreation facilities such as greenways, soccer fields, playgrounds, senior centers, swimming pools campgrounds, fitness trails and community buildings. The State Trails Program offers two grant programs. The Adopt-a-Trail grants are offered to government agencies, nonprofits and private trail groups for trail construction, facilities, maintenance, outreach and other related projects. The federal Recreational Trails Program offers 20 percent-match grants for projects that meet the requirements of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. There are requirements for matching funds or in-kind services. Click here to learn more about the trails grant programs. In the past, the division has administered the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant program. That program is currently inactive.
Affiliation with professional organizations helps the division develop its opportunities for recreation and to share ideas. It is a member of the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Association as well as the national and southeastern associations of state park directors. It is a partner with N.C. State University in the operation of Recreation Resource Services (RRS), which supports local government projects through planning and grant analysis. These programs foster outdoor recreation of all types throughout North Carolina.
The Division of Parks and Recreation's Office of the Director supervises all of the agencies activities, from the visitor's reception area in the Raleigh headquarters to the restaurant operation on the top of Mount Mitchell State Park. The mission of the state parks system is to conserve and protect representative examples of the natural beauty, ecological features and recreational resources of statewide significance; to provide outdoor recreational opportunities in a safe and healthy environment; and to provide environmental education opportunities that promote stewardship of the state's natural heritage. The division is organized into the director's office and staff, and three sections it supervises: planning and administration, operations and design and development. The director also coordinates activities of the Recreation Resources Service and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority.
The magnificent natural resources of the North Carolina state parks system and the field staff who serve as their primary stewards are the most visible and recognizable images of the Division of Parks and Recreation. However, behind the scenes specialists play a critical role in helping the agency fulfill its mission. Those include biologists and researchers in natural resource management, land acquisition specialists and other professional administrative staff. The planning and administrative section of the division oversees personnel, communications, enterprise development, information technology, budgeting, accounting, land acquisition, resource management, regional planning and grant administration.
The Division's Natural Resources and Regional Planning Section is responsible for four primary functions:
Biologists in the Natural Resources Program are responsible for natural and cultural resource stewardship, species inventory and monitoring, coordinating and conducting scientific research in the parks, environmental review and compliance for park construction projects, and landscape-level resource protection. They contribute their technical expertise to assist field staff, planning staff and construction staff in protecting and managing the significant resources of the state parks system.
The North Carolina State Trails Program is dedicated to helping citizens, nonprofit organizations and government agencies plan, develop and manage all types of trails ranging from greenways and trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding to river trails and off-highway vehicle trails. The State Trails Program also plans and coordinates the development of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail and other State Trails, and administers grant programs for trail acquisition and development.
The Grants and Special Studies Program administers the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund local grant program, and serves as staff to the NC Parks and Recreation Authority. They are also responsible for the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, and they conduct a variety of special legislative studies as needed.
The Regional Planning Program is responsible for the preparation of the State Parks Systemwide Plan, and for identifying and evaluating potential additions to the parks system for the New Parks for a New Century plan.
The state parks system maintains more than $335 million in facilities and infrastructure. Those include modern visitor centers, road and utility systems, expansive campgrounds and boating facilities. The system's design and development program is responsible for planning and construction of all these amenities in the state parks.
The growth of existing and new parks begins with a corps of long-term planners and landscape architects. Most state parks have master plans, which guide growth and development over the long term as well as general management plans that guide day-to-day operations. Every potential land acquisition and new facility is scored for priority. In addition, the Division of Parks and Recreation maintains a systemwide plan, which directs the priorities of the state parks system and is regularly revised.
A team of construction managers oversees development of new facilities. It coordinates the work of architects and contractors, usually managing more than 40 separate projects at any one time. The managers meet regularly with park superintendents and contractors to make sure jobs are on schedule, meet rigid state standards and can be adjusted to meet park needs. Recently, the design and development program has taken on the added responsibility of ensuring that new facilities are environmentally sustainable.
All of these positions require post-secondary education and practical experience in planning and design or construction management. But, they also offer the satisfaction of building a state parks system that will serve for generations.
The Operations section has wide range of varied responsibilities from education to the protection of park visitors. The table below includes the section's major responsibilities presented in priority order together with the duties associated with each responsibility.
|Interpretation and Education||
|Natural and Cultural Resource Management||
|Visitor Protection and Safety||
Recreation Resources Service (RRS) is a technical assistance program jointly administered by the division and North Carolina State University's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.
With its team of regional consultants, RRS regularly helps local governments submit grant proposals for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and follows through with project inspections, application processing, conversion issues and closeout processing.
Technical assistance also includes: assistance with the establishment of new parks and recreation departments; organization and training for new parks and recreation advisory boards; benefits-based programming; playground safety; Job Service Bulletins; grants; and workshops.
Recent changes in the grant process have increased the involvement of RRS. In the past, agencies were given funds up front and required to justify expenditures at the close of the project. Now, grant funds are distributed through a reimbursement program with RRS consultants processing the reimbursement requests and forwarding them to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for payment.
RRS annually conducts the North Carolina Municipal and County Parks and Recreation Study. Three research themes (salaries, fees/charges, facilities inventory), budget data and special interest area data are sought from every public parks and recreation department. With roughly 50 percent responding, about 35,000 data points are collected. That is used to generate an executive summary and is used to generate special request studies, for instance salary and fee comparisons.
Annually, RRS also sponsors continuing education opportunities for parks and recreation professionals and citizen board members.
For more information about RRS, see About Us >> Grants >> PARTF.