North Carolina's state parks serve the state's citizens in many ways. They preserve the splendid scenic landmarks that help to define the character of North Carolina. They provide refuge for many plant and animal species that are declining as North Carolina urbanizes. They offer refreshing and healthful outdoor recreation of a type that generally cannot be provided by private enterprises. They provide educational and research opportunities for North Carolina's children, students and scientists.
All of these services depend on an adequate land base for the parks. Park boundaries should encompass and buffer the park's major natural and cultural resources, and should contain enough relatively flat, well-drained land for construction of park facilities. Including appropriate lands within park boundaries can also protect watersheds that drain into park streams and lakes, and can protect scenic views that make the park particularly pleasing to visitors.
Significant sources of land acquisition funding over the last decade have included the 1993 state parks bond, state General Fund appropriations, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the Natural Heritage Trust Fund, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. These and other grants and donations have enabled the division to address more than 33 percent of the land acquisition needs identified in the 1993 system-wide plan and to add several new units to the system. An additional staff position in land acquisition established in 1994 has improved the efficiency of the division's land acquisition activities.
Steady funding from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, supplemented by other funding, allows the division to work on larger acquisition projects that require multiple years of funding. Steady funding also allows the division to proceed with planned acquisitions when land owners are willing, improving the relationship between the parks and their neighbors.
Since 1994, planning efforts have resulted in updates to the boundaries of many of the parks to better address resource protection and facility needs. In some cases, new natural heritage inventories have identified lands that should be protected adjacent to the parks. In other cases, master plans have been expanded to provide land more suitable for development of park facilities, to more effectively buffer park resources and activities from incompatible activities on adjacent lands, or to tie an existing park to other conservation lands for the creation of a larger protected complex. Currently, about 30,000 acres are needed to complete existing state park units in accordance with master plans. Additional lands are needed to add new units to the system.