Click the links below and on the menu to the left to view information about new parks.
Through its New Parks for a New Century initiative, the NC Division of Parks and Recreation has identified sites in the state—among some of the most treasured and threatened of natural resources—as potential additions to the state parks system. This list of sites is regularly updated through a formal planning process. Important examples of the state's natural diversity are examined using scientific criteria as well as by rating their suitability for recreation.
The current list of 44 sites under consideration includes eight potential state parks, one potential state recreation area and 35 potential state natural areas. A discussion of these different types of state park units is included below. Click here to download the current list of proposed additions to the state parks system. Click here to view a locator map of the proposed additions in pdf format.
Since this process began in 2002, some sites that were once on the list have been added to the parks system as state natural areas or identified as state parks. Use the menu to the left to view details of the newest state parks and natural areas.
The North Carolina Constitution states, “It shall be the proper function of the state to acquire and preserve park, recreational and scenic areas, and in every other appropriate way, to preserve as a part of the common heritage of this State, its open lands and places of beauty.” Further, the State Parks Act of 1987 declares the state's unique examples of natural diversity “are part of the heritage of the people of the State to be preserved and managed by those people for their use and for the use of their visitors and descendents.”
Since its creation in 1916 with a single site at Mount Mitchell, the parks system has maintained steady growth through conservation of North Carolina's important lands. As population grows along with demand for an improved quality of life, and as more of these important lands face imminent threat, continued conservation must be grounded in well laid plans.
One North Carolina Naturally is intended as a guide and funding strategy to direct public and private efforts toward well-planned conservation of land and water throughout the state. The conservation plan of the Division of Parks and Recreation, “New Parks for a New Century,” is a good fit as a component of that initiative. The parks system is an important partner in One North Carolina Naturally as one of the principal land management agencies in the state.
Adding new units to the state parks system should focus on preserving sites of statewide significance, on ensuring that representative examples of the state's resources are protected and on providing state park services to areas of the state currently underserved.
The parks system includes some of the state's most beautiful scenery and significant natural resources, but it is far from complete. While substantial financial resources are needed to complete land acquisition and development envisioned in master plans for the existing 32 parks and recreation areas, the addition of new units to the system will be important in coming years for the following reasons:
The list of potential new park units includes state parks, a recreation area and state natural areas. As described in the State Parks Act, the system includes six types of units:
Enlarging the parks system is important, but potential new units must be selected carefully to make sure they fulfill the purposes of the system and that they justify the considerable public investment in acquisition and long-term management.
The Division of Parks and Recreation developed criteria to evaluate potential new units. This provides a scoring system for potential sites as well as a way to remove unsuitable sites from consideration. Each of the following criteria generates a score for a site and those are combined as an overall score for each site.
Four minimum criteria are used for the initial evaluation of sites. Sites that do not meet these basic requirements are removed from consideration. The criteria are:
If a site meets these basic requirements, then scores are assigned for each of these measured criteria:
Whether acquiring land to create a new state park or to add property to an existing state park or natural area, the NC Division of Parks and Recreation follows a standard procedure. Here are the steps and the approximate timeline.
Using the scoring system, the Division of Parks and Recreation initially evaluated 70 sites, and continues to research important natural areas. They are located in all regions of the state and include a wide variety of natural resources and potential recreation opportunities.
Each of the sites is worthy of preservation, being at least of statewide significance, and each would be an excellent addition to the parks system. Other sites are occasionally “discovered” and can become candidates for the evaluation system.
While the scoring system is a valuable tool to evaluate sites, it alone cannot be used to set priorities. Scoring can be only one component of any decision to pursue acquisition. Other factors can develop or change over time, which can, in turn, change priorities. Some of those factors are:
For these reasons, priorities for land acquisition at any of the New Parks for a New Century sites will be established in coming years as planning for new parks continues.
Why does North Carolina establish new state parks?
The State Parks Act of 1987 mandates that the NC Division of Parks and Recreation preserve representative samples of the state's diversity of natural resources and to make those natural areas available to the public for recreation and education. As the state's population grows, there is greater demand for outdoor recreation, and some areas of the state are underserved. At the same time, the pressures of development threaten sites that contain wetlands, rare species, and other special features of our natural heritage that should be protected for the future.
What are the initial steps for establishing a state park and what would be the time frame?
The process always begins with legislative action. For example, when the General Assembly designates an area as a unit of the state parks system, that action allows the Division to develop a land acquisition strategy. As a part of that step, the Division develops the conceptual plan. The conceptual plan basically identifies the planning area, identifies tracts of land that would be desirable for a state park, and sets out a course of action to locate and negotiate with property owners.
The timetable for building state park facilities depends entirely on the amount of time it takes to acquire sufficient property to both protect the natural resources and allow for recreational use. The parks system intends to work with willing sellers within the planning area described in the conceptual plan. With that in mind, we cannot set a deadline for land acquisition. Indeed at all of our state parks, land acquisition is an ongoing process.
How is the state going to pay for park land acquisition and development?
In 1994, the General Assembly established the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, supported by a portion of the state's tax on real estate deed transfers. Along with providing grants for local parks and beach access, the Trust Fund sets money aside for land acquisition and capital improvement projects in the state parks and natural areas. In fiscal 2002-03, $28.5 million came into the trust fund. The share designated for state parks project was about $18 million. Each year, the Parks and Recreation Authority, an appointed body, considers the funding of state parks projects based on a list of priorities provided by Division staff. Other sources of funding may also be available for land acquisition such as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Natural Heritage Trust Fund.
What facilities will a state park offer?
Each state park has a master plan that guides the development of all facilities. That master plan is created with input from local residents through Park Advisory Committees, from Division staff and, in some cases, from consulting engineers. The master plan is an organic document that changes as a park develops.
Typical state park development includes facilities for day-use activities such as picnicking, hiking and interpretive programming as well as a visitor's center and overnight camping facilities. Campgrounds can range from primitive “walk-in” sites to more developed tent-and-trailer loops. River corridor parks—such as at Lumber River and New River—also usually offer canoe landings for water-based recreation.
Development in all state parks and natural areas is largely guided by the desire to protect the natural resources that make the park an attraction.
If as a landowner, I want to participate in the creation of a new state park, how do I know I will get fair market value for my property?
The State Property Office contracts with two independent appraisers in the area to determine fair market value. An offer for property is based on those appraised values.
What if my property is in the planning area, but I don't want to sell?
The parks system is working with landowners willing to sell their property for a new state park. The Division would be interested to know if you change your mind about selling, and our staff is likely to contact you periodically.
What if I want to stay in my home and sell the rest of my property? What if I have a farm and want to use it for another five years? What if I have an animal operation on my farm and need time to reduce the herd?
Each transaction with a landowner is unique. The parks system and the State Property Office work with landowners on a case-by-case basis, evaluating the desirability of the property, its intended use and the situation of the landowner.
Will the state condemn my property?
The parks system considers condemnation a last-resort option in considering the protection of natural resources, although the state does have authority to use condemnation for state park land acquisition. The parks system prefers to work with local communities in building consensus for projects, and in its 87-year history, has never used condemnation as a means to create a new state park.
Since 1991, there have been only seven condemnations for the state parks system among nearly 300 transactions. Five of those were to clear title or settle a boundary line dispute between two landowners. These condemnations took place after extensive title work was done in an attempt to resolve the issues. The remaining two condemnations were initiated to resolve differences in property value that we could not resolve through extensive negotiation, and the properties were vital for capital improvement projects.