Members of the N.C. Outdoor Recreation Coalition tour the future site of Pisgah View State Park. Photo by Jay Leutze
A Look at Two State Parks in Development
Although they are just in the beginning phases, two new state parks are coming to the region. We’ve got the latest updates on these future public spaces.
Pisgah View State Park, N.C.
When looking at protecting tracts of land, conservationists consider the size of the property and its proximity to other protected lands. With Pisgah View Ranch, they found both.
“It is really unusual to find 1,600 acres very, very close to Pisgah National Forest and very, very close to the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Jay Leutze, the chair of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s land protection committee.
For years, the Cogburn family has been running Pisgah View as a popular guest ranch with swimming, horseback riding, and hiking just outside of Asheville. When the four siblings expressed an interest in selling the property in early 2019, there was an added interest in preserving the family legacy for future generations.
“The options are the options we often face in this landscape,” Leutze said. “It’s either going to turn into a high-end subdivision gated community. Or, if we have an opportunity, can put the package together, and have sufficient public interest, we can try to open it to the public and create a new park. The state wouldn’t have moved forward if we couldn’t identify support in the local community for the project.”
With a project of this magnitude, a variety of private donors, government agencies, and organizations like SAHC came together to buy the property for a future state park.
An agreement with the Cogburn family calls for the state to purchase the property in five phases over the next five years. With an established network of trails already on the property, the state is working on updating amenities and preparing the park to be opened to the public.
“It’s just a few miles from Asheville, so people can have a great meal or enjoy a craft beer and then hit the tent back at the campground and get in a wonderful hike all in one visit,” Leutze said. “That’s pretty special.”
The future Pisgah View State Park covers 1,600 acres from the Upper Hominy Creek Valley to the ridgeline, with views of Mount Pisgah in the distance.
“If you’re interested in forest ecology, you can see how the forest changes from the valley floor to the high elevation ridgeline,” Leutze said. “The species are quite different from what you find down by the creeks to what you find up on the ridges.”
Once opened, Pisgah View will be only the second state park west of Asheville in North Carolina. Western North Carolina will also be getting three new state trails in the coming years. As people look for new ways to get outside, long distance trails offer opportunities to explore new places as they connect counties and protected places.
Last summer, the state General Assembly authorized the Wilderness Gateway State Trail, Overmountain Victory State Trail, and Northern Peaks State Trail. Smith Raynor, the state trails planner, said all three trails are in the beginning phases as they seek public comment and work with section sponsors to design the routes.
“I anticipate with these three new ones there will be sections on the ground within five years,” Raynor said. “They will almost certainly not be completed in five years, but we will have parts going. Once you get the first couple parts on the ground and people start using them, then momentum and interest build. Then, hopefully, it gets done faster and faster.”
While North Carolina State Parks constructs and manages sections of the trail that cut across state park land, section sponsors like local governments, land conservancies, and nonprofits are responsible for the rest of the trail.
“North Carolina has a $28 billion outdoor recreation industry,” Raynor said. “Trails are pretty much the foundation of that. We have greenways, so if you have a baby in a stroller or if you’re in a wheelchair, there are trails that you can use. There are some very challenging trails that can make you sweat and really stretch your muscles. It truly helps the rural economies to have these trails go through their towns. In the more urban areas, trails can really help with air quality because folks use them as alternative transportation corridors.”
Machicomoco State Park, Va.
Machicomoco is an Algonquian word meaning ‘special meeting place,’ which is exactly what is being planned at Virginia’s newest state park.
Once opened, Machicomoco State Park will interpret thousands of years of Native American history in the area. A timeline detailing Native American agricultural, trade, and cultural practices will lead visitors into the new park. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation worked with members of the Virginia Native American tribes to collect the information and design elements of the park.
The site is located a few miles down the York River from Werwocomoco, an important Powhatan town established before English colonizers settled the area. Clyde Cristman, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, said they are finding evidence of this history all over the site, including the location that will be the canoe launch for future visitors.
“As we started doing the phase one archaeological work, we realized that we weren’t the first people to figure out this was a great site for putting your canoes in,” Cristman said. “The Native Americans had figured that out thousands of years ago. This particular area of the property, when we did the archaeological investigation, we found so many artifacts that we determined that was not going to be a suitable place for us to put the launch.”
Cristman said they hope to open phase one, which will include water access, hiking trails, day-use areas, and the interpretive visitor’s center, to the public sometime this fall. Future plans include adding overnight lodging and connecting Machicomoco with a second site upriver.
“We’re looking at being able to create a bike path to tie them together,” Cristman said. “You would be able to paddle a canoe or kayak from one location to the other. Perhaps we’ll have a canoe and kayak campground at the other site.”
An 18th-century house listed on the National Register of Historic Places that sits on the property is also being renovated. In the future, it may be used for overnight lodging.
Whether you’re a hiker, runner, or biker, check out these new trails in the Blue Ridge.
Standing Boy Trails, Ga.
The first three trails at Standing Boy Creek Wildlife Management Area opened for hikers, runners, and bikers of all skill levels. Of the 25 miles of planned trails, about six miles are open to the public. The 1,500-acre property borders the Chattahoochee River.
Meeks Mountain Trails, W.Va.
As Hurricane resident Brandon Doerner says, they’re not just building trails, they’re building community. In the first year, over 200 volunteers helped build and open 5.5 miles of the Meeks Mountain Trails. The Meeks family, owners of the 600 acres the trails are being built on, entered into an agreement with the city for use of their property. The goal is to open 26 miles of trail in the next five years for hikers, runners, and mountain bikers to enjoy, in addition to a few primitive camping spots.
Hinchee Trail, Va.
In September 2019, Hinchee Trail opened as part of the growing network of trails throughout the Roanoke Valley. At 2.1 miles, this multi-use trail connects Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail, a 1.7-mile gravel path, and Brushy Mountain Trail, a ten-mile trail in Carvins Cove Natural Reserve. A 235-acre park preserves the trail built on a former Civilian Conservation Corps fire road.
Phase one of the LINC trail system was completed at the end of 2019 with a 1.4-mile trail featuring a bike repair station, benches, and a mural. Planners are working on an additional 3.5 miles in 2020. When finished, a network of 26 miles of paved trails will connect Newnan, Ga. for users on foot and non-motorized vehicles.
Whitehouse Cliffs Trail, Tenn.
Whitehouse Cliffs reopened at the end of 2019 with a mile of new trail and 125 stone steps. This short but strenuous hike offers stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains from Rocky Fork State Park.
Quemahoning Trail, Penn.
Designed with mountain bikers in mind, the Quemahoning Trail is a 17-mile multi-use trail that encircles the Quemahoning Reservoir.
Seven Bends State Park, Va.
Hikers and bikers will enjoy the trails along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Keep an eye out for the grand opening of new facilities, including boat ramps, in early May.