Defining State Parks

Published on June 3, 2010

While researching the North Carolina State Park System for my “visit and photograph every state park” project, I learned that there are far more state parks than I realized. My original list had 39 parks; the official list, as I eventually found on the NC parks website, lists 32 parks, 19 natural areas, and 4 recreation areas. Unfortunately, this list is only current as of January 1, 2007. As such, a few newer parks aren’t listed, such as Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock (which is actually listed as Hickory Nut Gorge).

All of this got me thinking about what, for my purposes, constitutes a “state park.” Not all of the official sites have public facilities or access. A number of the state natural areas are simply chunks of land set aside for preservation. Several areas are relatively new and haven’t yet been developed. Some others aren’t developed simply based on recent budget cuts and shortfalls.

These facts have all led me to the following decision: the “state parks” I will pursue in my visitation project will include those for which official attendance figures are kept. Attendance information is posted in each state park newsletter; it is from this source that I have pulled my park list. The result is 40 parks, which nearly agrees with my first list. I had omitted Grandfather Mountain in my first pass, simply because it only recently became a state park, and wasn’t listed on the official website until very recently.

I’m looking forward to visiting each park in the state. As of this writing, I’ve been to 13 parks, and have photographed 11. Plenty more to go!

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