ROARING GAP — A new superintendent, Bill Meyer, moved to Stone Mountain State Park in June. With more than 14,000 acres and 11 full-time staff to manage, Meyer is beginning to settle into his position.
Adjoining the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Thurmond Chatham Game Lands, Stone Mountain State Park was established in 1969. With the property’s rich cultural history and vast environmental resources, Meyer said, “Stone Mountain, to me, is one of the state’s greatest jewels.”
Growing up in Ohio, Meyer discovered his love for nature as a Boy Scout. “I always knew that I wanted to work outdoors,” he said.
Spending three years in the Army before entering the forestry program at Ohio State, Meyer started his career with the Forestry Service. “Forestry is my thing,” he said, adding he enjoys leading tree identification hikes.
Meyer came to the NC State Parks 28 years ago, serving most recently at Medoc Mountain State Park. According to Meyer, the biggest differences between the parks are the acreage and the visitation, both of which are more than triple the amount at Stone Mountain. “Here we’ll probably see over 450,000 visitors this year,” he said.
Even with the large number of people coming through the park, Meyer noted, “People come here to enjoy the trails, and are careful to leave a minimum footprint.”
The entire park system is working to keep parks current. Stone Mountain is making changes to improve the overall experience for visitors.
According to Meyer, the park now has the ability to make camping reservations by phone and check-in at the campground. Funded by the Friends of State Parks, a new amphitheater for camp programs is expected to be completed next summer. An access road is being improved to allow 24-hour access to the campground beginning next season.
Governor Pat McCrory recently signed a bill for a bond referendum which would provide park funding. “We stand to get about $1.4 million if the bond is successful,” said Meyer. Funds will go toward expanding the visitor center, reworking the parking lot, adding an annex with a classroom, and improving electric sites in the campground.
“I’m learning, as a superintendent, to listen to the public’s wishes, and form the park based on them,” said Meyer, explaining without the public support there will be no more parks.
With facilities to picnic, hike, climb and rappel, canoe, fish, camp, ride horseback, bird watch, and attend weekly ranger-led programs, the park has opportunities year-round. In addition, NC State Parks will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. Plans for an event at Stone Mountain are still in the works.
“First Day Hike” will take place at Stone Mountain State Park on Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. Meet a ranger for a 3.4 out-and-back moderate to strenuous hike to the top of Stone Mountain. Meet at the Upper Trail Head parking area. For more information, call the park at 336-957-8185.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.