Today, Governor Mike Easley formally announced that 2,600 acres of Grandfather Mountain wilderness backcountry will be bought by the State of North Carolina for $12 million to create the 34th State Park in NC. The main public area (including the mile-high swinging bridge, nature museum and animal habitats) will be operated by a newly-formed, non-profit company with permanent restrictions to ensure the mountain will be preserved in its present state. It is expected that the operation of the mountain will continue on as usual - with fees being collected at the entrance to support the missions of research, education and public access and recreation. The mountain has been privately owned, operated and protected by the MacCrae/Morton family since the 1880s. Hugh Morton, who inherited the mountain from his grandfather in 1952, developed the Mile High Swinging Bridge atop the mountain and created nature habitats for visitors to enjoy. He also was instrumental in demanding that the Blue Ridge Parkway be constructed in such a way to preserve the mountain -- as a result, the magnificent Linn Cove Viaduct was built and the final section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was opened in 1987 (click here for more Viaduct history). When Hugh died in 2006 at the age of 85, his grandson, Crae Morton, promised to carry on his legacy of preserving the mountain. Crae will take over as CEO of the newly formed non-profit organization operating the public attractions on the mountain. Let's hope that through this acquisition, this magnificent mountain will continue to be protected and cherished for generations to come. Click here, here and here to read more about the sale. Click here to see a great photo of Hugh Morton in front of Grandfather Mountain in the 1940s.
The above photo was taken a year ago yesterday. The structure you see on the left has since been demolished and a new, less intrusive visitor's center is currently being constructed.