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State to buy Grandfather Mountain

Posted September 28, 2008
Updated September 29, 2008

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— The state government plans to buy Grandfather Mountain and preserve the private park and popular tourist attraction against development.

North Carolina will gain ownership of the nearly 6,000-foot mountain and 2,600 surrounding acres in Avery, Watauga and Caldwell counties, said Jack Morton, a board member of Grandfather Mount Inc. The deal, to be announced Monday, will cost about $12 million.

The state will also acquire an easement around the mountain to enhance its preservation efforts, Morton said.

Grandfather Mountain is known for its Mile High Swinging Bridge, challenging hiking trails and wildlife habitats, including a home for black bears. The park is home to dozens of endangered species and is recognized by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.

The Morton family has owned and operated the mountain and park since 1952.

Morton, a grandson of the mountain's original owner, said his family never considered selling Grandfather Mountain to a developer.

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  • Windsway Sep 29, 2008

    The cost of 12 million dollars is more than reasonable. HOWEVER, where is the money coming from? Did Governor Easley approve this purchase before he called for the 2% reduction? Sure he did. But lets face it, 12 million dollars is chump change to him. After all he spent $50,000+ a day to rent a car, spent thousands for a meal, gets his wife's salary doubled, and flies home for weekends in a state owned helicopter. He probably uses his state telephone to keep in touch with his former cronies in prison. But,again, what does he care? He leaves office in January.

  • WRALcensorsforIslam Sep 29, 2008

    lizard is correct. I've backpacked and camped in most of the state and national forests in NC. The state forests are awful compared to Virginia and South Carolina. Whatever NC spends money on I can assure you from the facilities that it isn't the state forest. Grandfather Mountain was an embarassment to the state because the Morton family kept generating impressive foot traffic and did well maintaining the place. I've carried a pack over miles of GM trails and loved the place. The USFS does a better job than NC does. South Mountain is a great example. The road in and out is prone to being washed out during heavy rain events. I've been trapped there before while the state has to move gravel in to restore the road. This is at a site that isn't even a remote or primitive access forest. If that were Snowbird Wilderness Area I wouldn't be surprised. South Mountain is akin to Umstead. I don't even believe it's the fault of the state employees, it's the legislature and the governor's fault.

  • NCSU2004 Sep 29, 2008

    lizard.... you must be crazy.

    I'm thrilled that the state will be taking it over and I think that the state does a great job of taking care of our parks. Now it will be there for everyone to enjoy, not just those that can afford $14 a person to go up.

  • jonmac Sep 29, 2008

    Folks, 12 million for this property is a steal. I believe the Chimney Rock property was twice that.

  • cbeetee Sep 29, 2008

    So much for that 2% budget cut Easley asked for. Maybe the State will rename it to Easley Mountain and create another job for Mary? Gotta love the State's priorities.

  • Reader Sep 29, 2008

    Good work, Mr. Morton. You have done your great-grandaddy proud. I'm thrilled that the Grandfather won't be at risk for a plague of mountain-top condos. Now I am assured that my grandchildren can challenge themselves on the Grandfather Trail to McCrae's peak just like I did, and then my children did. Thank you for sharing your heritage with all of us.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Sep 29, 2008

    It's a shame that the state is taking over because it is inevitable that they will not do as good a job as the Mortons'. All you have to do is look at Chimney Rock (now) State Park to see that...

    But I hold, as the silver lining, that this mountain will never be developed now and that is certainly a good thing.

    To answer an earlier question, yes the mountain does span the counties mentioned. I believe that the three counties meet at Callaway Peak, the highest point of the entire mountain at 5984'.

    An amazingly beautiful spot if you ever want to brave the 2 mile or so hike from the Grandfather Mountain upper parking lot. But, be warned, it is extremely challenging! In fact, a number of these trails at Grandfather Mountain are among the most rugged trails east of the Mississippi in my opinion.

  • GWALLY Sep 29, 2008

    Only the state of NC would use this logic to spend 12+ million in real estate investment. The economy has and will continue to put a damper on ANY real estate developing....period. You AIN'T seen NOTHING yet!!!

  • drewbyh Sep 29, 2008

    Maybe the Morton family should have just sold it to Wal-mart. Could have been the worlds first Wal-mart in a mountain. They could kill and stuff all the black bears and have them on display or better yet you could drop a quarter and ride a dead bear. Yeah, development of Grandfather mountain would be an awesome idea!

  • kevboom Sep 29, 2008

    Good for the state. Always better to have state treasures like Grandfather Mountain and the recent Chimney Rock acquisition in the state park system for preservation. Sounds like Morton did a good job with his stewardship, but it only takes one death in a family for a life's work to be auctioned off to the highest developer. The valleys all around Grandfather Mountain are still in private hands and open for development, so prior comments that this will somehow hinder development and progress are just bunk. Keep the few remaining mountain tops clean and tree-filled for all to enjoy. God knows the national forest service already turns over enough public acreage for chopping without developers eroding slopes to perch cabins precariously at every vista.

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