Local News

Umstead State Park considers access changes

Posted September 20, 2008 5:04 p.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2008 7:26 p.m. EDT

— William B. Umstead State Park officials are considering changes to improve access, following complaints from regular visitors about a closed shortcut into the park.

Visitors were upset when the state Department of Transportation permanently blocked an unofficial entrance into the park from Graylyn Drive off Ebeneezer Church Road last October.

Nearby homeowners complained after the street became too popular with cars that weren’t supposed to park there.

Heavy vehicles accessing what was supposed to be a neighborhood pedestrian entrance resulted in problems with traffic flow, litter, inappropriate activity and unauthorized entry into the park after-hours, according to a press release on the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation Web site.

For frequent park visitor Aaron Ward, Graylyn Drive was a quicker way to get to the wider trails he and his dog prefer to hike.

“Being able to come here, park and jump out is a little more convenient. Plus, when you come in the U.S.-70 side you have to drive a 2.5 mile road inside the park to get to parking,” Ward said.

Last year the DOT closed Graylyn Drive to pave it. Plans to pave the road and the restrictions on parking there have disrupted access to the park’s hiking/biking trail system for some visitors. The issues have caused park officials to think of alternatives to the current situation.

“So we essentially have a lot of requests from folks that say, ‘Please find us an alternative, a better way to access these trails we like to use than we currently have,’” Umstead State Park Superintendent Scott Letchworth.

The park is considering three alternatives:

  • The first option would involve continuing with the existing access and parking facilities available.
  • The second option would make improvements on the existing road from the intersection near the Maple Hill Lodge to the parking area at Sycamore day use area. The parking area would also be improved.
  • The third option would create a new official entrance at the end of Graylyn Drive onto a gravel road leading into the existing Sycamore day use/trailhead area. Visitors could park a half-mile away. The gravel road that currently exists from Maple Hill Lodge to the Sycamore area would be closed to park visitors.

The second and third options would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000.

Public comment on the access alternatives is being accepted until Oct. 10. Park officials will make the final decision.

“The amount of talk and interest this has generated shows you how much people love North Carolina state parks,” Letchworth said.