In 2007 the state acquired Chimney Rock Park, nearly 1,000 acres of property that has—for more than a century—been owned and operated as a private nature attraction by the Morse family.

In 2005 North Carolina’s Division of Parks and Recreation initiated an active land acquisition process supported by the state’s three conservation trust funds and nonprofit conservation partners. The state parks system had acquired more than 2,260 acres on both sides of the rugged Hickory Nut Gorge to create a premier state park site in the system’s New Parks for a New Century initiative. The acquisition of Chimney Rock—virtually in the center of the park’s concept area— would provide a high-profile focal point for Hickory Nut Gorge State Park and would offer readily available public access and facilities.

Additionally, the acquisition of Chimney Rock Park would assure the state property with high natural resource value because it has been under constant conservation stewardship by the Morse family since 1902.

The Conservation Fund played a key role in the final stages of negotiations with the owners of Chimney Rock Park and attracted private funds to match significant state support for the acquisition. Funding for the $24 million purchase came from a $15 million appropriation for the state General Assembly, $4.85 million from three state conservation trust funds and a $2.35 million gift from Fred and Alice Stanback.

Under the agreement, the state parks system will continue to operate Chimney Rock Park in a similar manner as the Morse family until Chimney Rock Park is fully integrated into the state parks system. The state is purchasing all assets of Chimney Rock Company except “Chimney Rock Park” merchandise and certain Morse family memorabilia and personal items. The Morse family’s legacy of stewardship at Chimney Rock Park will be perpetuated in future exhibits at the state park, and a plaque that honors that stewardship on the chimney itself will remain in place.

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