Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Report: Chimney Rock to be 'heart' of new state park

According to this article in the Charlotte Observer, Chimney Rock Park will be the "centerpiece" of one of North Carolina's state parks.

"The state will pay about $24 million for 996 acres so unique, with sheer cliffs and 400-foot waterfall, that Sotheby's put a $55 million price tag on it," said the article.

"The private park overlooking Lake Lure will become the keystone amid 2,800 nearby acres, which arc around Hickory Nut Gorge, that the state owns or may acquire. Hickory Nut Gorge State Park will open in 2008.

"State officials envision a public park that's little different from the trails, nature center and elevator to the Chimney top that draw 250,000 tourists a year. Lucius Morse bought the first 64 acres of the private park, 90 miles west of Charlotte, in 1902.

"The announcement relieved local residents. The wind-whipped view from the rock now includes vacation homes on surrounding peaks and a new road being carved into the mountain just across the gorge.

"'I go out every morning, I open my deck doors and I see Chimney Rock every day,' said Margie Burns, a gift shop owner who had worried that development would engulf the park. 'I definitely would not like to see a lot of houses.' ..."

Neither do we, Margie.

Monday, January 29, 2007

State buys Chimney Rock park

It's official: the State of North Carolina now owns Chimney Rock Park.

According to a news brief from the Asheville Citizen-Times, the state has bought the park for $24 million, and Gov. Mike Easley will announce the purchase in a news conference today.

"A private donation helped boost the price the state was willing to pay, said Charlie Peek, spokesman for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation" said the paper.

"The state parks system had long been in negotiations with the owners of the 1,000-acre property in Rutherford County."

Officials with the property originally wanted $55 million, but the "anonymous donation of $2.35 million allowed the state to go above its appraisal price, Peek said."

In somewhat related news, the Associated Press is reporting that tourism was up at North Carolina's mountain parks last year.

Tourism increased in western North Carolina's national parks last year, despite high gas prices that hovered around $3 a gallon.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw its largest increase in tourism in five years and the Blue Ridge Parkway reported a 6 percent increase in visitors.

The Smokies reported a 2 percent increase in the number of visitors in 2006, to 9.4 million people, according to numbers released Friday. Visitation to the park peaked in 2000 with 10 million visitors a year.

Tourism attractions in surrounding communities and the region's proximity to metropolitan areas kept numbers high, officials said.

The mountain economies near the parks thrive on visitors, who spend $652 million a year at local hotels and restaurants in communities that border the parks.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Salisbury-based Cheerwine to take on the Super Bowl

Uh-oh, Kevin Brewer: Your secret may no longer be safe.

It appears that Salisbury-based Cheerwine is getting into the Super Bowl commercial biz -- sort of.

According to the Salisbury Post, the soft drink company and North Carolina icon "will launch a new advertising platform during the Super Bowl with a 30-second commercial in the Charlotte and Greensboro television markets.

"The ad represents a sneak preview of an advertising campaign that will debut in April, featuring a zany, investigative Cheer-watch News Team dedicated to 'Protecting Your Right to Drink Cheerwine.' ..."

Once the ads go national, expect the rest of the country to know what KBrew does -- Cheerwine is the bomb.

(By going to the Post's article, you can actually view the commercial.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Update: N.C. Democrats apologize for 1898 race riot

From the Wilmington Star-News:

"White supremacists used violence and intimidation to chase away black leaders.

"The N.C. Democratic Party issued a formal apology Saturday for its role in the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, the only documented government overthrow in this country, in which dozens of blacks were massacred.

"At that time, white supremacists used violence and intimidation to chase black leaders and white allies from office and the community.

"The Democratic Party's executive committee, made up of more than 700 leaders and activists from all 100 counties, drafted a resolution outlining the apology which acknowledges the party 'engineered and executed a statewide white supremacy campaign in order to win the 1900 elections that was vicious, polarizing and defamatory toward African-Americans and that encouraged racial violence.' ..."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

RIP, NASCAR's 'nice guy'

I'm admittedly not much of a NASCAR guy, but I'm also not so naive to ignore its impact on the South and especially North Carolina. So when something as big as the loss of a NASCAR icon and personality happens, it behooves me to mention it.

Benny Parson ("BP") passed away on Tuesday from complications of lung cancer. He was 65 and leaves a legacy of one of the most colorful people in the sport. You can't doubt the impact he had on it; the sport's popularity is worldwide now, and he can be thanked for contributing to that.

"... Parsons was known around the industry as BP or The Professor," says the Hickory Daily Record. "He signed his blog on www.bennyparsons.com as BP. Parsons also was known during his racing years as the taxicab driver. Before his racing career began, Parsons moved to Detroit to live with his family. His father owned a taxi company, and Parsons sometimes drove one of the cabs. It was through this work that Parsons was introduced into the racing business. He moved back to North Carolina to pursue his dream.

" 'It will really seem strange not to have Benny around because you heard him day-in and day-out,' [Morgan] Shepherd said. 'We’ve lost one of our great competitors and broadcasters.'"

Rest in peace, BP.

'The Old Homes of Beaufort'

I may have missed just why this was published today in the Raleigh News & Observer, but it doesn't really matter. Beaufort is one of the great old, small towns in North Carolina, so I'm not gonna pass up a chance to promote it.

According to this, Carol Bessent Hayman is the Poet Laureate of Beaufort and Carteret County. This is her poem, "The Old Homes of Beaufort."

Old houses with high peaked roofs,
balconied porches, banistered stairs and fences
seem alive
as if they are the enduring defenses
of this town with the sea at its door,
the wind in its face
and a past filled with mystery and magic.

They sit quietly confident,
white or blue or gray
in blocks laid out by ghosts.
One can imagine children who played,
lovers who wandered
beneath century-old oaks on neat green lawns.
At night, they wear mantles of clouds and moonlight.
By day, staid and proper,
they take sunlight or rain with equal grace.

Each has a personality,
individual, unique.
The strong lines and gentle curves
of their sturdy posts and tall slender columns
send messages:
We are heritage.
We survive.

Quick hits: Wild horses, an overdue apology and more on tolls

Wild horse fund may cause confusion
"Members of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund say a similar agency being created across the state line in Virginia may end up generating more confusion than advocacy for the Outer Banks herd," according to the Elizabeth City Daily Advance.

"A bill introduced by Delegate Terrie Suit, R-Virginia Beach, in the Virginia House of Delegates would award state funding to aid a nonprofit group called the Wild Spanish Mustangs Fund.

"According to Suit's office, the nonprofit's funding would pay the medical fees as well as the costs of corralling Corolla horses that stray across the state line into Virginia. The funding would also pay for repairs to any fences that needed mending to keep the horses confined to North Carolina.

"Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund in Currituck, said she was taken aback when she heard about Suit's legislation. The Wild Spanish Mustangs Fund apparently made no contact with the Wild Horse Fund, which has been given stewardship over the herd, prior to seeking the legislation in Virginia. ..."

Wilmington race riot apology might come
"The history published last year on the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot is causing action in other parts of the state - including a likely apology from the N.C. Democratic Party and a call from the NAACP for the state legislature to act," according to the Wilmington Star-News.

"On Saturday, the party's executive committee will consider a resolution that would apologize for the organization's part in the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, which saw a white supremacist movement use violence and intimidation to drive black leaders and white allies from office and the community.

"State Chairman Jerry Meek said the apology, which would likely come in a formal resolution of the party's 700-member executive committee, was inspired by the history released last year by a commission created by the General Assembly to study the event.

" 'I thought it was a good idea,' Meek said of writing a draft resolution of apology. 'I think moving forward often requires a sober reflection on the past.' ..."

Turnpike Authority considers toll roads
"The North Carolina Turnpike Authority board will meet at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday to discuss several projects across the state, including possible toll roads," according to News 14 Carolina.

"In order for motorists to drive on free roads, the state has to come up with $60 billion. Officials say tolls could help pay for about 50 to 60 percent of that cost and could help speed up the process of building new roads.

"Some say playing the waiting game until funds are available to build free roads, traffic congestion in the fastest growing areas could turn into a nightmare. ..."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Asheville on Frommer's 'hot' list of travel spots for 2007

What does Asheville, North Carolina have in common with Tokyo, Zurich and Portland (both Oregon and Maine)? It's one of Frommer's dozen "standout" destinations for 2007 travelers.

Joining A-ville and the others on the list are Krakow, Poland; Minneapolis; Panama; Ethiopia; Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada; and Glen Canyon, Utah.

"The travel guide folks at Frommer's have realized what savvy North Carolinians already know. They've included Asheville in their list of a dozen places not to be missed in 2007," writes the News & Observer.

"It's the gateway to the North Carolina mountains and many, many destinations beyond. But there's much more to this fabulous city."

Click here for some great tips for visiting Asheville. Of course, no trip to Asheville is complete without visits to the Grove Park Inn (above) or the Biltmore Estate (right).

Update: Another cold front on the way for the mountains

Sure, it's been close to 70 degrees in the Triangle lately, but some good news may be on the way for the North Carolina mountains -- where cold weather means active ski slopes.

"Forecasters issued a heavy snow warning Tuesday for the high mountains of North Carolina as a storm moved in from Tennessee," according to the Associated Press.

" 'The area of snow is just moving through east Tennessee and will be approaching the border counties in the next hour and a half,' National Weather service meteorologist Blair Holloway said about 9 a.m.'The heaviest accumulations are expected to be above 3,000 to 3,500 feet' with lesser amounts in valleys, Holloway said.

Holloway added that snow wouldn't begin to accumulate until afternoon and 2 to 5 inches could fall along the mountainous Tennessee-North Carolina border.