Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County has been named the North Carolina 2012 Park of the Year by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The park was chosen for its “exemplary contribution to the North Carolina state parks mission of stewardship, public service and education,” and specifically recognized for initiatives in education and interpretation, volunteerism and sustainability.
“Hanging Rock State Park exceeded expectations during 2012 with hard work by its staff tackling tough projects, developing volunteers and improving sustainability,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “That level of commitment allows the state parks system to further its mission despite strained budgets and attendance that remain at record levels.”
During the year, Hanging Rock improved educational displays, presented nearly 200 interpretive programs and staged a 75th anniversary celebration with 93 past and present employees. The park strengthened a relationship with the Friends of Sauratown Mountains support group, and volunteer hours spent improving trails and staffing the visitor center increased 58 percent. Park rangers and maintenance staff rerouted trails, constructed a key trail bridge and nearly doubled the amount of recycled materials collected.
The state parks system began choosing a Park of the Year in 2010 with nominations from each of the four districts. Each of the 35 state parks and four state recreation areas submits an annual report that is scored on progress in recreation, natural resource protection, sustainability, public safety and environmental education. Final judging is by senior and peer administrators. To honor the Park of the Year, a medallion is attached to a hiking staff that is passed to the current award recipient each year. Lake Waccamaw State Park in Columbus County was honored in 2011.
Developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, Hanging Rock State Park is one of North Carolina’s oldest and until recently, was under the direction of Superintendent Dave Cook. In October, Cook was named north district superintendent. The park encompasses 7,049 acres and reported 443,899 visitors in 2012.