Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill Tuesday that could lead to creation of a new state park along southeastern North Carolina’s Black River, home of the oldest known trees on the East Coast.
The legislation adds three natural areas to the state park system – Bob’s Creek in McDowell County, Warwick Mill Bay in Robeson County and Salmon Creek in Bertie County. The areas total about 5,000 acres.
Natural areas protect areas of scientific, aesthetic, or ecological value but offer limited public recreation.
The bill stops short of creating a state park on the Black River. It instead directs the parks division to study the feasibility of acquiring land to create one.
The study will collect public input – which is mixed – and estimate development costs. It’s to be presented to a legislative committee by next March.
North Carolina’s Nature Conservancy protects about 17,000 acres along the Black River, where many bald cypress trees are 1,000 years or older. One tree has been dated to 364 AD, making it 1,653 years old.
In its initial form, the legislation would have created a linear Black River State Park covering 2,500 acres in Sampson, Pender and Bladen counties. But some residents voiced concern over increased traffic and public activities, parks officials have said.