Marchers to reenact protest that saved Crowders Mountain from strip mining

Crowders Mountain
Crowders Mountain jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story contained a registration link that parks officials had deactivated. No registration is necessary to join Sunday’s reenactment of the march.

Join a reenactment on Sunday of a protest march that saved Crowders Mountain from being strip mined 45 years ago.

The march by local residents on Oct. 30, 1971, preserved the mountain west of Gastonia for generations of hikers and climbers.

Exactly 45 years to the day of the original march, visitors can help “recreate” the protest on the same route taken in 1971. North Carolina State Parks will hold a special centennial celebration at Crowders Mountain State Park on Sunday, including retracing the steps of a citizen march in support of saving the mountain.

“We’ve been staging special events at every state park during our 2016 centennial year, and we expect this one to be particularly special,” state parks director Mike Murphy said Wednesday.

“The people of the community rallied to help make Crowders Mountain State Park a reality,” Murphy said. “This is an opportunity to recognize their efforts, express our appreciation and celebrate the protection of this wonderful natural resource.”

Crowders Mountain State Park was established in large part by local residents’ concern for saving the mountain landscape, and, more importantly, by local citizen action to make sure legislators saw the need to invest in it, parks officials said.

The Gaston College Ecology Club led a four-mile protest march on Oct. 30, 1971, to raise awareness of the need to save the mountain from being strip mined for precious metals. A mining company had done exploratory sampling of areas along what is now the Backside Trail and intended to buy minerals rights to mine the mountain for kyanite, barite and iron.

The Gaston Conservation Society was formed to spur local and state legislators to fund a state park. The park was established in 1973 and has grown to at least 5,000 acres. The park connects with South Carolina’s Kings Mountain State and National Military parks and attracts at least 700,000 visitors a year.

On Sunday, buses will be provided for those unable to complete the four miles. Speeches, music and food will follow the march.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak