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New heights on Grandfather Mountain

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Gov. Beverly Perdue signed a bill this year establishing part of Grandfather Mountain as the state's newest park—its 34th. The proposal was announced last September while Mike Easley was governor.

Although there are several state parks closer to home, at 5,946 feet—that's more than one mile high—Grandfather Mountain has breathtaking views and is home to 73 endangered species. It is also a major tourist attraction, especially in the fall when the leaves change.

"The creation of a signature state park at Grandfather Mountain is a big step in adding to the quality of life and beauty of our great state, while we also preserve North Carolina's spectacular public lands for future generations," said Gov. Perdue.

North Carolina will purchase nearly 2,500 acres from the heirs of Hugh Morton, a photographer who became the sole owner of the land in 1952. Morton's descendants will still own and operate nearly 750 acres near the top of the mountain on a paid admission basis; this area will include the Mile High swinging bridge, wildlife habitats, the nature center and the restaurant.

Two trusts set up by North Carolina, the Parks and Recreation and Natural Heritage funds, will pay the $12 million pricetag. The state park will include the backcountry area, an undeveloped portion of the mountain and 12 miles of hiking and biking trails.

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