The Transylvania Times -

By Eric Crews
Staff Writer 

State Leader Pledges Support For DuPont

 


“It’s good to be out of Raleigh and to be in such a beautiful place as this,” said Steve Troxler, the state commissioner of agriculture, last week as he looked at High Falls in DuPont State Recreational Forest.

Troxler and other Department of Agriculture officials were in the area for an extensive tour of DuPont, which is managed by the N.C. Forest Service.

The tour follows the General Assembly’s decision in July to transfer the N.C. Forest Service to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Troxler said he does not expect any changes to the way the 10,400-acre forest is currently managed.

“I’m not planning to make any major changes at all,” he said. “I see the value of this piece of property as it is. My biggest goal is to help it become more successful than it is now.”

Troxler was all ears as David Brown, DuPont’s supervisor, highlighted areas within the forest that could be improved to make for a better experience for the thousands of visitors the area sees every year.

The number of annual visitors to the forest has increased from 133,000 per year to around 175,000.

Brown said the goal is to provide users with access to the area while maintaining a strong commitment to preserving the forest for future generations.

“The whole point of having the top officials from the Department of Agriculture up here is so we can show them the DuPont Forest and let them see it first-hand so they have first-hand knowledge of our programs and what is going on here,” Brown said.

While he doesn’t foresee any changes in the short-term to the way the area is managed, Brown hopes to eventually get more staff and have the forest’s facilities and infrastructure addressed.

Areas that Brown highlighted for future improvements include the Hooker Falls parking area, the High Falls parking area (formerly the Buck Forest parking area) and a visitor center that is currently under construction at the parking area.

The visitor center is scheduled to be completed within two years, but Troxler indicated he would like to see it completed sooner.

Brown said the Forest Service has been able to complete a number of projects in the past by doing the work in-house.

Troxler said he would support the improvement efforts because he understands the importance of the forest.

“This is a magnificent piece of property from what I’ve seen, so far, with even a lot more potential in the future,” Troxler said. “I’m going to depend on the Forest Service and their expertise to be able to manage this facility. My goal is going to be to try and help improve the things that are up here that need money.”

Troxler said the tour would help explain to lawmakers and state officials what DuPont offers.

“We want them to know what’s here and to see the benefits this area has to the surrounding community and the rest of the state, so that when we talk about the needs of this place they’ll understand,” he said.

Brown also discussed the possibility of making changes to the parking area at Hooker Falls, a popular spot for visitors.

“Visitorship has increased significantly,” Brown said. “What we’re trying to do is maintain the facility so that the high number of visitors that are coming still have a good experience. We could get to the point where we have so many visitors that the experience is decreased because it’s just too crowded. Hopefully that won’t happen here.”

One effort includes guiding visitors to other trails and developing new ones. Brown said that the increasing numbers of visitors is indicative of the quality of the forest, but he does want to ensure that the high quality experience remains intact as numbers increase.

“We certainly don’t want to get to the point where we have to charge admission to come in. I don’t think that would be a good solution,” Brown said.

Brown, however, said it doesn’t rule out the possibility of charging commercial tour groups to use the property in the future.

The best approach, he believes, is to continue to control the number of parking spaces.

Throughout the tour, Brown and Troxler reiterated that the recent transfer of the forest to the Department of Agriculture was something that both the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture hope will lead to positive changes for recreational users of the forest.

 
 

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