Nothing compares to the quality of life we have in North Carolina. We recently surpassed Michigan to become the ninth most-populous state in the country. The census data show that North Carolina remains an attractive state for both retirees and new professionals. The state is growing significantly faster than average, and demographers expect this trajectory to continue. It is clear that many people come to North Carolina, stay here and spend money here because of our diverse landscape from the mountains to the sea and our wonderful state-owned treasures including state parks, historic sites, museums and the zoo.
Approving Gov. Pat McCrory’s Connect NC bond proposal would ensure that these cherished assets are preserved for generations to come.
With more than 15 million visitors each year, our 34 diverse state parks are a source of pride for North Carolina. The Connect NC bond package includes $67 million to update facilities and preserve the natural beauty of our state parks, making them available for all citizens to enjoy. Connect NC investments would allow us to develop new trails and improveexisting ones.New campgrounds would also be added at several parks to meet the demands of a growing state population. Additionally, bond proceeds would support further acquisition of land to enhance and increase recreational opportunities and access.
Another defining characteristic of North Carolina is our rich cultural heritage. Our 27 historic sites from pre-Colonial times to the 20th century give visitors a snapshot of our predecessors. The Connect NC bond proposal includes $75.5 million to preserve and enhance several of our treasured historic sites to improve the overall visitor experience. The bond package includes $11.5 million for a new visitor center at the USS Battleship NC to increase access to the site. Another $7 million would be allocated to redevelop and enhance the visitor center and exhibits at the Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site. In addition, the North Carolina Transportation Museum, which highlights the vital role transportation has played in our state’s history, would receive $15 million to upgrade the historic steam locomotive servicing facility.
We can’t talk about our state’s cherished assets without mentioning the 2,200-acre North Carolina Zoo, which comprises one of the largest “natural habitat” zoos in the United States. The Connect NC bond issue would invest $44 million toward the zoo’s 20-year expansion plan to upgrade trails and add new exhibits. The investment would improve the park’s educational offerings by adding safari rides creating a more up-close and personal experience for visitors. The thousands of school groups, scout troops and families that visit the zoo each year would surely benefit from these investments.
Our state parks, historic sites, museums and the zoo are central pillars of North Carolina’s quality of life. We must continue to invest in their sustainability through the Connect NC bond issue to ensure they meet the needs of a growing state and are preserved for future generations.
Susan Kluttz is secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources