Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Backlund chronicles site's progress, plans

FLAT ROCK — In her state of the park farewell tour, Connie Backlund has told elected officials in Hendersonville and Flat Rock about the current visitation and the plans for improvement. Here are the highlights:

• Visitation is up 15 to 20 percent in the federal fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. "If we keep tracking like this we could reach almost 100,000 visitors this year," she said. Fifty-eight percent of visitors are local and 42 percent are from out of town. Eighteen percent of visitors (many of them regular hikers) come daily or weekly. The economic impact of the historic site was put at $4.3 million a year.
• Among improvements over the past several years include replacing the old trailer restrooms with a restroom building and completing the design of the new amphitheater. "We worked with the Playhouse," she said. "They are part of the design team."
• The park's long-range plan includes authorization to expand the park by up to 115 acres from willing sellers. National Park Service officials have been negotiating with the owner of land on the west boundary near the top of Big Glassy for a land purchase or a conservation easement. Separately, the state of North Carolina has bought and set aside 22 acres.
• The highest priority is to add 3 to 5 acres for parking. "The biggest comment we get is you need more parking and that's so true," she said. "Our regional director from Atlanta came to visit and couldn't find a parking space. It coulnd't have been better."
• Crews will work this fall on some "prescription burning to reduce our fuel load," Backlund told the Flat Rock Village Council this month. "This fall we'll have a crew in behind the house. They'll be taking some trees down that are dead. We'll begin to do some burning of little piles."
• Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara is an essential source of support and fundraising. "We have a 150 friends," she said. "It's just amazing. They're stepping up as government help diminishes. They have no paid staff. They're all volunteers."