July 1 was a day of celebration at DuPont State Recreational Forest, as state officials and local forest advocates opened not one, but two new structures at the site.
In a double ribbon-cutting, the forest opened a new pedestrian bridge near Hooker Falls and a visitor center at the High Falls Access. The bridge, a collaboration between the NCDA&CS and N.C. Department of Transportation, alleviates a safety issue for the many thousands of visitors who come to the forest. Prior to the construction of the bridge and an adjacent parking lot, visitors often parked along and crossed Staton Road. The bridge, which spans the Little River, now allows visitors to access both sides of the forest without having to worry about traffic.
“This is one of those ‘wow’ moments,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told the crowd that gathered to watch him and DOT engineer Joel Setzer officially open the bridge. The project was funded by the General Assembly and DOT.
The Aleen Steinberg Center serves as a central location for educating visitors about the forest’s history while stressing the need for safety in the forest. Steinberg is a local conservationist who was instrumental in the state obtaining the forest. In keeping with her interest in education, the lower level of the center contains a small classroom, which will be used for environmental programs and small group meetings.
Money for the renovation of the log building that houses the visitor center came from private donations, the Friends of DuPont Forest and an allocation from the state’s settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. WNC Communities oversaw the renovation project.
The bridge and visitor center were completed in about six months. Troxler acknowledged that the time frame represented an “unrealistic expectation” on his part. “When I told people when I wanted the bridge done and when I wanted the education center done, they looked at me with a strange look on their face,” he said during the ceremonies. “I heard a lot of times in the beginning, ‘We just can’t get it done.’ But I always said, ‘Oh yes we can.'”
Our thanks go out to Ms. Steinberg, the Friends of DuPont Forest, WNC Communities, DOT Secretary Tony Tata and his staff, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Sen. Tom Apodaca, Rep. Chuck McGrady and the many others who helped bring these projects to completion.
Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler talk with Rhonda about these improvements to DuPont State Recreational Forest. And click on the gallery below to see photos from the opening of these structures.
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