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Press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, shared June 19:
RALEIGH – Chimney Rock State Park will formally dedicate improvements to its elevator and trail access facilities that allow visitors to reach the signature rock spire and nearby natural features, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
A ceremony will be at 11 a.m. June 29 at the park in Rutherford County.
The two-year project resulted in a complete renovation of a 1940s-era elevator that carries visitors up 26 stories to the park’s principal features as well as replacement of the Outcroppings Trail, a companion stairway that also allows access to summit destinations. The projects were completed by contractors supported by state park staff and Chimney Rock Management LLC, the private firm that operates visitor facilities within the Chimney Rock section of the 5,700-acre state park.
The dedication will mark completion of a long-term effort to improve infrastructure at Chimney Rock, the centerpiece of the state park. Chimney Rock had been a private tourist destination before it was incorporated into the state park in 2007. The Morse family started developing the popular attraction in 1902.
“Our commitment upon the purchase of Chimney Rock was continued stewardship of its natural resources and improvement of its facilities for visitor safety and enjoyment, and these projects contribute to that effort,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “Simultaneously since 2007, we’ve completed other important land acquisitions within the Hickory Nut Gorge and developed a comprehensive master plan for the state park as a whole.”
To furnish elevator service to the mountain’s summit in 1949, workers labored for 18 months to blast through solid granite, creating a 258-foot elevator shaft reached through a 198-foot-long tunnel. The Sky Lounge entrance facility at the top was then built as a gateway to the Chimney Rock feature. The elevator renovation project repaired or replaced almost every part, including the original elevator car and an emergency evacuation stair system.
The Outcroppings Trail, a series of 491 stairs that rises 260 feet in elevation was reopened to the public in April, replacing a network of wooden stairways gradually created in the first half of the last century. The project involved four helicopter airlift missions to transport construction materials. Steel columns were carefully lowered between rock outcroppings and large trees onto new concrete footings.
Since 2007, the state parks system has invested $5.1 million in renovations at Chimney Rock, most of it provided through the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the principal funding source for state parks capital projects and land acquisition. The improvements have also included replacement of water-supply tanks on the mountain’s summit, structural repairs and repaving of the park’s entrance bridge. Also, the Sky Lounge and restrooms at two sites were modified, making them fully accessible and adding sustainable, water-saving features.