Mark Schultz, Smith Raynor

Mark Schultz asks questions to State Trails Planner Smith Raynor about the upcoming plans for the Elk Knob State Park in August 2019.

POTTERTOWN — A draft master plan designed to be used as a blueprint for the next 20 years of development and growth for the Elk Knob State Park can be previewed starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18, at the park’s office, located at 5564 Meat Camp Road.

The event, according to park Superintendent Tracy Minton, is an educational program that will include drawings and renderings from the N.C. State Park’s planning office. The event will go on as long as citizens are present, the state park office said.

The renderings that will be presented on Jan. 18 will include potential facilities and trails, but it’s not 100 percent finished yet, Minton said.

“Nothing is final as we’re still taking input from the public,” Minton explained. “(The state) is in the final stages of planning.”

The master plan will be the first for Elk Knob State Park, which became a state park in 2008. Public meetings about the plan were previously held in August and December 2019. Online comments and surveys have also been accepted.

Featuring a 5,520-foot peak with scenic views of the surrounding areas near the Watauga, Ashe and Tennessee borders, Elk Knob State Park features more than 4,200 acres containing four trails, including the summit trail and three backcountry trails that lead to campsites. The park is still growing, as the state added nearly 69 acres to the Ashe County section of the park in August 2019.

As explained in August 2019 by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, the goals for the master plan include expanding the park to further conserve important surrounding landscapes; connecting the park to surrounding communities; celebrating and preserve the natural, cultural and viewshed resources; improving the park user’s experience through facilities; and increasing recreation access and connectivity while also enhancing the unique existing opportunities.

E2 Landscape Architecture in Asheville is working with the division and the public to finish the master plan, initially identifying both the recreation and conservation needs for the park, the Watauga Democrat previously noted.

Elk Knob State Park is planned to be on the path of the proposed Northern Peaks Trail, which would connect Boone to West Jefferson. The plan is to incorporate Howard’s Knob, Elk Knob, Three Top Mountain and Mount Jefferson into a continuous trail system.

Blue Ridge Conservancy Director Charles Brady told the Watauga Tourism Development Authority on Jan. 14 that approval of the Elk Knob Master Plan should come in the near future. Brady said once adopted, the planners can use the master plan to estimate costs for future development. Brady said one source of future funding could be through legislative action once the park’s costs are determined.

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