Saturday, February 03, 2007

The 'Rock' is safe...

No not Rock Hill but Chimney Rock...

Gov. Mike Easley came to Chimney Rock Park to make it official — the state will buy the 996-acre property from the Morse family for $24 million.
The deal adds a key piece to what will become North Carolina’s 30th state park, Hickory Nut Gorge State Park. The state already has acquired 2,264 acres on the north and south sides of the rugged gorge.

In July 2006, the Morse family announced plans to put the park on the open market, with an asking price of $55 million. The Morses rejected a $20 million state offer last fall, but Easley and Todd Morse said both parties wanted to come to an agreement and keep the property preserved.

The state said an early appraisal gauged the park’s value at $21 million. The park lies in Rutherford County, where the Tax Office assessed the value of parcels owned by Chimney Rock Co. at $4.9 million, including the park’s buildings. That assessment was done in 2002, though, and gauging the park’s commercial value was almost impossible because of its unique nature.
The notion that the park will now be preserved forever sits well with the Chimney Rock community, which relies heavily on tourism and the natural beauty of the area.
The park draws 250,000 visitors a year.

The sale will close by the end of May.

Interesting facts:

• The 315-foot chimney and nearby sheer cliffs became a tourist attraction in 1885 when Jerome B. Freeman built a stairway to the chimney summit.
• The tower offers 75-mile views from an elevation of 2,280 feet. By comparison, Asheville’s elevation is 2,216 feet.
• Lucius B. Morse of Missouri fell in love with the gorge during visits here. He bought 64 acres in 1902 and began the park’s development.

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