Looking for a chance to get 2024 off on the right foot? The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation is shaking off the winter chill with a range of 50 staff-led hikes in parks across the state on January 1.

“After a few years of smaller First Day Hikes programming, we are excited to offer a wide variety of guided hikes and events at most of our state parks for 2024,” said State Parks Director Brian Strong in the announcement. “We hope our visitors take the opportunity, as we wrap up the holiday season, to bring family and friends and begin a new year of outdoor adventures together.”

From Hanging Rock and Mount Mitchell to Fort Fisher and Hammocks Beach, parks are holding a range of events. Some are for kids, some for history buffs, others for those seeking adventure, or just a flat, short trail for a stroll. At Goose Creek State Park in Beaufort County, they are celebrating the park’s 50th birthday with food, music, and historical demonstrations. At Crowders Mountain State Park hikers can follow the Ridgeline trail into Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina.

At some of the more popular locations, or those in the Raleigh area, expect busy trails as the State Parks division said they can attract crowds. For a complete list of parks and activities, visit ncparks.gov here. It is a good opportunity to get fresh air, a fresh start, and see how taxpayer dollars are caring for more than 250,000 acres of land and water.

Funding state parks

North Carolina State Parks system falls under the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and administers the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. PARTF is funded by annual appropriations from the General Assembly. Personalized license plates also brought in about $1.6 million to the system last year. Except for Chimney Rock, there is no entrance fee at state parks but the system does charge for some annual passes, camping fees, and for renting shelters, marinas slips, and other facilities.

In the state budget that passed the General Assembly earlier this year, lawmakers increased recurring funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund by $3.8 million, and provides an additional $2 million in nonrecurring funds, bringing the total to $30 million. In addition, the “nonrecurring revenue” listed in the table below is funding from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund, administered by the Office of State Budget and Management, run by the executive branch.

Graph from the 2022-2023 NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Annual Report. Source: ncparks.gov

Decisions on how that funding is spent come from the nine-member board of the Parks and Recreation Authority, appointed by the governor and the General Assembly. The board meets six times per year to consider state park projects and offer grants to local governments to purchase parkland and build public recreation facilities.

Earlier this month, the board approved $3.45 million in land acquisition and $3.5 million in capital improvement projects for state parks across the state. Included are plans to fund repairs and improvements to existing facilities and add 450 acres to Chimney Rock, Elk Knob, Lumber River, Medoc Mountain, and Merchants Millpond state parks.