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Land Swap Could Open Game Land Near Parkway PDF Print
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 13 February 2009 00:43

WILKESBORO - The federal and state governments are considering a land swap that could open up access to a nearly 1,500-acre section of the Thurmond Chatham Game Land that has been all but closed to hunters and other recreational users for more than 15 years.

The winston-Salem Journal reporst that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission proposes to exchange its 7.5-acre Basin Creek primitive campground for a narrow 7-acre strip on the edge of Doughton Park, a Blue Ridge Parkway area owned by the National Park Service.

The slice of land would allow a hiker to enter the state-owned game land from Longbottom Road in Wilkes County.

The proposal received unanimous approval of the 18 commissioners present at Wednesday's meeting of the state wildlife-resources commission in Raleigh.

The federal park service is still studying the proposal.

The Thurmond Chatham Game Land covers more than 6,000 acres in Wilkes and Alleghany counties, and is a popular hunting area for deer and turkey. Hikers and fishermen can also use the land.

The bulk of the game land is accessible from N.C. 18 or Longbottom Road, but one area -- known by hunters as the D section -- is like a landlocked island. The previous access there was on its southern end, from Longbottom Road, but the path crossed private land and was closed more than 15 years ago.

The D section is bounded on the west by Doughton Park, on the east by Stone Mountain State Park and on the north by the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is access from off the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the land is so steep and rugged that it's not practical to go in that way.

"Essentially, the D section has become an inaccessible tract," said Gordon Warburton, a supervising wildlife biologist with the state wildlife commission.

The proposed trade involves the state-owned Basin Creek campground on the south side of Longbottom Road, which is at the southern end of the isolated tract of the Thurmond Chatham Game Land and also the southern end of Doughton Park.

Doughton Park's main entrance is on the north side, off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But people who ride horses and hike into Doughton Park from its southern end use the Basin Creek campground to camp and park.

Few hunters use it, Warburton said.

The proposal calls for the Blue Ridge Parkway to take over the Basin Creek campground in Wilkes County.

In exchange, the state wildlife commission would get the strip of land on the southeast end of Doughton Park, which would allow hikers to walk into the D section of the Thurmond Chatham Game Land.

"The hike from Basin Creek, that's still not for the faint of heart," Warburton said. "If a sportsman goes up there, they deserve to be rewarded."

Sheila Gasperson, a land-resource specialist with the Blue Ridge Parkway, said that the agency is doing a site analysis and other study, and plans to have a report ready for management review within a few weeks.

Warburton said that the state has been trying for years to get access to the D section, and that the proposed swap with the Blue Ridge Parkway seems like the most promising solution so far.

"If the deal goes through, we get the 7 acres, (but) anybody who wants to hike can hike it," he said.

"There's no loss of public use."

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