When Duke Energy started selling most of its landholdings in the 1990s, conservationists took an interest. One section alone where the Piedmont hills meet the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina is home to 46 endangered species of plants. By 1999, deals were brokered that transferred 40,000 acres in South Carolina to state wildlife management areas, and 10,000 acres of the Jocassee Gorges to North Carolina park authorities (thanks to leadership from the Nature Conservancy and funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation—see 1988 entry). Of this latter section, 7,200 acres became Gorges State Park, the only North Carolina state park west of Asheville. After an additional decade of private fundraising, headed up by an all-volunteer board of community advisers, a $3.6 million visitor center opened to accommodate people who came to gaze upon the many waterfalls and temperate rainforest, which hosts one of the greatest concentrations of rare plant species in the eastern United States.
- Gorges State Park, ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/gorg/main.php