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Lake Waccamaw State Park is the North Carolina 2011 Park of the Year

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RALEIGH, NC (NEWS RELEASE) -– Lake Waccamaw State Park in Columbus County has been named the North Carolina 2011 Park of the Year by the NC Division of Parks and Recreation.

The park was chosen for its "exemplary contribution to the North Carolina state parks mission of stewardship, public service and education," through initiatives in environmental education, community partnerships and special events planning.

"Each of our state parks strives to further our mission and be a valued member of its community, but Lake Waccamaw State Park went above and beyond with its hard work in 2011," said Lewis Ledford, director of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation. "In these times when state budgets are stressed and state parks attendance remains at record levels, the effort by the staff at Lake Waccamaw is especially commendable."

The park has been heavily involved in community events such as the anti-litter campaign Big Sweep, a summer science enrichment camp, water quality monitoring, the Waccamaw River Paddle Trail initiative and the Take-the-Lake Personal Endurance Event. During the year, it also increased its interpretive programming and the acreage of prescribed burns for natural resource management.

The state parks system began choosing a Park of the Year in 2010 with nominations from each of four districts. Each of 35 state parks and four state recreation areas submits an annual report that is objectively scored on progress in recreation, natural resource protection, sustainability, public safety and environmental education. Final judging is by senior and district administrators. To honor the Park of the Year, a medallion is attached to a hiking staff that is passed to the current award recipient each year. South Mountains State Park in Burke County captured the first-ever award in 2010.

Lake Waccamaw State Park has a five-person staff that was under the direction of Superintendent Chris Helms until recently. In October, Helms was named superintendent at Carolina Beach State Park and his replacement has not been named. Lake Waccamaw State Park encompasses 2,159 acres including the bay lake for which it is named and reported 89,534 visitors in 2010.

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