The bill, which passed both houses unanimously and was signed on June 12, directs the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to study the forest’s finances and operating model and to plan for “a sustainable income stream that will help preserve and protect the Forest.”
An entry fee is to be part of that plan, the bill states. Such a fee must favor North Carolina residents and require out-of-state visitors to pay for the forest’s sustainable operation. The plan must include a financial model based on data from other models, both inside and outside the state; a list of capital projects and operational changes needed to improve the safety of park visitors who now park on the road; and a recommendation for legislative action to ensure that entry fee proceeds are used only for the forest’s capital, maintenance and operational needs.
The law requires the department to report its findings and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources and the Fiscal Research Division on or before Aug. 1, 2021.