To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), Grandfather Mountain will close for two weeks, effective Sunday, March 15. The closure means the park will prohibit public access, including from the main entrance gate and hiking trails.
“While we’re disappointed that we can’t provide the experience we normally offer to our guests, we’re trying to be socially responsible to help minimize the impact of the virus on our community,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature preserve.
The decision to suspend operations comes after a Saturday, March 14, executive order from N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, which prohibits mass gatherings of more than 100 people, while also directing North Carolina’s K-12 public schools to close for two weeks, starting Monday, March 16.
During Grandfather Mountain’s closure, the park will maintain a level of staffing on site, including animal habitat keepers, maintenance, administration and security, while strictly adhering to guidelines and recommendations from Centers for Disease Control, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and local officials.
“Grandfather Mountain is a place of nature, but guests and staff remain our No. 1 priority,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications. “We encourage all to follow best practices to ensure the health and safety of not only our environment, but each other.”
“Our biggest concern here, obviously, is the health and safety of our staff and guests,” Pope said. “We’re going to make sure that none of our current staff are negatively impacted by the closure and that everyone is receiving paychecks.”
The closure marks Grandfather Mountain’s longest disruption since a severe ice storm hit the Western North Carolina High Country in early 2010.
“Throughout the closure, we’ll continue to monitor the situation and make appropriate responses as anything unfolds,” Pope said.
In the meantime, Grandfather Mountain will post updates at www.grandfather.com and on social media channels.
The announcement does not apply to the adjacent Grandfather Mountain State Park. For more information on the state park, visit https://www.ncparks.gov/grandfather-mountain-state-park/home.
The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call 800-468-7325.
(photo credit Marjorie Farrington)