“an oasis of tranquility”
Long before the first settlers, the area now known as William B. Umstead State Park was an untamed land. American Bison, elk, bobcats and wolves roamed forests of oak, hickory and beech. Native Americans later inhabited the land and avenues of trade were developed nearby. Such avenues included the Occoneeche trail to the north and the Pee Dee trail to the south. In 1774, land grants opened the area for settlement. Forests were cleared as agricultural interests sprouted. While early farming efforts were successful, poor cultivation practices and one-crop production led to depletion and erosion of the soil. During the Depression, farmers made futile attempts to grow cotton in worn-out soil around Crabtree Creek. In 1934, under the Resettlement Administration, federal and state agencies united to buy 5,000 acres (20 km2) of this submarginal land to develop a recreation area. The Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as the Works Progress Administration, helped construct the site while providing much needed jobs. Four camps along with day-use and picnic facilities were built and the park opened to the public in 1937.The state purchased this area, known as Crabtree Creek Recreational Demonstration Area, for $1, and more facilities were built as the General Assembly made its first state parks division appropriation in the 1940s. In 1950, more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of the park were established as a separate park for African-Americans. This area was named Reedy Creek State Park. Crabtree Creek Recreational Demonstration Area was renamed a few years later after former Governor William Bradley Umstead because of his conservation efforts. In 1966, the Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek areas were united under the same name; William B. Umstead State Park was open to everyone.Prior to the purchase of the land for public use, it had historically been used for timberland, as well as a site for several mills along Crabtree Creek. Remnants of milling operations can still be found preserved within the park.During segregation, the Highway 70 entrance was for whites and the Reedy Creek entrance for blacks. Currently, the Reedy Creek entrance is the main entrance to the park for North Carolina State University. Forestry courses use this entrance to examine the trees native to the park. Additionally, many Raleigh runners use this more private entrance to run in an area of the park that is less frequented by tourist and hiking groups. The only real remnant of this segregation of entrances is the lack of a public road that connects both entrances - vehicles that access the park by one entrance cannot go through the park to the other side.
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William B. Umstead State Park
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