There’s a new person in North Carolina’s top parks job.
Kevin Bischof became superintendent of Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina's oldest state park, in October. With experience working at Burke County's Lake James State Park and at the highest peak east of the Mississippi, he understands that weather extremes can be intense.
"Weather drives very unique ecosystems up there. The spruce-fir forest that they have up there is something I've always enjoyed. It's very intriguing because it smells like Christmas year-round up there," Bischof said.
Mount Mitchell saw its first snow about a month ago. Regardless, he says he would rather stand in the cold rain on the mountain than on the beach by the lake in wool ranger pants.
The extreme weather means the park is largely closed to cars from November through March, but Bischof hopes a new expansion will soon make it easier to visit the park throughout the year.
Thanks to the help of a national conservation group and private donors, the park - currently 1,196 acres, many at lower elevations - is about to more than double in size.
Bischof says they’re still working through ideas on how to use the land. Renovations of the park's restaurants and restrooms are also in the works.
Another way he hopes to expand access to the park is through technology, possibly with a video link with an education component that allows classrooms a window on Mount Mitchell throughout the year.
"People become passionate enough through it electronically and seeing videos of the crazy weather, if it is open in the winter or when it’s open more consistently in the summer, hopefully, they’ll come visit us," he said.