PENN DAMERON NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN STEWARDSHIP FOUNDATION
GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, NC -- The Board of Directors of Grandfather Mountain announced today that Marion, NC native Penn Dameron will become the first Executive Director of the new non-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation effective August 1, 2009. Dameron currently serves as Executive Director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, an organization created in 2003 by the U.S. Congress to protect, preserve, interpret and develop the unique natural, historical and cultural resources of Western North Carolina.
To insure the permanent protection of the wild character of Grandfather Mountain, the heirs of the late Hugh Morton recently sold almost 2,500 acres of the Mountain’s wilderness backcountry to the State of North Carolina for a state park. This transaction also included the sale of a permanent conservation easement on the attraction area. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation will operate the attraction and engage in research, education, and conservation activities. Dameron’s hiring occurs as the organization is pursuing 501(c)(3) status.
“Grandfather Mountain is just about the only thing that would tempt me to leave the job I am doing now at the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area,” said Dameron. “Since the first time I worked at Grandfather in 1970 I have always felt somewhere in my mind that I’d like to come back and work there again. The chance to help insure the future of this ecological treasure is more than I would ever have hoped for.”
Dameron had a summer job at Grandfather Mountain when he was in college. Although he sold tickets and pumped gas at the attraction entrance gate, the most memorable part of his job was assisting with the ‘Mildred the Bear Shows’ which took place twice a day back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
When Mildred the Bear came to Grandfather Mountain, jars of honey and cans of grape soda were used to lead Mildred and her cubs out to an amphitheater so guests could see the bears and laugh at their antics while they posed for pictures. Dameron was one of the first of those “bar” tenders and spent many a summer afternoon putting honey on the “Welcome to Grandfather Mountain” sign before jumping out of the photographs.
But in, 1973 when North Carolina first began discussing the establishment of the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, Hugh Morton was introduced to the “environmental habitat” concept of zoo keeping. He immediately commissioned the Mildred the Bear Environmental Habitat and the focus at Grandfather Mountain began to shift from conventional 1950s-style entertainment to quality environmental education.
Today the Grandfather Mountain nature park is known for its famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge and 360 degree vistas of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. The attraction has a dozen environmental educators on staff who are there to help guests learn more about nature while enjoying up-close interaction with bears, otters, cougars, eagles and deer.
“I am attracted by the place,” Dameron said. “By a desire to make sure that not only is it preserved, and if possible even enhanced, but also by a broader vision that there is an opportunity to translate the things done at Grandfather into ideas people can put into practice in other special places around the world.”
After spending the summer of 1970 at Grandfather Mountain, Dameron went on to devote a combined 30 years to a career as a trial lawyer and Superior Court Judge. Over the years he worked closely with Hugh Morton when he served as Chairman of the Board of Western North Carolina Tomorrow and as a member of the Year of the Mountains Commission.
An accomplished musician, Dameron started playing in garage bands when he was 14 and has recorded or performed in venues as varied as The Mountain Stage in Charleston, West Virginia, The Radio Café in Nashville, Tennessee, and The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.
Between his devotion to mountain music and his years spent preserving mountain culture through the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Dameron said he is eager to become involved with the “Singing on the Mountain” and is excited that the attraction’s close association with the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will allow him to participate in the preservation of the Scottish heritage of the North Carolina highlands.
“I am excited about having a chance to work in a place that has always been special and magical to me,” he said. “I am excited to have the chance to work with people whose company I enjoy and whose values I admire.
“It is exciting to commit myself to a purpose that is bigger and more important than I am,” continued Dameron. “I am extremely humbled to have been asked to do this.”
Grandfather Mountain is located on US Highway 221, two miles north of Linville, NC, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305. For more information phone 800-468-7325 or visit on the web at www.grandfather.com.
P.O. Box 129 - US 221 & Blue Ridge Parkway - Linville, NC - 28646
Phone 800-468-7325 Fax: 828-733-2608 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2006 Grandfather Mountain. All Rights Reserved.