Public forum set to discuss long-term impacts of Party Rock Fire

Folks in Lake Lure are learning about impacts of a wildfire almost three months later.

A meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the Community Hall at the Lake Lure Municipal Building to discuss the long-term effects of the Party Rock Fire on the natural environment in Hickory Nut Gorge.

Clint Calhoun, with the Town of Lake Lure; Marshall Ellis, with N.C. State Parks; and Michael Cheek, with the N.C. Forest Service, will discuss possible effects of the fire, when we can expect to start seeing them and what the community can do to ensure the natural environment of the Hickory Nut Gorge stays healthy, a news release said.

The Party Rock Fire burned more than 7,000 acres in the Hickory Nut Gorge in November 2016. While there were no fatalities and no structures were lost, there are other ways the fire will affect the local community.

Rutherford County's economy relies almost exclusively on tourism, and the Hickory Nut Gorge's natural beauty and unique plant and animal species are major draws for visitors.

"Additionally, the disturbance caused by the Party Rock Fire could create the ideal conditions for non-native invasive plants to thrive, which can lower biodiversity and affect the beauty of the gorge," the news release said.

"But there are also some potential benefits and detriments from the fire. Some of the rare and endangered plant species of the gorge are dependent on disturbances to create suitable habitats for them."

The panel will discuss all of this during its presentation.

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