Doubts arise about family plaque at state park

Barbara Hootman

A family mourning the death of their parents aren’t likely to have a commemorative plaque returned to Chimney Rock State Park, it appears.

State laws prohibiting memorials in state parks require plaques be approved by the North Carolina Historical Commission. Steve and Rendy McKnelly’s children must ask the commission’s permission to mount a plaque in the park, said James Ledgerwood, superintendent of Chimney Rock State Park.

“To my knowledge they have not contacted the historical commission ... nor have they contacted or talked to anyone from Chimney Rock State Park,” Ledgerwood said in an email to The Black Mountain News.

Ledgerwood wrote in response to a story in the June 4 BMN issue which profiled the McKnelly’s children’s efforts to have a plaque they put in the park in memory of their parents returned. The siblings, from Florida, were in Black Mountain and Asheville in late May seeking signatures on a petition asking the state to allow them to remount the metal plate on Eagle Rock, near their cabin.

The elder McKnellys died March 16 in a fire at the cabin in the Broad River community. Eagle Rock was a favorite spot of Steve and Rendy McKnellys, so the children attached the small plaque there. A park ranger removed it on March 31 and returned it to the family, traced through a number engraved on the back of the plaque. Explaining the state law, the ranger expressed his sorrow to the family and gave them a verbal warning instead of a citation, Ledgerwood said.

On Friday, Kristen McKnelly said via e-mail that she would look into the historical commission requirements.