Catawba County News

Catawba County 101: Planning and Parks

Catawba County 101: Planning and Parks

Published: March 01, 2024


What is its mission/purpose?
The Planning & Parks Department encompasses numerous services and goals surrounding community growth. The mission of the Planning side of the team is to balance the preservation of the county’s natural beauty (including our parks) with sustainable development.

The mission of the Parks side of the team is to preserve Catawba County’s unique and diverse natural heritage through education and conservation, while providing quality passive recreation and wellness opportunities.

How do you achieve your mission – what services are offered? 
The Planning & Parks Department achieves its mission(s) by utilizing community feedback and comprehensive planning to facilitate sustainable economic growth and development. 

Services offered by the Planning staff include interpreting and ensuring compliance of the Unified Development Ordinance, and both residential and commercial plan review. 

In addition to maintaining our parks and providing directions and recommendations to visitors, the Parks staff offers both educational and recreational services and opportunities. These include LITeracy trails, orienteering courses, biking and hiking trails, and paddle launches. 

Who does this department/service area/program serve? 
The Planning & Parks Department serves all citizens! The Planning team serves individuals, families, businesses and other entities looking to develop their property and/or learn about Catawba County’s plans for future development. 

The Parks team serves anyone who wants to learn about, explore, or just spend time in Catawba County’s unique natural environment. 

How and where are services delivered?
The Planning & Parks office is located in the Government Center in Newton, and that is where you’ll typically find the Planning team unless they are out doing site visits. 

There are four different County parks, each open 7 days a week! Hours vary through the year: November-February: 8AM-5PM; March and October: 8AM-7PM; April-September: 8AM-8PM

Bakers Mountain Park
6680 Bakers Mountain Road
Hickory, NC 28602
(828) 324-8461

Mountain Creek Park
6554 Little Mountain Rd.
Sherrills Ford, NC 28673

Riverbend Park
6700 N NC Hwy 16
Conover, NC 28613
(828) 256-9157

St. Stephens Park
2247 36th Ave NE
Hickory, NC 28601
Office: (828) 256-9157

You can learn more about our services by visiting or social media our website:
@catawbacountyparks on Instagram and Facebook

How many staff members are involved in delivering services?
The Planning team has 6 full-time members, and the Parks team currently has 14 full-time and 9-partime employees, totaling to 29 staff in the Department.

How does our community and/or organization benefit from these services?
The community benefits from the services provided by Planning & Parks in numerous ways. On the Parks side, they receive access to educational and reactional opportunities, as well as access to the county’s natural environment and all it has to offer. 

The Planning side works to ensure the balance of the county’s development, aiming to keep it beautiful while also fostering economic growth. 

Please share anything unique or interesting about this program you would want people to know. 
The Planning & Parks Department has worked with the Catawba Lands Conservancy and other partners to connect our community to the Carolina Thread Trail, a planned 1,610-mile contiguous trail across 15 counties in North and South Carolina. The purpose of this trail system is to link people, places, and communities together.
One of our park rangers is bilingual, which very much helps expand the reach of the educational opportunities offered!

Last year, we had 509,650 people visit our park system (based on traffic counter numbers identical to what the state park system uses)!
    - Bakers Mountain – 59,264 attendees in 2023
    - Mountain Creek – 294,367 attendees in 2023
    - Riverbend – 132,735 attendees in 2023
    - St. Stephens – 23,284 attendees in 2023
In 2023, prior to the implementation of our new permit tracking software, the Planning Department issued approximately 1,634 permits.
The Planning Department regulates unincorporated sections of Catawba County. Municipalities within the county such as Hickory and Newton have their own Planning Departments with different rules and regulations.
Planning & Parks has won Best Halloween Group Costume two years in a row (soon to be three)!