By Danny Bernstein
DuPont State Recreational Forest, located between Brevard and Hendersonville, has a history that goes beyond its six spectacular waterfalls. But why does the forest have an airstrip?
Because Ben Cart, founder of Summit Camps, needed a way to access the summer camps he established on the land that is now DuPont Forest. Summit Camps were a latecomer in the camping world. In 1967, Ben Cart bought land in Henderson and Transylvania counties, adjacent to the DuPont Corporation plant. He built two traditional summer camps, one for girls and one for boys, situated about a mile apart as the crow flies—close enough for approved co-ed activities.
First, Cart built Lake Julia and named it after his first wife; what is a camp without a lake? The centerpiece of Girls Camp was the dining room, an octagonal wooden building surrounded by a covered porch. The dining room has since been removed, but other buildings from the Girls Camp still survive.
At the lodge, girls gathered for rainy-day activities and snacking. Julia Cart cooked meals here early in the camp’s history. Later, food was driven down from the Boys Camp to the Girls Camp on large, heated trays. The girls’ lodge is now used by the forest service.
The Summit Camps infirmary was located above Lake Julia. After the Summit Camps closed permanently, the infirmary was repurposed into a seven-room inn for DuPont Corporation visitors. It’s now used as the ranger office for DuPont Forest.
The airstrip, completed in 1979, was only meant for private use. Cart and some camp parents used it to fly in and out of Summit Camps. Since the land became part of DuPont Forest, the airstrip has been used for training exercises and to evacuate patients in case of a medical emergency. The Hunger Games, a blockbuster movie filmed in the forests of North Carolina, features a shot of the airstrip adapted with computer-generated imagery.
In the 1970s, Cart built a dam on the southern end of his property to create Buck Forest Lake, now called Fawn Lake. This was a first step in Cart’s grand idea for the Buck Forest Development, an upscale housing estate. Fawn Lake, with its dock and gazebo and a decorative stone entrance to the Fawn Lake Access Area, are all that remains of the Buck Forest Development. The houses never materialized.
In 1991, DuPont Corporation bought the Camp Summit property, including the airstrip. But plenty of drama would ensue before the land finally became DuPont Forest.
Danny Bernstein is the author of DuPont Forest: A History, published by The History Press, which tells the story from the first settlers to the forest today. The book is available at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café and online.