National Park Service: A year in the three Outer Banks parks
Published 6:27 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020
At the start of 2019, the federal government shut down. This longest-ever shutdown lasted two months. That was not an auspicious beginning for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore or Wright Brothers National Memorial or Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
In the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the shutdown and some vandalism propelled incredible community support. Calls for volunteers went out from beach-caring organizations. Volunteers emptied trash cans at ramps and visitor centers and picked up litter from Whalebone Junction to the tip of Hatteras Island.
Despite the shutdown and despite the fall storms, visitation to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore through November increased. More visitors climbed the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and visited the Visitor Center and the Hatteras Village Weather Station visitor center than in 2018. Overall visitation to the national seashore is up one percent.
Visitation increased at Wright Brothers but decreased at Fort Raleigh.
In 2019, the national seashore celebrated the 20th anniversary of moving the Cape Hatteras lighthouse and at Wright Brothers the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing was celebrated. On Dec. 17, the largest crowd in recent years gathered for the annual program saluting the Wright Brothers first flight.
Other events of note include a 50-vehicle parking lot constructed at Kite Point; a fourth lifeguard station set up at Frisco bathhouse; a pavement restoration project proceeded; a special hunting blind for the mobility impaired opened Dec. 3; a celebration of surf fishing held Nov. 2.
The fall’s one-two punch from Dorian and Melissa hit the Cape Hatteras National Seashore particularly hard. Dorian caused at least $5 million in damages. On Ocracoke, 12 of the 13 park service vehicles were destroyed. The double keepers quarters at the Ocracoke lighthouse was badly flooded, leaving seashore managers in a quandary about what to do with the historic structure. To repair staff housing on Ocracoke, the estimate is $400,000.
For 2020, National Park Service staff will be working on Hurricane Dorian recovery.
Staff housing is another priority. At the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, 13 staff housing units were placed there in 1960 and need to be replaced. On Bodie Island, four housing units are not sustainable.
And, on Dec. 16, 2020, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first lighting of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which will be undergoing a comprehensive restoration in the near future.