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Hammocks Beach State Park to be expanded with acquisition of 289 acres of waterfront property

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Pat McCrory, Governor
Donald R. Van Der Vaart, Secretary
Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hammocks Beach State Park to be expanded with acquisition of 289 acres of waterfront property

Raleigh -- The North Carolina state parks system will add a premier property of 289 acres on the mainland at Hammocks Beach State Park in Onslow County following approval of the acquisition Tuesday by the Council of State, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Formal closing on state acquisition of 199 acres of the property is expected near the end of April. Concurrently, The Conservation Fund will close on an adjacent 90 acres that will also eventually be added to the state park. Both tracts are being acquired from the heirs of John Hurst, son of a one-time enslaved person who was caretaker of game lands owned by Dr. William Sharpe in the early 1900s.

The waterfront tract on Queen’s Creek once was the site of popular summer camps, and has long been identified as a critical need for the state park for traditional park facilities and to enhance protection of water quality, sub-aquatic vegetation and scenic assets on the creek. Currently, the 1,155-acre park encompasses 30 acres on the mainland, the site of a visitors’ center, along with Bear Island, Huggins Island and Jones Island.

The state’s portion of the property will be purchased for $6.96 million, provided through the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and bonds approved by the N.C. General Assembly in 2014. The Conservation Fund, through its North Carolina chapter, has committed $3.1 million for the remainder of the property. The Conservation Fund’s portion will be acquired by the state over the next three years. The Division of Parks and Recreation will manage both properties. The purchase price was set through a settlement agreement in June 2014.

The history of Hammocks Beach State Park reaches back to the friendship of Sharpe, an avid outdoorsman and physician from New York, and Hurst and his wife Gertrude, who eventually became caretakers of Sharpe’s hunting and fishing retreat. At the urging of the Hurst couple, Sharpe agreed to leave the property to the N.C. Teachers Association for use by its members. Bear Island and part of the mainland property was later authorized as the state park.

“Adding this property to Hammocks Beach State Park will greatly advance its mission of conservation, recreation and environmental education in the spirit of Dr. Sharpe and John and Gertrude Hurst, who held that farsighted vision in the early 1900s,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “The stewardship of the property by the state parks system and the citizens of North Carolina will ensure that vision will endure.”

David Pearson, president of the Friends of Hammocks and Bear Island and executive director of Friends of State Parks, said the acquisition is a conservation benchmark.

“It is the realization of a 20-year dream to add this property to what is already an outstanding state park and a jewel on our coastline,” he said. “Our gratitude goes to The Conservation Fund for its support as well as to citizens in Onslow County and Swansboro who have shared in this dream.”

Authorized in 1961, Hammocks Beach State Park recorded 178,736 visitors in 2014.