Category: National Parks
For the first time in its history, the Bodie Island Lighthouse opened to the public on Friday, allowing visitors to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to climb the 170-foot tower. The public debut follows renovation work that began in 2009.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, also opened for the 2013 season Friday. It has opened for climbing each year since 1993, according to a National Park Service news release.
The Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses will remain open through Columbus Day, Monday, October 14.
Renovations at the Bodie Island site began in the summer of 2009 and were halted early in 2011 when more extensive damage than expected was discovered and then money ran out. A $1.89 million contract secured in January 2012 allowed the project to continue.
Work included renovations to the lighthouse's first-order Fresnel lens and to the structure and supports of the tower, stairs and the lantern level.
Earlier work at the site on N.C. 12 included moving the Bodie Island Lifesaving Station, its boathouse and the former Bodie Island Coast Guard Station away from shoreline erosion, and building a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk leading from the parking lot to an elevated viewing platform.
Forty-five-minute guided tours of the Bodie Island Lighthouse will run from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and start every 35 minutes. Tickets are $8 or $4 for adults 62 or older, children younger than 12, and for those holding National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Passes.
Reservations for a tour can only be made between one to seven days in advance of the tour date by calling (252) 475-9417, but half of each day's tickets will be sold onsite.
Climbing hours for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will be 90 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and extend to 5:30 p.m. from May 24 to September 2. Tickets are $7 or $3.50 for adults 62 or older, children younger than 12, and those holding National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Passes.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse tickets are sold on a first come/first served basis only at the site the day of the climb.
Children must be at least 42 inches tall to climb either lighthouse.
You can save the $4 ticket price at Wright Brothers National Memorial if you visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday while the National Park Service celebrates Wilbur Wright's 146th birthday, the NPS says.
The celebrations will include activities just about every hour, including Junior Ranger activities, kite building and flying demonstrations, and a "Flight Room Talk" about how the Wright brothers solved the problems of human flight, which will be presented three times.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks has replicas of the Wrights' gliders and other exhibits about manned flight through the space age in two buildings, a film, the 60-foot-tall granite Wright Memorial atop Kill Devil Hill, the 90-foot dune where the initial flights were launched (above), and more.
Normally admission costs $4 for anyone 16 years old or older, and is good for seven days.
The highlight of the day's events should come about 10:35 a.m. when flyers from US Marine Corps (USMC) Air Station Cherry Point stage a flyover to mark the 100th anniversary of Marine Corps aviation. They will be followed by U.S. Coast Guard and civilian aircraft.
Monday's events begin at 8:45 a.m. with a patriotic musical prelude by the Northeastern High School Band from Elizabeth City, which is followed by a ceremony that includes remarks by Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator & Major General USMC (Ret); and Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of the Division of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution.
There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. on the exact spot where the first flight occurred.
The park's usual $4 entrance fee will be waived during the anniversary event.
The park's visitor center and pavilion will open at 9 a.m., and the grounds will be open as well, including the 60-foot-tall granite memorial atop Kill Devil Hill and the Stephen H. Smith sculpture depicting the first flight, below.
Tweets in the last hour by national parks units that make up the Outer Banks Group - Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial - say they have closed all park operations because of inclement weather related to Hurricane Sandy.
@CapeHatterasNPS: Park facilities will remain closed through Monday due to Hurricane Sandy impacts.
@FortRaleighNPS: Park facilities will remain closed through Monday due to Hurricane Sandy impacts.
@WrightBrosNPS: Park facilities will remain closed through Monday due to Hurricane Sandy impacts.
On Friday, the parks announced that visitor centers at the three parks would close at the end of the day Saturday and that Ocracoke Campground on Hatteras Island would close for the season at noon Saturday.
Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, says the MST was originally to parallel the Blue Ridge Parkway after leaving the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the parkway owns almost no land where it crosses the Cherokee Reservation. Because a route couldn't be worked out, hikers using the Blue Ridge Parkway to get from one existing trail section to another are forced to hike through five tunnels.
There are two proposals so far:
* An 80-mile route through the Great Smokies park on existing trail. This route has extreme elevation gain and no locations where hikers can easily obtain new supplies.
* Leaving the park at the Deep Creek Campground and roughly following the Tuckaseegee River past Bryson City, Sylva and Cullowhee before heading up through the Nanatahala National Forest to rejoin the existing trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway. But, it will probably be many years before this route is entirely off-road.
The routes are depicted on a map at the first link above. Other ideas are welcome, Dixon says.
The workshop is Thursday, September 13, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Jackson County Library, 310 Keener Street in Sylva.
The ongoing Mountains-to-Sea Trail project is to eventually extend across the state for approximately 1,000 miles from Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks.
The workshop is the first one planned as part of an effort to begin developing a regional trail plan for Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in the state's far west.
The Southwestern Commission is developing the plan with a grant provided by the State Trails Program of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The primary product of the plan will be a comprehensive regionwide trail map. The Commission will also use public input to recommend where new trails, greenways or routes should be located to connect to other trails and to connect towns/communities to one another, Dixon says in a memo.
A bill that would overturn the Park Service’s new off-road-vehicle plan for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was sent to the House floor Thursday, according to published reports. A vote is yet to be scheduled.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., would overturn rules for off-road-vehicle use adopted in January, end a consent decree that dates to 2008, and return management at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to the 2007 Interim Protected Species Management Plan, according to the Island Free Press.
Currently, just under 18 of 65 miles of seashore are open to beach driving.
The rules adopted earlier this year gave the National Park Service the discretion to close sections of the beach surrounding nesting shorebirds and sea turtles, and permanently closed some sections of the beach to driving, the Virginian-Pilot said. Safeguarding federally protected species is part of the reason the rules were enacted.
Cape Hatteras businessmen and elected officials complained last winter that the more-restrictive driving rules, which also require higher fees for driving permits, were hard on fishermen and hurt local businesses.
Under the bill, the Secretary of Interior would be able to restrict beach access "to protect species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973" if "peer-reviewed science" and public comment showed it was necessary.
If the bill passes, the interim strategy would remain in place until the Park Service devises another long-term plan that is less restrictive, the Island Free Press said.
Cape Point Campground, one of four campgrounds at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, has opened for the season following repairs to flood damage, park officials announced Thursday.
Cape Point, which is in Buxton near the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, has 202 sites. The fee to camp is $20 per night. The campground will close September 3.
National Parks Traveler reported last fall that federal and state wetlands protection laws were hampering efforts to correct drainage problems in the Cape Point area.
Heavy rains last fall, including a drenching from Hurricane Irene, had left standing water in the campground and surrounding portions of Lighthouse Road.
Cape Hatteras' Oregon Inlet, Frisco and Ocracoke campgrounds opened in April and will close in October.
Each of the park's campgrounds accommodates tents, trailers, and motor homes up to 35 feet. Each has rest rooms, drinking water, unheated showers, grills, and picnic tables. No hookups (utility connections) are available.
Pending legislation would allow hunting, trapping and recreational shooting in most National Parks, changing "the fundamental purpose of the National Park System," says a legal analysis commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association.
The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (HR 4089) is meant to prioritize hunting and shooting on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, but its text includes National Parks, according to the law firm of Arnold & Porter, LLP.
"Today, hunting, trapping and recreational shooting are prohibited throughout the National Park System except in places where they have been specifically authorized by Congress," Craig Obey, senior vice president for government affairs at the NPCA says in a news release.
"Under this bill, the law regarding such uses would no longer be closed [to hunting] unless opened, but would instead be open unless closed. National parks were set aside to protect the wildlife that roam and historic sites that preserve our nation’s history — not for using some of America’s most valued treasures as target practice."
North Carolina parks include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is bordered by state game lands and Nantahala National Forest property, both of which allow hunting, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which allows waterfowl hunting. Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina also allows hunting.
The bill would force park managers to undertake "lengthy and potentially costly analyses" to justify closing park units to various activities, yet would open those units without any such analysis, the news release says. "For example, park managers would need to use the 'best science' to justify prohibiting paintball games on the hallowed ground at Gettysburg," the release says.
Additionally, the Congressional Research Service says the bill would open Wilderness Areas to motorized use, oil and gas development, logging and a host of other activities "that would cut the heart out of protective designations like Wilderness Areas," according to Outdoor Life magazine, which supports expanded hunting opportunities in the bill. "In fact, the CRS didn’t have much in terms of kind words for this bill:
Because of imprecise wording in the bill, the full extent of the bill’s impact on the Wilderness Act is unclear. However, it appears that Section 104(e) would not only allow any activity related to fishing, hunting or wildlife conservation to be conducted in wilderness areas, but it may also obviate the primacy of wilderness values in determining permissible activities in wilderness areas."
The bill passed in the House April 17, and has moved to the Senate.
The NPCA is encouraging the public to contact their senators "to prevent this threatening legislation from damaging our National Park System." Take action here.
A spectacular late-spring showing of fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has become so popular a tourist attraction that the park will require reservations for visitors to see it beginning this year.
Each June, thousands of the Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously, appear for a week or so near the Elkmont Campground. Last year, more than 7,000 people rode the shuttles required since 2005 from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area to Elkmont to view the fireflies, a park news release says.
This year, because people have begun to crowd the parking lot early each afternoon while awaiting the evening shuttles, visitors will need a ticket to board a shuttle. Tickets will have staggered arrival and boarding times to relieve congestion.
The firefly viewing this year is from Saturday, June 2, through Sunday, June 10.
Tickets - parking passes - are available through recreation.gov for $1.50 and cover a maximum of six people in a single passenger vehicle (less than 19 feet long). "Four passes for oversize vehicles, like a mini bus (19 to 30 feet in length and up to 24 persons), will also be available," the release says.
"Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but Park officials strongly encourage the use of the online process, because it provides far more information to visitors about what to expect when they arrive at the Park," the release says.
Shuttle rides, provided by the city of Gatlinburg, begin at 7 p.m. each evening and cost another $1 (the same as previous years), which will be collected onboard. The park says it makes no money from this event; the reservation fee covers costs.
For those who are late to hear about the new reservation system, 25 parking passes for each evening will be made available online at 10 a.m. the day before the event until 3:30 p.m. the day of the event, or until they run out.
Trees are to be cut from 34 of the most popular roadside vistas along the Park's main roads between April 1 and August 1, a news release says.
As the park has concentrated on forest renewal over the last 75 years, what were once scenic views have gradually become obscured. Meanwhile, "viewing scenery - scenic views" always tops surveys when park visitors are asked what they have planned for their stay.
The park plans to develop a seven-year cycle for thinning trees and leave lower-growing or shrubby species, like rhododendron and mountain laurel, uncut so they will eventually discourage the growth of taller trees.
No roads will be closed for the work, but affected overlooks will be closed as trees are cut down and trimmed.
Overlooks along these roads are slated for work:
* Newfound Gap Road.
* Clingmans Dome Road.
* East and West Foothills Parkway.
* Gatlinburg Bypass.
* Rich Mountain Road.
* Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
* Lakeview Drive.
* Cataloochee Road.