Category: National Parks
The National Park Service reminds us that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse opens for the season April 15 with a day of free admission to climbers on a first come, first served basis.
The regular season for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore icon runs from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day, which is October 10 this year.
For opening day, the NPS invites locals to come and climb the lighthouse for free, and extends the deal to other park visitors.
It normally costs $7 to climb the tower's 248 iron spiral stair steps, or $3.50 if you are 62 or older, 12 or younger, or the holder of a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Pass.
Ticket sales, or distribution on the 15th, begin at 8:15 a.m. and close at 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. from May 27 through Labor Day). Climbing tours will begin at 9 a.m. and run every 10 minutes with a limit of 30 people on each trip.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States and measures 210 feet from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the pinnacle of the tower.
The National Park Service has published a full opening and closing schedule for the Blue Ridge Parkway's 2011 season.
Seasons on the 469-mile scenic roadway generally run from late-April through October.
The full schedule includes picnic grounds, visitor centers, restaurants and other concessions, such as the Pisgah Inn Lodge and Restaurant opening March 29, and the Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone opening March 15.
Three geldings and two fillies born in 2008 and a gelding born in 2007 are available for adoption from the fabled Shackleford Banks horses on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, the National Park Service says.
"Banker horses represent an enchanting piece of history," the NPS says. "Their herd members hold a genetic link to Colonial Spanish horses, and they are recognized by the Horse of the Americas Registry. They are part of the cultural history of the Outer Banks where they have lived for centuries."
Adoptions are administered by the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, Inc., and are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. An adoption fee is charged and there are facility requirements.
For more information and/or an adoption application contact Anita Kimball at (252) 241-5222 or, after 6 p.m., Joy Lawrence at (252) 728-7111. To make an appointment to see the horses, contact Kimball. In Florida, contact Bob Cubbage at (352) 817-3576.
Soprano, a Shackleford horse available for adoption.
Restoration work at the Bodie Island Lighthouse has been halted because money to complete it is not available, the National Parks Service said Monday.
Work begun in December 2009 was suspended this past January when damage that exceeded expectations was discovered. The NPS said it would have to find additional funding, and said this week the $3.09 million project was being suspended indefinitely.
The NPS needs another $1.6 million to repair cracks found in the braces supporting the balcony near the top of the light, according to The News & Observer.
Scaffolding will start coming down this week, and the lighthouse, which is at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, will be shuttered to protect it from the weather. Its Fresnel lens and light are in storage.
A visitor center and bookstore at the base of the lighthouse remain open year-round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A nature trail boardwalk at the lighthouse is also open year-round.
The National Park Service has placed the project in its FY 2012 Line Item Construction funding request.
Get a look at two alternatives for ferry terminals to provide service to Cape Lookout National Seashore in a public meeting at the Duke University Marine Lab Auditorium on Pivers Island at 7 to 9 p.m. next Tuesday.
The National Park Service is planning passenger ferry service from either 10th Street in Morehead City or from Front Street in Beaufort to Shackleford Banks and to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse area of South Core Banks.
Officials will announce the preferred departure site Tuesday as part of the draft Passenger Ferry Departure Site Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect, the National Park Service says.
The study examined eight potential sites since last August, and each site's characteristics and requirements, including accessibility issues and opportunities for partnering with the Towns of Beaufort and Morehead City, the NPS news release says.
The public can comment on the EA/AoE from March 1 until March 31.
Comments by mail may be sent to: Wouter Ketel, Management Assistant, Cape Lookout National Seashore, 131 Charles Street, Harkers Island, NC 28531.
Campers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be required to reserve sites at Cataloochee Campground beginning with the season that opens March 11.
Reservations are available up to six months ahead of time through the federal government's Recreation.gov website, or at 877-444-6777. The camping fee will be $20 per night, which includes the contract costs for the reservation system and is the same as several other campgrounds in the park with similar amenities, a news release says.
The reservation page for Cataloochee Campground became operative February 9. The campground has 27 sites.
The park already requires reservations for the large frontcountry campgrounds at Smokemont, Elkmont and Cades Cove, a smaller outlying campground at Cosby, and at all drive-to horse camps, group camps, and picnic pavilions.
"Cataloochee Campground is one of the park’s most sought-after camping experiences, particularly since elk arrived in the valley in 2001," park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson says in the news release. "During peak season and off-season weekends, the campground often fills to capacity. Frequently campers would arrive after driving a long distance along a very narrow, gravel road to find no campsites available. We feel that the reservation system will provide a more efficient process to secure an overnight stay at Cataloochee and will eliminate unnecessary travel time and effort to try and obtain a site.”
In roads news on the other side of the state (from the Smokies, see below), travelers can expect delays for "the next several months" along a portion of the main artery through Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The first of several projects along N.C. 12 in the Bodie Island area begins February 14 with closing the two-lane road for resurfacing for about 30 days from just south of Whalebone Junction Visitor Center to the intersection of SR 1243 (Old Oregon Inlet Road). Plans are to initially detour traffic and open one lane as soon as possible, a park news release says.
Additional work along N.C. 12 will result in a single lane from SR 1243 to the Oregon Inlet Bridge beginning February 21.
Work is scheduled through May 27, and delays of up to 20 to 30 minutes are expected.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has started providing road-condition updates via text and Twitter for the park's four main routes.
You can get text messages about Newfound Gap (U.S. 441), Little River Road, Laurel Creek Road, and Cades Cove Loop Road sent to your cell phone by texting "follow smokiesroadsnps" to 40404. (Text "stop smokiesroadsnps" to the same number to cancel.)
The Twitter feed is at http://twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps.
The park’s recorded information line - (865) 436-1200, ext. 631 for roads, 630 for weather - receives more than 1,000 calls a day about road conditions during severe winter weather, the park's news release says. "When all of the incoming lines are in use, the calls rollover to the park’s Communications Center staff, often resulting in more than 600 calls to be answered, hampering the staff from responding to calls requesting park information and emergency assistance."
Road and facility closings are posted on the park's Web page at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm.
In addition to notifications of winter road conditions, park officials plan to use the text and Twitter feeds to spread the word year-round about road openings and closings caused by rock slides, fallen trees or accidents. Any time the status of one of the listed roads changes, a message will be sent.
The discovery of more extensive damage than expected will require the National Park Service to suspend work to refurbish the Bodie Island Lighthouse as it seeks money for the additional work.
The NPS has completed significant and major restoration work as part of a massive restoration project begun in December 2009, a news release says, but last summer the contractor discovered significant structural integrity issues associated with the support structures under the balcony. An assessment found problems with framing, lantern beam supports, masonry and stitching, and steel drum and belt course segments located at the top of the lighthouse.
Work in the lighthouse, which is at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, will end this spring, and the facility will be secured until funding is obtained, the Park Service says.
The National Park Service on Tuesday released its Environmental Impact Statement and proposal for settling a three-year-old quest for rules governing off-road vehicle access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The Associated Press summary of the hundreds of pages in the plan says "the National Park Service recommends that drivers should have year-round access to about 28 miles of the 67-mile Cape Hatteras National Seashore. An additional 13 miles would be open seasonally to off-road vehicles.
Kurt Repanshek writes on his National Parks Traveler blog that the National Park Service's preferred alternative, Alternative F, says that "new parking areas along [N.C.] 12 would be built, as would new access ramps to the beach. Pedestrians also would see a new trail through the dunes down to the beach. Overall, the alternative would allow for 27.9 miles of year-round designated ORV routes on the seashore, 12.7 miles of seasonal routes, and 26.4 miles of vehicle-free miles."
In its EIS, the Park Service says "Alternative F would provide a reasonably balanced approach to designating ORV routes and vehicle-free areas and providing for the protection of park resources. ... A seasonal night-driving restriction would be established from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. during turtle nesting season although areas with no turtle nests could open to night driving from September 16 through November 15. Alternative F would provide for an alternative transportation study and would encourage the establishment of a beach shuttle or water taxi.
Another proposal under consideration, Alternative D, Repanshek says is "the 'environmentally preferred alternative,' [under which] there would be 27.2 miles of ORV routes open year-round, no miles of seasonal routes, and 40.1 miles closed to vehicles year-round."
Again from National Park Traveler, "The plan, intended to guide ORV management on the 67-mile-long seashore for the coming 10-15 years, is the result of a lawsuit the two conservation groups brought against the Park Service in 2007 because there were no formal ORV guidelines in place and threatened species of sea turtles and shorebirds allegedly were endangered by the vehicles."
The AP says the proposal "will go through a month-long waiting period before the National Park Service is expected to adopt it. The rules likely wouldn't be in place until next year after further review takes place."