When you’re wandering, in future years, around the Hammocks Beach State Park on North Carolina’s southeastern coast, doff the sun hat to Harriet Hurst Turner and her brother, John Hurst, who just agreed to sell 200 acres of coastal property to the state for $10.1 million. That’s good for the brother and sister, to be sure, but according to one fellow who knows more about conservation than just about anyone, it’s a bargain.
Bill Holman, state director for the conservation fund and a man who used to oversee North Carolina’s environment, said, “This was a bargain sale. I don’t think there is another piece of property like it in Onslow or Carteret County or on the central coast: a large property on a tidal creek that adjoins the intracoastal waterway. This is really the last opportunity the public has to have a large park that’s on the water.”
For her part, Turner wants to use some property for a youth retreat. That follows a family legacy of sorts. Her grandfather was a hunting guide on the land for the owner in the 1930s, a New York doctor. The doctor offered to give the land to the Hurst family, but Harriet Turner’s mother instead wanted the property to be a retreat for the teachers of black students in North Carolina’s schools, which then were segregated. The Hursts did keep enough land to live on.
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A lengthy legal dispute kept the land tied up after desegregation opened other recreational spots to minorities. But it ultimately wound up with the Hursts, which was as it should have been.
And following their legacy of generosity of spirit, the Hursts have done a noble thing with property that now will belong to the people, in effect, and will remain the oasis it is.