Under the Dome

State to buy coastal park land in Onslow

Bear Island at Hammock's Beach State Park
Bear Island at Hammock's Beach State Park

The Council of State has signed off on a 200-acre land purchase that will significantly expand Hammocks Beach State Park, the Onslow County recreation area that’s accessible only by boat.

Tuesday’s unanimous vote from the panel of statewide elected officials, which is chaired by Gov. Pat McCrory, will buy the land for $6.96 million. The addition will allow the park to address a “critical need for traditional park facilities,” according to a news release.

Most of the park is on undeveloped Bear Island, which offers only a bathhouse for the 178,000 visitors it draws each year.

“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,” said David Pearson, president of the Friends of Hammocks and Bear Island and executive director of Friends of State Parks.

The sale ends years of legal wrangling between the state and the Hammocks Beach Corp., a trust established in the 1950s to develop a beach resort for black vacationers – teachers in particular. The heirs of John Hurst, who set up the trust, had fought the state in court for ownership of the property. They will be paid for the land under the deal approved Tuesday, with the price set in a settlement agreement.

About 27 acres of the property will be set aside for a 25-year lease to a nonprofit organization for a youth camp. The organization will renovate buildings used for 4-H and Future Farmers of America camps that are in poor condition.

Programs at the refurbished camp would be “targeted toward economically disadvantaged children,” Tingley said, although the facilities could be rented by the public.

The property is on the mainland along Queen’s Creek, adjacent to the park’s ferry terminal and visitors center in Swansboro. A nonprofit group, The Conservation Fund, is buying an additional 90 acres there for about $3 million, which will eventually become part of the park as well.

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