Reprinted from the Tideland News
SWANSBORO — Hammocks Beach State Park might grow again, soon.
A Jacksonville businessman has started the process that will likely lead to the donation of Dudley Island to the park, according to the state Division of Parks and Recreation. The 450-acre island is in the middle of Bogue Inlet, between Emerald Isle and Bear Island, which is already part of the park.
Brian Strong, chief of planning and natural resources for the division, said last week that Jonathan Asher Popkin is listed as the owner of Dudley Island. The donation, he explained, will take place in three phases, with the first phase to be completed, if possible, by the end of the year.
If all goes as planned, Strong said, the first donation will be on the agenda when the N.C. Council of State – the governor’s “cabinet” – meets on Dec. 1 in Raleigh. The council must approve all state land transactions.
Tyler Thomas, a wealth manager with BB&T in Wilmington, is handling the transaction for Popkin. He said that he would term the donation “tentative” at this time, because he and Popkin are still awaiting appraisals. Thomas said that Popkin would prefer to not comment until “it’s a done deal.”
But Strong said that the donation to the park is expected to be about 150 acres at a time, with phases two and three in 2016 and 2017.
“We’re excited about a potential addition to the park,” said Strong.
The donation would be the second significant addition at the park this year. John Hurst and his sister, Harriet Hurst Turner, sold the state 290 mainland acres along Queen’s Creek just outside Swansboro for about $10 million. The land would be added to the mainland portion of the park.
Hammocks Beach State Park currently does not have a superintendent, as Paul Donnelly retired this summer after 10 years at the helm. But Sam Bland, a former superintendent who now works for the N.C. Coastal Federation, agreed the addition would be great for the park.
“It’s primary value is habitat,” he said. “It’s really a complex of marsh islands in a maze of tidal creeks. As you come in from the ocean though Bogue Inlet, the first thing you see is some really nice, white beaches on the south side of Dudley.
“It is kind of a ‘shock absorber’ for Huggins Island, and offers a good bit of storm protection for Swansboro.”
Beyond the beach, “there’s a little bit of a rise, enough to support some maritime shrubs: yaupon, wax myrtle, some bay trees and cedar,” Bland added.
These serve as bird habitat, and the marshes themselves are, obviously, prime breeding grounds for all kinds of fish, plus oysters and crabs. All of this, Bland said, would serve as a fine natural classroom for folks interested in learning about marshes and other estuarine habitat.
The Dudley Island area, he added, is already a pretty popular place, where in the summer, if the southwest wind isn’t too bad, you’ll usually see lots of boats; it’s very accessible.
Adjacent Huggins Island was added to the park in 2000. Most of Jones Island in the middle of the lower White Oak River is also part of the park.
This story is provided courtesy of the Tideland News, a weekly newspaper in Swansboro. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Tideland to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast. You can read other stories about the Swansboro area here.