Work is tentatively set to begin next year on multiuse paths designed to make the three Outer Banks national parks safer for visitors.
Outer Banks Forever, the official nonprofit partner of the three parks, and National Park Service Outer Banks Group announced the project Tuesday, which are to make the parks safer and better connected while honoring the history, culture, and coastal environment of the Outer Banks.
The first multiuse path to be developed will be to connect Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
“This is a really exciting project. This is something we’ve been talking about for many years, and we’re getting ready to kick it off,” David Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, said in a statement. “Once we implement the multiuse path, we will dramatically improve the safety of our non-motorized travelers that are either biking, jogging, walking or hiking down the side of the road. They’ll be separated from the traffic; they’ll be on a nice, hard, safe surface, and they’ll be able to get down to the lighthouse without driving.”
The new mile-long paved path will begin at the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at N.C. 12 and parallel Lighthouse Road, connecting the town of Buxton to Old Lighthouse Beach and the original site of the lighthouse, as well as to the current lighthouse grounds. A new trailhead and improved entrance signage will be added.
The total estimated cost for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Pathways is just over $2 million. The project is a public-private partnership supported by the National Park Service and individuals and businesses who donate through Outer Banks Forever. To date, just over 75% of the funds have been secured through a federal grant and fundraising efforts.
“Safer ways for people to explore our Outer Banks national parks are one of the most requested enhancements we hear about, so we are excited to help make this first pathway a reality,” said Jessica Barnes, director of Outer Banks Forever. “This project will strengthen connections to our public lands, make it safer to explore this important historical and cultural area and honor the history of our community.”
“We’ve seen how the pathways throughout Hatteras Island – whether they be in the Tri-Villages or in Hatteras and soon to be Frisco and Buxton – connected the communities immediately after those were unrolled,” said Trip Forman, co-founder of REAL Watersports and President of Outer Banks Forever’s Board of Directors. “We really can’t wait to see this path connecting the community of Buxton and basically the Outer Banks, giving people a safe way to get down to the lighthouse and the beaches in an enjoyable manner.”
Planning and design contracts for the project were awarded in March. National Park Service officials will work with designers to finalize the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Pathway and master plan for the project.
The Outer Banks Group of the National Park Service offered earlier this year public scoping and comment periods to residents and visitors and completed the necessary environmental assessment, which was also made available for public comment.
To learn more and how to support the project, visit www.obxforever.org/pathways or email Barnes at at JessicaBarnes@OBXForever.org.