Hammocks Beach State Park to expand with premier waterfront property

The North Carolina state parks system will add a premier property of 289 acres on the mainland at Hammocks Beach State Park in Onslow County, following approval of the acquisition Tuesday by the Council of State, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Formal closing on state acquisition of 199 acres of the property is expected near the end of April. Concurrently, The Conservation Fund will close on an adjacent 90 acres that will also eventually be added to the state park. Both tracts are being acquired from the heirs of John Hurst, son of a onetime slave who was caretaker of game lands owned by Dr. William Sharpe in the early 1900s.

Visitor center on Queen's Creek at Hammocks Beach State Park.
The Hammocks Beach State Park visitor center on the mainland facing Queen’s Creek.

The state’s portion of the property will be purchased for $6.96 million, provided through the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and two-thirds bonds approved by the N.C. General Assembly in 2014. The Conservation Fund, through its North Carolina chapter, has committed $3.1 million for the remainder of the property. The Conservation Fund’s portion will be acquired by the state over the next three years. The Division of Parks and Recreation will manage both properties. The purchase price was set through a settlement agreement in June 2014.

The history of Hammocks Beach State Park reaches back to the friendship of Dr. Sharpe, an avid outdoorsman and physician from New York, and John Hurst and his wife Gertrude, who eventually became caretakers of Sharpe’s hunting and fishing retreat. At the urging of the Hurst couple, Sharpe agreed to leave the property to the N.C. Teachers Association for use by its members. Bear Island and part of the mainland property was later authorized as the state park.

“Adding this property to Hammocks Beach State Park will greatly advance its mission of conservation, recreation and environmental education in the spirit of Dr. Sharpe and John and Gertrude Hurst, who held that farsighted vision in the early 1900s,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director “The stewardship of the property by the state parks system and the citizens of North Carolina, will ensure that vision will endure.”

Property to be acquired lies northwest of the mainland area of the state park.
The property to be acquired is northwest of the park’s 30-acre mainland section.

David Pearson, president of the Friends of Hammocks and Bear Island and executive director of Friends of State Parks, said the acquisition is a conservation benchmark. “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,” he said. “Our gratitude goes to The Conservation Fund for its support as well as to citizens in Onslow County and Swansboro that have shared in this dream.”

Authorized in 1961, Hammocks Beach State Park recorded 178,736 visitors in 2014.

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