Onslow County, the home of Hammocks Beach State Park, was recognized last week by the state parks system for its outstanding support of the state park, including direct financial support for planned new facilities.
State Parks Director Mike Murphy presented the Onslow County Commissioners with a plaque of appreciation, in part for a $1 million commitment to build boating facilities on a 289-acre tract recently added to the park’s mainland complex. The commissioners have pledged $250,000 over four years from the county’s tourism occupancy tax.
David Pearson, executive director of Friends of State Parks, said that, early on, the county commissioners never hesitated to support the state park’s acquisition of the property along Queen’s Creek. The tract was acquired last year 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. Negotiations over the acquisition lasted nearly 20 years.
Pearson said that when Friends of State Parks also suggested financial help with development of the tract, they found Onslow County to be a eager partner.
Jeffrey L Hudson, the county manager, said that the county considers Hammocks Beach State Park to be a good long-term investment for recreation and tourism. “In the words of one county commissioner, ‘It’s a jewel in Onslow County,’” Hudson said.
Onslow’s population and its tourism economy are booming, Hudson said, and many of its citizens and visitors are avid boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway, the White Oak River, the New River and the Atlantic Ocean. The county partnered with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for three boat ramps in recent years.
“What we’d hoped, as part of the Hammocks Beach development, that yet another boat ramp could be placed there because all of our existing ramps are already overcrowded and heavily used,” he said. The county has also discussed partnership with the state park on other recreation facilities such as kayak/canoe access and group campsites, he said.