By JOY CRIST
Despite a brief three-day interlude due to the federal government shutdown over the past weekend, 2018 is already shaping up to be yet another busy year when it comes to projects within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
And considering that these projects are scattered throughout the islands, it can be justifiably hard to keep up with what?s coming, going, or being renovated.
So with that in mind, here?s a closer look at the ongoing projects within the National Seashore, and where they stand.
ADA Accessible Boardwalk near ORV Ramp 55 in Hatteras
The new ADA accessible boardwalk that?s adjacent to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and ORV Ramp 55 is in the final stages of completion, and should be open in the next several weeks.
The boardwalk is similar to the one at the bathhouse just south of Frisco, in that it has a gradual incline with no hills, brings visitors right to the beach, and also has a viewing platform that allows folks to check out the ocean without getting their toes in the sand.
?Right now, we are planting beach grass along the sides of [the boardwalk] to stabilize the sand,? says David Hallac, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent, ?but the structure itself is almost complete.?
Removal of Frisco (aka Cape Hatteras) Pier
The contractor overseeing the removal of the Frisco Pier, DOT Construction, will be focusing on the in-water work in the next couple of weeks.
?They are fine tuning the plan for extraction,? says Hallac. ?They have come up with a methodology that is the best way to go [to remove the in-water pilings], so they are getting ready to put a lot of effort into that now.?
Up to this point, all pilings on the land have been removed, with the exception of a couple that are lodged in the tidal zone.
The beach in front of the former pier remains accessible for fishermen, and beach-goers in the area should expect to see a barge arriving in the next couple of weeks to address the remaining water-locked pilings. 120 pilings are completely hidden under the water?s surface, and removing these structures will be the most complicated part of the removal project, with divers being enlisted to help with the process.
The pier is scheduled to be removed in its entirety by May, however the project is very much weather dependent.
Ocracoke Boat Ramps
The Ocracoke boat ramp project is in its initial stages, and contractors have staged everything required to get started. The goal is to have the project complete by Memorial Day, but like virtually all island projects, progress is weather dependent.
?Any of these projects in these coastal areas are challenging, given weather and ocean conditions, but the contractor will do their best to get it done before visitor season kicks into high gear,? says Hallac.
The Ocracoke boat ramp project addresses two issues with the current ramp set-up, which has two concrete ramps and finger piers to assist with docking.
The current concrete slabs that serve as the ramps will be replaced with new ones that go further into the sound, so that boat trailer tires won?t fall off at the end, which was a reported problem.
In addition, the replacement slabs will have a steeper incline, to make it easier for boats to be launched off of trailers and effectively float once in the water. The new slope and extension of the ramps should alleviate both of these problems.
South Beach Parking Area
The new ?road? and parking area at the edge of South Beach is expected to be completed by the springtime, and most likely, within the next 4-6 weeks.
South Beach, or ?The Hook,? is the shoreline that is situated just south of Cape Point, and which is solely open to pedestrians year round. The road that is being addressed is situated along the interdunal road close to ramp 44, and is currently accessed via the NPS managed Cape Point Campground. (Locals and longtime visitors will remember this route as the original ramp 45, although the former beach road has not been altered or improved in years.)
The road is being rehabilitated, and is being transformed into an improved dirt road with clay and shell on it ? similar to the entrance of ramp 44.
When the project is completed, the road itself will be 6-12? higher due to the addition of clay and shell material, and an unpaved parking area that will accommodate 25-30 vehicles will be added to the end of the road, just behind the dune line.
The footprint of the road will remain the same, but the higher elevation will make it less prone to flooding, and easier to access for all varieties of vehicles.
?Once this road is completed, anybody will have the ability to drive down this road and park at the end,? said Hallac in an earlier interview. ?We will recommend high clearance or 4WD vehicles – just because it is a park road – but anyone will be able to drive down, park at the designated area, and walk out and enjoy the beach.?
The end result will also reduce the current walk to South Beach from the Cape Point Campground by 1/3 mile.
Passenger Ferry Parking and Facilities
The construction of the passenger ferry parking area and accompanying facilities is slated to begin the first week of February 2018 at both the Hatteras village and Ocracoke village terminals.
The existing Hatteras ferry terminal space will be converted into two additional parking areas to accommodate passenger vehicles and NCDOT ferry division employees.
On Ocracoke, a new open-air passenger waiting facility will be constructed in front of the Ocracoke Visitor Center to shelter passenger ferry users from the sun and rain, and upgrades and improvements will be made at the Ocracoke Visitor Center to accommodate new visitors. (Examples include a new restroom facility behind the center, and the addition of a transit pullout area in front of the center.)
These facilities are being built in conjunction with the new Ocracoke Express passenger ferry, which is scheduled to be up and running for the summer of 2018.
Oregon Inlet Restroom Renovation
The restrooms next to the NPS managed boat docks at Oregon Inlet, which are some of the most popular docks year-round, are also undergoing a renovation which should be done by the spring of 2018.
Wright Brothers Visitors Center Renovation
The entire building that serves as the Visitors Center for the Wright Brothers Memorial is also undergoing a complete renovation, which is slated to be completed by late August.
Now, bear in mind that this is just an update on projects related to the National Seashore. There?s plenty of other big endeavors to keep an eye on this year, like the Bonner Bridge, the new Jug Handle Bridge, and the passenger ferry itself.
Clearly, it?s going to be another busy year when it comes to changes to the local landscape, but there?s also quite a bit to look forward to ? and to keep up with. And as piers disappear and bridges are erected, we?ll keep you posted on the completion of all of the projects that are in the works for 2018.