Plans are in the works to add a new wave of improvements to the historic Salvo Community Cemetery, (also known as the Salvo Day Use Cemetery), which includes new landscaping, installing signage for visitors, and resetting a handful of dislodged headstones, per a recent update from project organizers.
Situated along the Pamlico Sound on the northern edge of the Salvo Day Use Area, which is a popular soundside beach access site for Tri-village visitors, the Salvo Community Cemetery has changed dramatically – and for the better – in the past few years. Home to the descendants of many local families on Hatteras Island and beyond, the cemetery has been slowly revitalized, and in the past decade, saved from complete destruction.
After a series of hurricanes in the 2010s, including 2011’s devastating Hurricane Irene, the cemetery began crumbling rapidly due to an eroding shoreline and little protection from the elements. Local residents, family members and stakeholders, fearful that the gravesites would wash away, responded by embarking on a long process to find a long-term solution for the 146-year-old landmark.
In 2015 and 2016, a community-wide initiative was energized to prevent further devastation to the cemetery, which was losing gravesites to erosion on a regular basis. The Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association played a big role in the restoration of the site, (and served as the umbrella group to conduct the needed repairs and renovations), and they hosted a number of fundraising campaigns to raise the estimated $120,000 to protect the cemetery.
This initiative was successful, and after years of efforts, the formation of a protective bulkhead and armor rock barrier along the Salvo Community Cemetery was finally completed in 2018. Fencing was also bolstered around the site, to protect it further, and to keep it secure.
But although the cemetery is now protected from future storms and flooding concerns, the Salvo Day Use area has also become more popular with visitors, watersports fans, history buffs, and everyday beachgoers.
While most visitors are respectful of the cemetery, which is bordered by soundside beaches, picnic tables, and the popular Pamlico Sound shoreline, there have been reports of visitors overstepping their bounds, and potentially damaging the historic gravesites. Considering that many of the markers are 100-years-old or more, it’s understandable that a casual visitor might not know the significance of the site, but project organizers hope that the next steps in the revitalization project will change the cemetery’s stature.
“We are currently working on signage to help tourists understand that the cemetery is an ‘active’ one, and not abandoned… That’s step one,” stated Robin Daniels Holt, Hatteras Island Genealogical Society Member and project organizer. “[The next step is to] develop a plan to establish ground cover to help sustain the sand before we reset the upturned stones. It would be a waste of time to reset the stones without some landscaping.”
“We’re also looking at putting a fence along the back boardwalk of the bulkhead – folks are just a little too comfortable using that bulkhead so close to the graveyard.”
While the next rounds of renovations to the Salvo Community Cemetery are still in the planning stages, and there is no finalized timeline on what projects will be completed or when, the partnership with the National Park Service – which manages the popular public beach and the Salvo Day Use Area – is already established.
Mike Barber, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Public Affairs Specialist, confirms that plans are in the works to provide more signage and exhibits that will explain the importance of the site to everyday visitors, and help protect it in the process. “We are initially working to help develop multiple signs for the area, and in the coming months, a more traditional exhibit panel will be developed that will give some context to the cemetery,” said Barber.
In the meantime, visitors to the Salvo Day Use Area are encouraged to use caution and to treat the active cemetery with respect. Please do not enter the cemetery, or launch watersports equipment from the bulkhead barrier, and please steer clear of vulnerable gravesites and stones, which have often been standing for a century or more.
Hopefully, with more renovations planned in the future, the cemetery will continue to be a treasured and historic landmark that local families and Tri-village visitors can admire and be proud of for decades to come.