Outer Banks Forever — the official nonprofit partner of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial — and the Outer Banks Group of the National Park Service are pleased to announce the official launch of their joint “Pathways to Your National Parks” project.
Over the next several years, “Pathways to Your National Parks” will create new paved multiuse paths in all three Outer Banks national parks that will 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 connect locals and visitors to one of the most popular sites in the Outer Banks: The 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,” said David Hallac, Superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina. “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.”
Each year, millions of visitors from around the world travel to the Outer Banks to visit Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and many make a point of visiting the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Considered one of the most iconic lighthouses in the country, the lighthouse site in Buxton, North Carolina, is beloved for its beautiful beach and is a top surfing destination on the East Coast.
When families, local children and surfers come to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, they often take in the sights, sounds and stories on foot or by bicycle. Currently, the only way to do this is to brave the main roads alongside vehicular traffic on Lighthouse Road. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Pathway will provide a safer alternative: a mile-long paved path for walking, running, cycling and more.
“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.”
The new pathway will begin at the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at NC Route 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 to guide visitors into this important part of the Outer Banks community.
In addition to safely connecting the town of Buxton to these important local sites, new educational signage will be installed along the path to help everyone learn more about the Outer Banks’s unique barrier islands, the history of surf culture and water sports in the Outer Banks and the story of why and how the lighthouse was moved in 1999.
“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. “Whether it be kids riding their bikes or families riding their bikes or walking, running – there’s a lot more exercise use on those paths. So, 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.”
The total estimated cost for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Pathways is just over $2 million. This 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 Outer Banks Forever’s fundraising efforts. Part of Outer Banks Forever’s mission to protect and enhance our Outer Banks national parks is to raise funds to fill the gap on projects like this one that cannot be fully supported by federal funding alone. Individual, family and business sponsor levels are available to those who are interested in supporting the pathway.
In March, the planning and design contracts for the project were awarded to Croft & Associates and HealyKohler Design for the pathway and educational exhibits, respectively. This summer, the Outer Banks Group of the National Park Service offered public scoping and comment periods to residents and visitors and completed the necessary environmental assessment, which was also made available for public comment.
From October through December, Outer Banks Forever will continue fundraising for the project and the Outer Banks Group of National Park Service will continue working with the contracted designers to finalize the full design for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Pathway, as well as the master plan for the project. Construction of the pathway is tentatively set to begin in 2023.
To learn more about “Pathways to Your National Parks,” and how you or your business can support this project and be recognized in the park, visit www.obxforever.org/pathways or email Jessica Barnes, Director of Outer Banks Forever, at JessicaBarnes@OBXForever.org.