Crews repair Goose Creek State Park
Published 12:43 am Friday, September 16, 2011
GOOSE CREEK STATE PARK – Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Irene swept through eastern North Carolina, Beaufort County’s Goose Creek State Park continues to undergo recovery efforts in hopes of reopening by late September.
“We hope to be at least partially open by the end of this month and fully operational by late October,” said John Fullwood, the park’s superintendent. “But Dinah’s Landing is open now.”
Fullwood added that the timeline was contingent on the area not experiencing storms in the immediate future. In the meantime, the park has cancelled all of its public programs through September.
“Hopefully by the end of this month we can get people into the visitors center, down to the river and maybe open some of the trails on the left side of the road,” he said.
Maintenance crews and rangers from other state parks – including Pettigrew, Hammocks Beach, Fort Macon and Cliffs of the Neuse – have joined Goose Creek staff in cleaning up the area and preparing it for the return of visitors.
And that is no small task, Fullwood pointed out. Just for starters, there are seven miles of hiking trails as well as a campground and picnic areas in the 1,670-acre state park. All those sites have to be thoroughly checked before they are deemed safe for visitors.
“There can be many hazards for somebody to come in here and get hurt,” Fullwood said. “And we have a lot of cleanup to do. There was tidewater as deep as one to two feet in the campground and we have a lot of trees that fell during the storm. We were lucky in that no facilities had major damage, but there are a lot of the boardwalk trails that were displaced.”
There are so many fallen trees in the campground area that the park is expecting to seek outside help in clearing the debris.
“We’re looking at getting that work contracted out. It will probably need bucket trucks … and we don’t have that kind of equipment,” Fullwood said.
In the meantime, crews working in the park are facing a battle of their own. “The mosquitoes are horrendous … there is a lot of standing water,” Fullwood said.
On a positive note, the only casualties of Irene among Goose Creek State Park’s inhabitants were a few squirrels.
“The wildlife here has been going through storms for centuries and centuries,” Fullwood said.
All power lines in the park are underground so fallen electrical wires were not an issue, which is more good news.
Fullwood, superintendent at Goose Creek since the spring, had previously worked at parks on the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast, so he is somewhat used to hurricanes and their aftermath.
“I’ve been through a lot of storms but this one just seemed like it went on forever,” he said.
As cleanup efforts continue, Fullwood said the Friends of Goose Creek group has come to the rescue yet again, this time providing soft drinks, bottled water and snacks for the hardworking crews.
Since Goose Creek State Park is a drawing card for visitors to Beaufort County as well as a favorite getaway for local residents, interest in when the park will reopen has been high, according to Fullwood.
“We’re glad people are concerned and want to visit the park, but we want to make sure it’s safe for them to come back in,” he said.
For updates on Goose Creek State Park, visit www.ncparks.gov.