Fort Macon Named 2015 Park of the Year

Have you heard the news? One of our favorite local attractions and historical sites here on the Crystal Coast was just named the 2015 North Carolina State Park of the Year by the NC Division of Parks and Recreation. Congratulations! It's quite an honor but certainly not a surprise to those of us who know and love it. Read more about this beloved state park and how it was chosen for this distinguished honor.

The Experts Weigh In

You may be wondering what set Fort Macon above the rest of the 40 wonderful state parks in the state of North Carolina. That's a good question. Here's what the those-in-the-know had to say.

“One of the reasons so many of us love living in North Carolina is due to the beautiful greenery, mountains, beaches and undisturbed land around us in the state parks,” said Secretary Susan Kluttz, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “There are so many outstanding parks to choose from, so I know this was a difficult decision. Congratulations to all those who care for Fort Macon State Park and welcome visitors from around the world there.”

“It’s fitting that during our 100th anniversary, Fort Macon will be honored as State Park of the Year. It was the first North Carolina state park open for visitors, having been created in 1924,” said Mike Murphy, state park director. “With its outstanding professional staff and careful stewardship of both fragile natural resources and a historic landmark, Fort Macon represents all that a state park should be.”

More About Fort Macon State Park

The park was chosen for its “exemplary contribution to the North Carolina state parks mission of stewardship, public service and education,” and specifically recognized for initiatives in expanded recreation opportunities, volunteerism, interpretive programming and sustainability. Park attendance exceeds 1.2 million per year and yet the dedicated staff and supporters of the park are always expanding the opportunities and experiences that Fort Macon has to offer.

Fort Macon's busy but devoted staff found time to create the park’s first nature and wellness trail, building more than 800 feet of boardwalk and raising over $40,000 in private funding for the project. Rangers and volunteers provided 1,090 free interpretive programs and hosted 14 special events and demonstrations. With help from Friends of Fort Macon, a new 600-square-foot exhibit space was created, and the staff directed major renovations to the park’s bathhouse and enhanced a sustainability program that reduced water usage by half.

More About the Park of the Year Award

So how does this all work? The state parks system began choosing a Park of the Year in 2010 with nominations from each of four districts. Each of 40 state parks and state recreation areas submits an annual report that is objectively scored on progress in recreation, natural resource protection, sustainability, public safety and environmental education. Final judging is done by senior and peer administrators. To honor the State Park of the Year, a medallion is attached to a hiking staff that is passed to the current award recipient each year. Lake James State Park in Burke and McDowell counties was honored in 2014.

Fort Macon Highlights

Fort Macon State Park was authorized in 1924 and is under the direction of Superintendent Randy Newman. The park’s 424 acres encompass the 5-sided pre-Civil War era fortress, beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and Beaufort Inlet, and marshlands. Steeped in intrigue, the restored fort and its surrounding state park is a local and visitor favorite. Once the project of young Army engineer Robert E. Lee, Fort Macon has a rich and diverse history just begging to be explored.

Enjoy the museum-quality educational center, extensive indoor and outdoor exhibits, cannon and musket demonstrations, and numerous guided tours. Surrounded on three sides by water, there are plenty of nearby outdoor coastal activities including swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, hiking and exploring of every kind.

Located at the eastern end of Bogue Banks (with Emerald Isle located on the western end) on one of a series of barrier islands along the North Carolina coast, Fort Macon is surrounded by undisturbed natural beauty and is the ideal setting to explore the salt marshes and estuaries so vital to our local coastal ecosystem.

It makes for a perfect day trip during your Crystal Coast vacation. Put it on your beach vacation bucket list!

Have you been to the fabulous Fort Macon? What do you love most about this 2015 North Carolina State Park of the Year?

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