BEAUFORT — Local, state and federal officials, as well as supporters of the local Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve gathered Wednesday to celebrate the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve’s 30th anniversary.
The coastal reserve held a formal gathering Wednesday at the dock next to the N.C. Maritime Museum’s Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center on Front Street.
It was a bright afternoon with light cloud cover. Across the water of Taylor’s Creek, Carrot Island, a part of the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve, could be seen. About 35 people attended the ceremony, including government officials and the media.
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan presented a proclamation declaring June 19 “N.C. Coastal Reserve Day” in North Carolina.
“Because of your generous support,” Mr. Regan said, “these outdoor classrooms inspire the next generation of coastal environmental advocates and conservationists.”
Mr. Regan said when past government officials named a reserve site after Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and conservationist well known for her writing, they honored her legacy.
“We have the opportunity to follow her example,” Mr. Regan said. “Together, let’s make today and every day a day of giving back and protecting our reserves.”
N.C. Coastal Reserve and NERR Program Manager Rebecca Ellin thanked everyone for attending the ceremony.
“I think protecting the coastal areas incorporated into the reserve is quite an accomplishment,” she said, “from protecting the environment to protecting important marine species to protecting the coast from wave action. The reserves also serve as an important place to connect with nature.”
Ms. Ellin said she think the effects of the reserve program are “tremendous,” and include educating people on how estuarine systems work to providing marine researchers with locations to conduct studies on the coastal environment.
“All this wouldn’t be possible without our reserve program,” Ms. Ellin said.
N.C. Division of Coastal Management Director Braxton Davis said the reserve program protects 10 coastal reserves, totaling about 44,000 acres.
“Having the (reserve) program allows us to shape research and education work around our coastal needs,” Mr. Davis said. “The reserves’ success in educating decision makers and teachers … are only possible through its volunteers. I believe we have some of the best staff and reserve employees in the nation.”
The N.C. Coastal Reserve Program was created in 1989 through an amendment to the state’s Coastal Area Management Act to protect coastal areas, including the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve system. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first created this system in 1972; in 1985, three reserves were created, including the Rachel Carson reserve. Four years later, the national reserve system in North Carolina was brought into the newly created state reserve program.
To this day, NOAA and DCM manage the reserves through a federal-state partnership involving multiple agencies. NOAA Office for Coastal Management Deputy Director Dr. Keelin Kuipers said the reserve program serves as an example of cooperation between state and federal agencies “you don’t often see.”
“I’ve been working with coastal programs for years,” Dr. Kuipers said. “The reserves serve an important purpose locally and nationally.”
Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton said he’s “so grateful to the leadership that established the Rachel Carson reserve.”
He said the reserve provides many benefits to Beaufort, including protection from wave action, filtration for potential sources of water pollution and a platform for education and research.
“I’d challenge this audience to be the next generation of visionary leadership,” Mayor Newton said. “Let’s think in advance about how we can protect this reserve and the marine environment.”
National Park Service Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Jeff West was among those who attended the ceremony. Mr. West said the reserve program acts as an important liaison between various agencies and groups.
“I think everyone who works to protect a resource should work together,” he said. “When we have the opportunity to come together, someone has to create it.”
Reserve program volunteer Jeannie Kraus was also at Wednesday’s ceremony. She said she was on the first team that surveyed Carrot Island when the Rachel Carson reserve was being created, and she continues to take tour groups to the reserve to this day.
“The town wouldn’t be the same without it,” she said. “Once they established the docks here, there was more interest in the island. Hopefully it (the interest) will grow and remain for many years.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.