04/18/08 — Nearly century-old lodge desperately needs repair

View Archive

Nearly century-old lodge desperately needs repair

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on April 18, 2008 3:13 PM

Some things never change. Unfortunately for the sportsmen, photographers, and community members who frequent the Mattamuskeet Lodge in Swan Quarter, the outdoor haven is not one of them.

In it's nearly century-old history, the lodge has served several purposes such as a pumping station, waterfowl sanctuary and wildlife refuge. But when the federal government deeded the property back to the state of North Carolina in 2007, the lodge's future became uncertain.

The lodge's doors are currently locked.

The state has yet to determine the use for its latest acquisition, but news for the future is optimistic.

North Carolina Wildlife Commissioner Wes Seegars, of Goldsboro, knows that it will take time for improvements to be made but is anxiously looking forward to things moving in the right direction.

"We are so excited about this project and about what the lodge can become," Seegars said. "The building will be able to accommodate all kinds of groups, banquets, weddings, educational classes and various other events."

Growing up near Mattamuskeet Lake, Seegars knows how special the grounds are and is fully aware of the lodge's importance to the community. The land is so vital that the Wildlife Resources Commission held a pair of public meetings at a local high school to hear citizens input.

"We wanted the people who live in the area to have a say in how the land was going to be used, and they have had several good ideas," Seegars said. "The public meetings were very successful.

"I have a personal connection, having grown up across the lake from the lodge, and having played there as a boy. It's exciting to be the chairman of the commission at the time when we get to rebuild the lodge."

Seegars also noted that improvements are already in the works.

"As far as a timetable, I would estimate it will be a year or so before we are ready to dedicate, and start using the facility. We have engineers in the building now looking at what needs demolished and what can be saved.," Seegars said. "Luckily, most of the original supports and the original foundation look solid."

Among the restoration projects taking shape this spring is the assessment of several structures and some interior demolition.

"One of the really neat things is the observation tower, which has suffered some structural damage over the course of the last few hurricane seasons," Seegars said. "We have building specialists looking for a way that we can shore-up that tower and reopen it."

The changes taking shape in Hyde County will not be a one-organization effort. Several interest groups and educational institutions are actively helping the Wildlife Resources Commission.

"East Carolina is interested in having some of their field study groups use the lodge, and North Carolina State has also shown interest in being a part of the new facility," Seegars said.

Originally built in 1915 as a pumping station for the state's largest natural lake, Mattamuskeet, the lodge was operated in that capacity until the 1930's. At it's peak, the world's largest pumping station displaced 1.2 million gallons of water per minute.

In 1934 the land was acquired by the United States government and converted into a lodge. An old smoke stack was turned into the observation tower, and until 1974, Mattamuskeet flourished as a wildlife refuge.

Changes in policy and overall disrepair during the past 35 years have hampered the lodge's ability to serve as a prominent tourist destination.

In 1993 the Partnership for the Sound got involved with other local interest groups to restore the lodge to its original glory, an effort that has come full circle with the recent meetings to determine a plan of action.