10/30/09 — New era begins for Fort Macon

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New era begins for Fort Macon

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on October 30, 2009 1:46 PM

A new chapter in the storied life of one of North Carolina's oldest and most popular tourist destinations begins Saturday.

A new 22,547-square-foot coastal education and visitor center at Fort Macon State Park will be formally dedicated by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The 1 p.m. ceremony is open to the public and marks an important milestone in the history of North Carolina's second-oldest state park.

Similar to visitor centers built at 18 state parks and state recreation areas since 1994, the Fort Macon facility is devoted to environmental education about North Carolina's fragile coastal ecology.

"The center at Fort Macon is a unique opportunity to showcase what the state parks system is doing as we continue to make improvements," said N.C. Parks and Rec. representative Charlie Peek. "Several parks are getting new buildings (including a new visitor center at Cliffs of the Neuse) and in general the state of North Carolina's parks is improving."

The coastal education and visitor center was designed to meet sustainability standards of the U.S. Green Building Council through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. It offers features such as rainwater collection and low-flow water systems, recycled construction materials and preferred parking for alternative fuel vehicles.

The brick-and-block facility designed by Hobbs Architecture of Pittsboro and built by general contractor Daniels & Daniels Construction Co. of Goldsboro, reflects the style of the 183-year-old fort, which was fully restored from 1999-2003.

"Fort Macon has a unique place in North Carolina and in the state parks system, and this facility will nicely complement the fort itself in presenting both the natural resource and cultural history of our coastal environment," said Lewis Ledford, director of the division. "It will also be a tremendous asset in managing more than a million visitors who enjoy the state park each year."

The project has had strong support from Friends of Fort Macon, a nonprofit group instrumental in upgrading many of the fort's exhibits and in managing a volunteer program to conduct fort tours.

Fort Macon recorded visitation of 1.1 million people in 2008.