Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roosevelt Natural Area

While walking the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Trail in Pine Knoll Shores, you may have a few questions cross your mind. Who maintains it and how did it come to be here? Which of the Theodore Roosevelts does the name celebrate? Why is this hidden gem not advertised?  Here, we share insights that help answer those questions and lead you down a path to Bogue Banks history.

 At 292 acres, the Roosevelt Natural Area, administered by the Department of Natural Resource of the State of North Carolina, is the largest park within the boundaries of the Town of Pine Knoll Shores.

Within the borders of the park are 25 acres set aside for the North Carolina Aquarium. The Natural Area parcel is to be left in a pristine, undisturbed condition to foster and preserve a place for native flora and fauna.  Development is limited to two nature trails open to the public.

The Roosevelt Trust deeded this parcel of land to the state in 1971.
In a letter dated May 12, 1971 to Tony Seamon (owner of the Sanitary Fish Market) Theodore Roosevelt III said in discussing the land gift “…we have been anxious to do something of this nature for a long time…” 

Letter from The Goodwin Library, The History Place, CCHS

The Roosevelt Trust included Theodore Roosevelt III and the three other children of Major General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who died in France during World War II. Trust members were the grand children of President Teddy Roosevelt. According to donors’ wishes, the gift was established as the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area to commemorate President Roosevelt’s dedication to conservation.

In 1963, the North Carolina State Parks System established Natural Areas as a unique type of unit. “The purpose of State Natural Areas is focused on preserving and protecting areas of scientific, aesthetic, or ecological value. Facilities are limited to those needed for interpretation, protection, and minimum maintenance. Generally, recreational and public use facilities such as camping, swimming, picnicking, and the like are not provided in State Natural Areas.”[i]
The Roosevelt Natural Area fits this definition to the letter.  Hundreds of people drive by it everyday without realizing it is there. There are no signs along the 1.1 miles that border Salter Path Rd. The only sign acknowledging existence of the Nature Area is on the entrance road to the aquarium. On the grounds there is one public walking trail free to the public—the Theodore Roosevelt Trail. Free parking is available at the trailhead. A second trail, the Alice Hoffman Trail, is part of the Aquarium complex.   
The 1.2-mile Roosevelt Nature Trail was minimally developed and left in a rustic, natural state. It follows an ancient dune ridge that runs through an old-growth maritime forest and salt march. Once on the trail and away from the parking lot, a walker will hear soft, quiet forest sounds, and experience the maritime forest as it was in the early 1900s, before mechanized transportation and straight paved roads.
image by w zaenker
What we now call a trail, back then would have been referred to as a path. Paths were the main means of moving about on Bogue Banks.  Paths were given names—Ogilbys Path, Rice Path, Sage Path, Lowenberg Path, Salter’s Path and others. By walking the Roosevelt path you realize that paths followed the natural contours of the land, worked around trees, avoided dense undergrowth, stepped over roots. They weren’t straight, level or smooth.
image by w zaenker

The Roosevelt trail provides splendid views of the sound and salt marshes. It offers a refreshing hour’s stroll any time of year, but is particularly enjoyable from November through May. In the summer, bug spray is suggested.
Whether you are a resident or visitor, come and enjoy this trail. Let your imagination transport you to one of the few remaining remnants of a true Bogue Banks Path.
 post author: Walt Zaenker, revised 3/29/2014
To contact the author or the History Committee

[i] NC Division of Parks & Recreation,