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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why Its All About Trees

“Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” Arbor Day founder, J. Sterling Morton. Pine Knoll Shores takes this motto seriously.

When Pine Knoll Shores was presented its first Tree City USA Award in a 2000 Arbor Day celebration, Alice Green Hoffman must have been smiling down on town hall. Whether by intention or circumstance, the eccentric socialite who adopted this island as her home, ensured that the  “Isle of Pines” would remain generally untouched by development during her lifetime and beyond.

Miss Gabrielle Brard, Alice’s companion of 22 years, remembers that Alice was convinced that without the protection of the maritime forest, the dunes would be destroyed and her “island paradise” would be lost. According to Miss Brard, “Not only did Miss Hoffman cherish the trees, but she left standing orders that no animal, not even a snake be killed on her land.”[i] One early PKS resident, Phyllis Gentry, remembers visiting Alice’s home, Shore House, as a child and having to navigate a winding driveway that bypassed many stately old trees. She was told that Alice couldn’t bear to cut them down and had built Shore House around them. In a previous post, Walt Zaenker, calls Alice “our first conservationist”— and rightly so. Not only did her protective behavior preserve the maritime forest surrounding her home, but also her reluctance to sell off any part of her acreage made it possible for the land to pass unspoiled to her conservation-minded Roosevelt heirs.

Having inherited a passion and respect for the natural world from their grandfather, President Theodore, Alice’s great nieces and nephews became the ideal caretakers of a carefully planned, ecologically aware community.  When most developers in the 60s were clearing immense swaths of forest to erect cookie-cutter houses and stripping barrier islands for development, the members of the Roosevelt Trust were consulting with attorneys to draw up the environmentally sensitive and tree-friendly covenants for Pine Knoll Shores. 

The earliest Declarations of Covenants and Restrictions for Roosevelt Property stipulates that the “Property owner agrees to leave all vegetation, trees, brooks, creeks, hillsides, springs, water courses and ravines in as near their natural state as is compatible with good building and land use practices…. Variations in this restriction must be approved by the Architectural Control Committee.”[ii]

In the ensuing 47 years, PKS guidelines regarding general treatment and protection of the land and vegetation, especially mature trees, have remained constant. The original intent of preservation and wise management of our island and its unique maritime forest has become a deeply ingrained community code.

Designated as a Tree City USA since 2000, PKS is one of more than 3,400 communities across the country that takes part in this Arbor Day Foundation program. Participating cities range from metropolises like Denver, Colorado, to tiny villages like Golf, Illinois. All of these communities have promised to manage their trees wisely and fulfill the following four requirements set forth by Tree City USA guidelines: 1) maintain a tree board or department, 2) have a community tree ordinance, 3) spend at least $2 per capita on a tree management program and 4) celebrate Arbor Day annually.

As part of the PKS commitment to an active urban forestry program, several local organizations are engaged in promoting public awareness of our historic trees. In 2004, the PIKSCO Homeowner Association Board of Directors applied to the National Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Foundation, Inc., a nationally known registry of heritage trees, to register three of the live oaks in McNeill Park.

To qualify, a tree’s circumference must measure eight feet at a distance of ten feet from the ground. Two stately oaks, “The PIKSCO Oak” and “The McNeill Park Oak,” met the criteria. The largest or “signature oak” stands at the entrance of McNeill Park and was named “The Jake Tree” in honor of Jake Rife, a long-time PKS resident and community leader. The Jake Tree was measured at an astonishing ten feet, ten inches and displayed a branch spread of 80 feet.[iii]    

The Community Appearance Commission (CAC), which serves as the town’s tree board, is also attempting to identify historic and irreplaceable trees through the Pine Knoll Shores Heritage Tree Program. Any homeowner in PKS can apply to the CAC to nominate a tree for heritage-tree designation. The only requirement is filling out a simple form that can be picked up at town hall. Heritage status is determined by “size, age, rarity and botanical, aesthetic or historical value.”[iv] The CAC will then inspect the tree. If satisfied that it meets heritage requirements, the CAC will recommend it to the PKS Board of Commissioners, who will put it to a vote. PKS Administrative Assistant Sarah Williams, who helped develop the current program, reports that to date, two trees, “Irma’s Oak” at the home of Jim and Barb Yankauskas, and another live oak on town hall grounds have been approved for heritage status.
No wonder you are smiling, Alice. Thanks to your conservation-minded legacy, Pine Knoll Shores is all about the trees.

Post Author: Jean Macheca
To contact the author or the HistoryCommittee

[i] Rider, Jan. “Woman of Mystery - Part III, The Isle of Pines, The Coastal Paradise of Mrs. Alice Hoffman." The Carteret News Times. Thursday, August 30, 1973, p. 1A.
[ii] North Carolina, Carteret County document, Declarations of Covenants and Restrictions, Roosevelt Property, Sections one and three, Pine Knoll Shores Extension. as per Map of C. C. King, Dated the 26th day of May 1967. Article 4, Section 5, p. 3.
[iii]  Macheca, Jean. “A Tree Named Jake.” The Shoreline. vol. 9, no. 5 (November 2012).
[iv] Trebbe, Pete. “Heritage Tree Program.” The Shoreline. vol. 10, no. 10 (April 2014).