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

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hoop Pole Watershed

The land that is Pine Knoll Shores evolved over thousands of years and contains several defining geological features. The dunes and maritime forest are obvious. A subtler feature is the Hoop Pole Creek watershed. This post presents a review of the natural geography and highlights of events during early development years.

The land surrounding a river from which rainwater runoff eventually finds its way to that river is its watershed. On the eastern portion of Pine Knoll Shores and the western end of Atlantic Beach, the land formed a natural drainage area that led to the Hoop Pole Creek basin—this area can be thought of as the Hoop Pole watershed.

This analogy to a river system should not be taken too literally. Even before human modification to the topography of Hoop Pole watershed, a river would be hard to find. It was more of a wet area. The slope of the ground was extremely shallow, but did, indeed, lead to the west end of the Hoop Pole basin. It is probably more accurate to think of the rainwater migrating and gradually making its way east until it reached sea level at Hoop Pole basin

The land on the north side of the island drained to Bogue Sound and, on the south side, drained to the Atlantic Ocean. The swath of land in the middle drained into low areas, forming ponds and marsh that eventually led into Hoop Pole basin. This drainage area had a shallow slope from west to east. In the photographs below from 1939 and 1953, a dense tree canopy obscures the true extent of the water, but dark shaded regions indicate its presence. This drainage area was reported to be visible on the ground and was known to locals prior to development as Long Pond.

1939 USDA aerial photo from the National Archives
The darker shaded swath running through the center of the island is the wet area that feeds into Hoop Pole Creek.

1954 USDA aerial photo from the National Archives
The darker shaded swath running through the center of the island is the wet area that feeds into Hoop Pole Creek.

Hoffman Land Becomes Roosevelt Land

The Depression in the 1930s, coupled with Alice Hoffman’s risky property management approach took a toll an Alice Hoffman’s financial wellbeing. By the mid 1930s, nearly all of her property was encumbered with debt or tied up in legal proceedings, tax liens, and court actions. In 1939, her family stepped in to rescue her North Carolina property. John Marshall Matthias, a cousin from Ohio and her niece’s children, the Roosevelts, eventually were able to secure all of her lands except for a two-mile portion on the east end of the 10 miles she owned on Bogue Banks. The court order by Judge Stevens in1945 stipulated that the two-mile piece adjacent to the then Atlantic Beach town boundary was to be sold to pay back taxes.

The court’s decision was carried out on June 8, 1945, with part of the two-mile stretch going to Ocean Ridge Co. and the remainder to Willis Smith & wife Anna Lee Smith and John T. Taylor & wife Lena Taylor. Referred to as Smith & Taylor in subsequent discussion and maps.

Wetlands Identified

Upon Alice Hoffman’s death in 1953, the Roosevelt family acquired unencumbered control of the land.  The eastern boundary of the Hoffman/Roosevelt land as of 1953 was approximately 1190’ east of the current PKS/AB boundary on the north side of Salter Path Road—two miles from the Atlantic Beach line. One of the first things the Roosevelt’s did was to have the property surveyed. Rivers and Associates of Greenville, NC, performed this work, which included a topographical study along with recommendations. The Hoop Pole drainage field is clearly identified, and a suggested approach to mitigate the potential for flooding was included. Two of the Rivers & Associates’ studies are shown below, with added information in black by this author.

Survey from 1954 showing land contours and the need for a channel or drain culvert to assure proper drainage to use the land. This is a Rivers and Associatess’ proposed approach for the eastern end of the Roosevelt property.

A presentation of this information on today’s county ConnectGIS map is shown below. Two miles from the old Atlantic Beach town line (about where the ABC store is today) ends at Knollwood Dr. across from the DoubleTree Inn.

The Roosevelt’s sold the land between the current PKS town line and the Smith &Taylor land in several transactions between 1958 and 1963.

Land Sales by Roosevelts

A) 350 feet along Salter Path Rd to Silver Sands Mobile Home Estates in April 1963, subsequently sold to Coastal Mobile Estates, Inc. in June 1965
B) 600 feet along Salter Path Rd to Bogue Island Development Co. in Oct. 1960
C) 240 feet along Salter Path Rd to Bogue Island Partnership in Oct. 1960, partners were A.C. Davis, J.A. Blake, S. Fleming, Rick Wrightenberry, S.A. Horton
D) Parcel sold to Morehead Fishing Pier, Inc., in Jan. 1958 (President Sylvestor Fleming). The DoubleTree pier is the follow-on to the Morehead Fishing Pier built in 1960.

These sales resulted in the building of the residential developments along Mobile Dr., Fairview St., Dogwood St., Pelican and Knollwood drives. In the process of making these parcels suitable for residential construction, it appears that some minor modification to the land profile took place, reducing the height of the natural dunes and filling the low areas to make the north/south roads less prone to ponding during rain.

Development Begins

By 1957, the street plan in Pine Knoll Shores had evolved into the layout we know today. The first roads were cut through the forest, and lots were offered for sale. The first sale was registered on July 1957. This development was plotted without giving full attention to the drainage issues the Rivers’ study identified.

Why the study’s recommendations were ignored and why the Roosevelts sold the eastern most 1,190 feet of their holdings, sales that occurred after development and lot sales in Old PKS had begun, are questions that remain unanswered. Several possible reasons or contributing factors come to mind.

The eastern most land would have been closest to Atlantic Beach and the bridge to the mainland, thus more attractive to developers. It would also provide the most revenue for the Roosevelt Development Group, revenue needed to defer on-going expenses.

The land they owned that is now the golf course was undeveloped and not transferred to golf course developers until 1969. Perhaps they felt that setting the eastern land aside for recreational use adequately addressed the flooding potential. The earliest advertising literature that shows a possible golf course is dated 1967. It is conceivable the development decisions at the time were reasonable and subsequent activity has made them less so.

Another possibility is that the mid-1950s were a period of relative dryness, making drainage issues the Rivers study pointed out less threatening. However, the hurricane record is mixed on that possibility: 1956 and 1957 were uneventful; however, 1954 saw hurricane Carol, a Category 2 storm, pass 60 miles to the south, and 1955 had Connie, a Category 1, as well as Ione, a Category 2, crossing the island in Atlantic Beach. Flooding may or may not have been a problem during these storms.

A contributing factor in the Roosevelts’ decision to develop a portion of land that had been identified as being prone to surface water flooding perhaps had to do with their lack of first-hand experience living on Bogue Banks. They lived in New York, Philadelphia and Virginia and only visited their North Carolina property intermittently.

Also, during those early years, they did not have a full-time on-site manager. By the mid-1960s, when they had Don Brock and A.C. Hall on board and others working on-site through the year, they recognized the need to take steps to alleviate standing water. It was at this time, plans for the Pine Knoll Waterway were established. One of the purposes was to help drain the land. The Pine Knoll Waterway diverted the western end of the Hoop Pole watershed, which now drains into the canal system.

Changes to the Watershed

The U.S. Army map of the area shown below was originally drawn during World War II and undated in the late 1950s. It identifies the wetland zones running through the center of the island.

Natural drainage of the Hoop Pole watershed was impacted by the construction of the north/south streets in the mobile home park and Bogue View Shores to the east of the Roosevelt property. The first of these roads was Pelican Drive which ran from the sound to the Morehead Fishing Pier, which was built in 1960 and is now associated with the Double Tree Hotel. The interruption of natural drainage is shown below in the 1964 Piedmont Aerial Survey’s photograph. Again the dark shaded areas indicate the presents of wetlands.

There exist today, perhaps dating from the initial construction period or installed later, a drainage slough running east/west crossing all these properties. In some places it is a well-maintained channel, in others not so. It would help drain the local area but appears inadequate to handle the flow from the entire watershed.

From thise 1964 aerial surveys Piedmont developed the topographical below 

Golf Course Impact
The natural flow was further aggravated by land modification with the completion of Oak Leaf Drive and the construction of the golf course in 1971. In 1969, the Roosevelt’s conveyed a parcel of land to a group of North Carolina developers. The covenants attached to the deed stipulated that it be used for recreational purposes and that a golf course was to be built on the land. The photo below shows early construction of the golf course and continued development that crossed the natural west-to-east flow of the Hoop Pole watershed.

The land contouring required by the golf course, including the construction of a retaining wall along the east edge of the property line not only impeded the water flow but also created a large area of nearly uniform elevation, resulting in ponding during rain events on the eastern portion of the golf course, Oakleaf Drive, and several roads to the west.

1971 photo from Simon Baker, Aerial Photography for Planning and Development in Eastern North Carolina, Raleigh, 1976

Based on data available at “Daftlogic-Google Maps Find Altitude,” the change in elevation from in the low areas that meander from Holly to the eastern edge of the golf course is less than a foot.

Impact of Salter Path Road

Salter Path Road, NC-58, was established with a surface consisting of clay and shells during World War II and was first paved by the State in 1953. In the late 1970s, the NC State Department of Transportation conducted a major rebuilding of the road—widening it throughout, adding shoulders, lowering high spots and filling low spots. All these improvements added additional runoff to the watershed.

Human Impact

In addition to the factors mentioned above that interrupted the natural flow of the watershed, man’s use of the land has increased the burden on the water-absorbing capacity of the soil and increased the demand put on the watershed. In the early 1950s, when Rivers & Associates conducted their study, the watershed had no development within its boundary. Now, paved roads and driveways, homes and other structures cover a portion of the pervious water-absorbing surface, maybe ten percent. All the water used by homes eventually finds its way to the groundwater or surface runoff. While this source is minor compared to an inch of rain, it is part of the story.


To give substance to the dominance of rain over human use the following map was created using the Carteret County ConnectGIS system. This area starting on the west at Cedar and running along Oakleaf and Hwy. 58 encompasses 183 acres. We can convert that to square inches, then add one inch of rain, and convert cubic inches to gallons to arrive at 4,969,233 gallons of water for each inch of rain.

To help make five million gallons meaningful, consider the two elevated water tanks that serve Pine Knoll Shores. A 150,000 gallon tank on Roosevelt Blvd. and the 250,000 gallon tank near the Trinity Center, a total of 400,000 gallons if dropped on the 183 acres would be a mere sprinkle. An inch of rain is a common, un-noteworthy amount. Multiple inch rainfalls occur regularly, and significant rain events with double-digit accumulations have been recorded every few years.

Water Table

In parts of the Hoop Pole watershed, the freshwater table that underlies this barrier island is within a few feet of the surface. Due to the sandy make-up of the island, rainfall quickly sinks to the water table and causes it to rise. One inch of rain will raise the water table approximately three inches. Heavy sustained rains will bring the water table to the surface, adding to the water accumulating on the surface.

Mitigation Actions
Downstream from the PKS boundary with Atlantic Beach, the residential developments have recognized to varying degrees the need to allow water to drain to Hoop Pole basin. There exists a channel with under-road culverts that starts at the retaining wall of the golf course and runs east to the basin. It follows a disjointed course and may not be connected in an integrated way. In some places, it is a clear open ditch; in others, it is clogged with weeds.  During heavy rain events, it appears to be the low area where water collects and is marginally effective.
Drive-by survey taken by author during dry time and after rain to locate channel.

Since the incorporation of the Town of Pine Knoll Shores, attempts have been made to mitigate the post-rain standing water in the Hoop Pole watershed roads—Laurel, Myrtle, Juniper, Yaupon, Willow, Holly, and Cedar. The lakes on the golf course have been linked together by underground culverts to form a larger area for rainwater to drain. This linked pond system is now connected by a 24” pipe to drain directly to the sound. On heavy rain events, pumps are employed to direct the water to the sound drainpipe.  

In June1983, the Board of Commissioners proposed that all building east of Cedar be curtailed until the drainage problems could be solved. In July 1983, the Board of Commissioners authorized the Wilmington engineering firm Henry Von Oesen and Associates to study a “serious drainage problem in the section of town lying east of Willow Road” and made the building moratorium in the area more specific. Two months later, Von Oesen presented a report indicating the problem could be fixed for about $150,000 using open drain ditches with culverts dug under roads. An entirely closed conduit system would cost up to $200,000. Either approach would drain water to the sound through the canal. Since development was still progressing in the area, the engineering report also made future construction recommendations and suggested drainage ditches northward on Oakleaf Drive to route water to golf course ponds.

As part of actions taken by the town in response to the Von Oesen plan, right-of-ways were acquired to accommodate the drainage system. After a ruling in 1985 that Von Oesen’s plan was not feasible since water could not be diverted to the sound, the plan was abandoned and the right-of-ways deeded back to the landowners.

Nature has provided this island with many attractive features, high dunes, and mild climate devoid of extremes, adequate rainfall, and robust maritime forest. There are also natural wet areas formed in low-lying areas between the dune ridgelines. These shallow areas collect rainwater and, before man’s occupation, provided drinking water for the island’s wildlife. Development activity starting in the early 1950s disrupted the natural flow and drainage of the annual rainfall.

The natural topography and composition of the soil, coupled with decisions made 50 to 60 years ago, result in periodic flooding of roadways and properties. Actions to mitigate the issue are in place, but this is a vexing problem that defies complete solution or elimination.

Post Author: Walt Zaenker