Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

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News Release

November 20, 2009

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Reopens and Programs Resume after Recent Storm

Refuge Manager Mike Bryant announced today the reopening of the Visitor Center on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the resuming of weekly guided bird walks. "While the refuge itself was never officially closed, there was no need to offer programs or a Visitor Center when the public could not access the refuge. We'll be glad to see things get back to normal - though it will be a new and different normal from now on." The Pea Island Refuge Headquarters building, which was built in 1965 when the site was hundreds of feet from the ocean, is now only feet from the high tide line. In recent history, this building has been the hub of Service activity on the refuge, housing offices for two staff and work space for dozens of volunteers. These volunteers range from resident volunteers who staff the Visitor Center and perform routine maintenance work to student interns who conduct a majority of the public programming to turtle patrol and turtle watch volunteers who report in here before heading to the beach for their assigned work. The shop in this building has provided the tools for repair work for refuge facilities and equipment. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge attracts over a million visitors annually from around the world. There are over a hundred volunteers who help the refuge provide services for those visitors. Volunteers also support biological and maintenance needs of the refuge. "We're not sure what the future holds for providing these functions on Pea Island," added Bryant.

As is evident after any major storm, the profile of Pea Island has shifted. But, the refuge still looks and acts exactly like what it is - a simple, overwash-dominated barrier island. Refuge Biologist Dennis Stewart explained, "On this refuge, storms redistribute the sand. If the sand were left where the storms deposited it, the island would continue to migrate to the southwest, and the elevation would build as a result of the overwash. These barrier islands have been doing this for thousands of years."

During this storm, NC 12 was overwashed in a number of places. Sections of dunes were flattened in a few areas and severely eroded along most of the refuge length. "We understand the responsibility of the NC Department of Transportation to provide a transportation corridor, and we have worked with them judiciously to allow them to repair NC 12 within their right-of-way as quickly as possible," added Stewart. "But, we're not surprised to see the effects of this storm. History and the best available science tell us we'll see more of the same with each storm that comes."

For refuge operations and providing opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation to the public, the greatest impact from this storm was the loss of offices from which staff assigned to Pea Island and refuge volunteers may work. As an interim measure, temporary offices have been set up in the residence which is normally used to house student interns.

Regularly scheduled fall programs include bird walks on Thursday, Friday and Sunday mornings at 9. In addition, groups may contact the Refuge to plan special programs or educational activities. A special bird walk into South Pond is scheduled for the Friday after Thanksgiving, leaving the Visitor Center at 11 am. The public is invited to come and enjoy Pea Island during daylight hours, seven days a week.

For more information, visit the refuge website at www.fws.gov/peaisland. To schedule a special program, contact Cindy Heffley (cindy_heffley@fws.gov) at 252-987-1118. Or, to become a refuge volunteer, contact Abbey Reibel (abbey_reibel@fws.gov) at 252-987-1118.

PI Headquarters
Aerial view of Pea Island Headquarters site taken on November 19, 2009 showing ocean encroachment to facilities. The residence is located further to the west on higher ground and is not shown in this picture. Photo credit: FWS, Dennis Stewart.