North Carolina’s stunning coast is something to cherish

On Saturday, July 16, we departed our home in Richmond, Virginia. Topsail Island, North Carolina was our goal.

Including a rooftop carrier, our car was overpacked. We would stop in Raleigh to pickup our youngest daughter. That meant finding more space where no space existed.

I grew up in Burlington, and I will confess, I don’t remember making many vacation trips to the North Carolina coast. Cherry Grove, now part of North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, was our beach destination.

Having lived in Virginia since 1975, I find the state’s Eastern Shore to be more satisfying than the admired Virginia Beach.

This was our second trip to Topsail Island. Over the years, we’ve explored Duck, Atlantic Beach, and I’ve been to Ocean Isle. I’m no expert, but the North Carolina coast is a treasure.

According to author, Glenn Morris, in The New Guide to North Carolina Beaches, the coast is 326 miles in length. That shoreline no matter ocean or sound side is unique and spectacular. And yet I wonder— how much more can these fragile landscapes take from mother nature and human beings?

A delicate tug of war, a complicated give and take is always at work on the coast. For this precious coast to survive, visitors and locals must work to find a balance to cooperatively manage that give and take that never rests.

On Monday, July 18, my family and I, including our four grandchildren, experienced an example of cooperative preservation at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.

A playful billboard at the entrance Photo by Bill Pike

Our tour of the center gave us real time educational experiences about the challenges a sea turtle faces. We also learned how humans impact the life cycle of sea turtles with irresponsible disposal of trash into ocean environments.

But, despite this negligence, I found hope in the stories about the countless volunteers who work to keep shorelines trash free, and who with kindhearted diligence walk the local beaches during the season when mother turtles trudge on shore to build a nest and lay their eggs.

After the tour, we returned to Topsail Beach. An afternoon thunderstorm delayed going back to the beach. But when the sun returned, we went for a beach walk.

I was curious to see if I could locate a turtle’s nest. A short distance down the beach, I came upon a nest complete with the marker stakes, orange tape, and notification sign.

A marked and hopefully protected sea turtle nest Topsail Island, North Carolina Photo by Bill Pike

This find was perfect for our grandchildren as they saw firsthand what the docent had shared with us during the tour.

Next year, I turn 70. I don’t have many years left.

But, I will hold out hope that we humans can find ways to cooperatively take care of this stunning coast.

This preservation should not be done for you or me, but for our children and grandchildren.

Cherish your North Carolina Coast, and treat it as gently as a grandchild.

Author’s note this piece appeared as a guest column in the Wilmington Star News today, Sunday, August 7, 2022.

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