State rejects private museum project at Jockeys Ridge
NAGS HEAD — After an intense backlash from Friends of Jockey’s Ridge and its nonprofit supporters, the state of North Carolina on Friday pulled down the construction of a private museum to honor Francis and Gertrude’s invention. Rogallo of the flexible wing used in hang-gliding.
“While we remain interested in telling the story of the Rogallos and low-speed flight as part of our educational mission, the Department does not support the pursuit of a property lease to the Foundation or the construction of a museum. at Jockey’s Ridge,” director of North Carolina State Parks Dwayne Patterson wrote in a letter sent Friday to the group of friends.
For Ann-Cabell Baum, the state’s rejection of the project was a second victory: almost 50 years ago, her mother, Carolista Baum, lay down in front of a bulldozer to stop the development of Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest sand dune in the East. Coast. Baum’s perseverance complemented the support that led to the 1975 establishment of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Today the park, which adjoins Roanoke Sound, is one of North Carolina’s most visited state parks.
“My mum would be so happy now,” an exultant Baum said after receiving the news on Friday. “She would be right on the moon.”
In recent weeks, representatives of the Rogallo Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1992, had made presentations at several meetings of the local government board of trustees on its proposed 12-storey museum construction project. 000 square feet, with an estimated cost of $7 million raised by the foundation.
Francis Rogallo, with the help of his wife, invented the flexible wing in 1948 while working at NASA. Rogallo made numerous test flights of his hang gliders at Jockey’s Ridge in the 1970s. Today, his invention is used in paragliders, parafoils, and kiteboard kites, among other flying machines.
In the foundation’s draft memorandum of understanding, the foundation would staff and operate the proposed Rogallo Museum and seek a 99-year lease at no cost to land adjacent to the existing park visitor center.
But the group of friends insisted the proposed site was unsuitable for commercial operation in a public park and environmentally sensitive area.
“All we wanted to do was protect the park and the land,” Michael O’Brien, president of the Friends of Jockey’s Ridge, said Friday. “I’m extremely happy, but I still think the Rogallo Museum is a great idea. I just don’t think (Jockey’s Ridge) is an appropriate place.
At the group’s board meeting on October 11, members said they felt caught off guard hearing about Rogallo Foundation presentations at community meetings that did not include their board of directors. ‘administration. The museum was first proposed about five years ago, but little was heard of it until recently.
“It seems like it’s basically a done deal, and we want to stop that,” board member George Barnes told North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation deputy director Brian Strong. , who attended the meeting. “At least I do.”
Barnes, a retired park superintendent, along with the eight other council members, questioned the benefits to the park, as well as the lack of involvement of friends in the proposal.
Joy Greenwood, current superintendent of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, said another meeting with her and Strong took place on Oct. 20, when they met John Harris and Billy Vaughn of the Rogallo Foundation. The state was evaluating the concept and hadn’t taken a position, Greenwood said, adding that public engagement would be an important part if it moves forward.
“I don’t feel like it’s pro or con,” she said in an interview Thursday. “Right now it’s information gathering.”
But in discussions with the leadership of the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, responsible for state parks, the October 28 letter revealed that concerns about the project outweighed its educational appeal.
“The Secretary is concerned about the size and scope of the proposed museum and its effect both on the natural landscape and on the limited area available near the visitor center for recreational and other uses by the park,” says the letter. “The Secretary is also concerned that the proposal fails to meet various legal requirements affecting the property, including the purposes of the constitutional and statutory provisions establishing the State Natural and Historic Preserve, of which Jockey’s Ridge is a designated part.
“There are also concerns about whether to lease public lands to a private entity whose mission and objectives may differ from those of the Division, and with recently expressed public opposition to the proposal,” continues the letter.
In an interview Friday, Harris, who owns Kitty Hawk Kites, with a location across from Jockey’s Ridge and elsewhere on the Outer Banks, said he was “disappointed” by the state’s disapproval.
“I thought they would do their due diligence…it was a process that had to be followed,” he said.
Harris denied that the project site was planned in an environmentally sensitive area of the park. Although he said recent board meetings were meant to spread information to the public, he said it was a mistake not to meet with the Friends group early.
But Harris said he still believes the Rogallo Museum would have been a great choice in Jockey’s Ridge.
“We didn’t pursue other locations because this site makes the most sense for the museum from a history perspective,” Harris said.
But that does not mean that he gives up on having the museum built.
“It’s a good project,” he said. “The main thing is that we will.”