Beaufort News

Hunting Island evacuates residents as erosion claims road

Hunting Island State Park has conceded another chunk of battleground in its unceasing war with erosion.

Park officials evacuated people Friday after the tide undermined a section of state-owned road leading to four cabins on the south end of the island. Most of that portion of Cabin Road has buckled and crumbled. A private cabin was also knocked loose from its foundation.

"We got everybody out before the road washed out," said park manager Jeff Atkins. "We were able to get vehicles to them by driving on the shoulder of the road. We didn't want them to get stranded."

Atkins said he was unsure how many people were evacuated, but said each cabin can accommodate eight people, and two were occupied.

He said there was no damage to the cabins or any other state-owned building.

The state park stopped accepting reservations for nine of its 10 public cabins last winter, fearful that continuing erosion would threaten the cabins within the next year. The park still accepts reservations for one state-owned cabin, which is well inland, near the lighthouse on the island's north end.

The cabins were booked through the Thanksgiving weekend.

Those with reservations for the four cabins that are now inaccessible received a refund and recommendations of other state parks and lodging in Beaufort County, Atkins said.

"The erosion ended up coming a little sooner," Atkins said. "It's Mother Nature. It comes and goes as it pleases."

Erosion has been a problem on the barrier island for decades, and in recent years, it has destroyed some cabins and washed away portions of the lone road leading to several of them. Beaufort County officials issued a mandatory emergency evacution for 12 homes off Cabin Road in July 2009 after erosion made portions of the road impassable, hindering county response to an emergency in a reasonable amount of time.

Park officials have discussed moving the cabins or building new ones inland at the northern end of the park.