Educational, recreational activities noted in award

Fort Macon State Park has been recognized on the 100th anniversary of the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation with the 2015 Park of the Year Award.

“The park was chosen for its ‘exemplary contribution to the North Carolina state parks mission of stewardship, public service and education,’ and specifically recognized for initiatives in expanded recreation opportunities, volunteerism, interpretive programming and sustainability,” according to a blog post by N.C. State Parks.

Randy Newman, Fort Macon superintendent, said N.C. State Parks look for a park that stood out throughout the year during everyday operations. Fort Macon was chosen for the centennial year and will celebrate all through 2016 along with N.C. State Parks.

“We were just lucky, I guess, to be picked on the same year,” Newman said.

Fort Macon was the first state park open for visitors. It opened in 1924 and sees well over one million visitors each year, according to N.C. Parks.

But even after 91 years in operation, the park continues to evolve to appeal to visitors, Neuman said. In 2015, Newman said the park learned of the public’s interest in a nature trail for hikers. Its nature and wellness trail is partially done now and all 3.2 miles will be finished in April.

“It’s already one of the most visited state parks in North Carolina,” said Elizabeth Barrow, director of local public relations with the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority.

Barrow said she is very excited about the award for the recognition it gives the park and the area as a whole.

“It’s one of the gems of the Crystal Coast,” Barrow said. “It’s already a real draw for our area, but this puts it on the map.”

Amanda Thames is a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.