Mattamuskeet field station to close
(Dec. 1, 2000)
With the federal government's shutdown of the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge lodge, East Carolina University is considering other ways to maintain its Field Station for Coastal Studies at the landmark site in Hyde County.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced recently that it had closed the 85- year-old facility because of cracks in the walls and in the brick and mortar columns. The facility closed on Nov. 20.
Dr. Roger A. Rulifson, the director of the ECU Field Station at lodge, said the building's closure "left everyone stunned, to say the least."
"We are now in the process of developing an action plan to deal with this situation," he said.
The plan includes providing an alternate site for research projects that are scheduled to begin early in 2001. Temporary facilities may include mobile homes placed near the refuge.
Overnight uses of the facility for classes and weekend retreats will be placed on hold until the temporary structures are installed. Reservation deposits will be refunded.
ECU agreed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994 to use the former pumping station and lodge as a field station for coastal research and classes. Rulifson said he knew at that time that the building would require future renovations.
He said over $1 million in state and federal funds has been spent to stabilize the building and install safety equipment, fire escapes, electrical wiring, plumbing, heat and windows. Architectural plans for the renovation of the facility were developed using a portion of the funds.
With the completion of a ECU dormitory kitchen in 1996, the field station has logged about 2,500 "person nights' and has provided support for over 20 research projects involving ECU, N.C. State University, the University of Notre Dame and several community colleges. In addition, the Partnership for the Sounds oversees functions held at the lodge and operates a gift shop. A weather station at the top the observation tower (formerly a smokestack for the early pumping station) records weather information and a camera provides views of local conditions via the Internet.
Rulifson said the government had approved $600,000 to investigate and repair the columns, but more recent estimates have placed the coast at more than $2 million. This new estimate will require additional funding and the closure of the facility for at least two years.
He said the building is not in danger of collapse.