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Learning on the river
ECU partners with Pocosin Arts on planned educational lodge

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

Pocosin Arts Folk School is partnering with East Carolina University in the development and use of a planned educational lodge on the Scuppernong River in Columbia.

Dr. Lisa Clough, acting associate vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, described several potential uses of the facility by ECU including summer or semester-long field courses, weekend retreats, education and health care outreach, creative arts field excursions or workshops, and coastal research field work. 

“We want to hear your ideas for how you want to use it,” Clough said at an information meeting in Speight Building on Feb. 3. “We firmly believe it’s a good idea.”  

ECU will lease the Scuppernong Riverside Lodge for six months each year once it’s completed, tentatively in summer 2013. The initial lease will be for $65,000 per year for three years. Rental fees will help recoup the cost of the lease. ECU will have access to the facility from July 1 to Dec. 31, providing for late summer and fall semester programming, Clough said. The organizations will work together to accommodate special needs at other times of the year.

The two-story lodge will house up to 25 overnight guests in 10 rooms each with its own bathroom. The first floor will have a small wet lab, two classrooms and access to a boat slip within walking distance of the river in downtown Columbia off U.S. 64. It will be located across the street from the headquarters of Pocosin Arts, whose mission is connecting culture to the environment through the arts.

The non-profit agency has received grant funding from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and Golden Leaf for the $1.25 million construction project. No ECU funds will be used for construction. The lease was approved by ECU’s Board of Trustees in September. State officials approved the project March 6.

Such public-private partnerships, especially in the state’s current economic climate, are only likely to grow. “This is a bargain for the university,” said Feather Phillips, founding executive director of Pocosin Arts. “What the university gets back is what needs to be celebrated.”  

Many of the estimated 50 attendees at the information meeting agreed.
Dr. Hans Vogelsong, director of the coastal resources management Ph.D. program in the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, said he is excited about the potential use of the facility for faculty and students who do field work in the region as well as the opportunity for ECU to engage in a partnership that should provide benefits and positive economic impacts in Columbia. It also will help solidify ECU as a leader in coastal area research in the state, Vogelsong said.
Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, chair of ECU’s English department, said the project offers an opportunity for students to study “their own backyard” and for ECU to fulfill its mission of engagement in the region. Everyone he has talked to supports the project, he said.

“The Scuppernong River Lodge will provide an important catalyst to expanding Columbia’s and eastern North Carolina’s tourism attractiveness,” said Dr. Pat Long, director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies and professor in the College of Business. “The partnership between ECU and the Pocosin Arts Folk School is a wonderful foundation on which to organize and present the region’s extensive cultural, historic and environmental assets to students as well as the traveling public along with providing an important economic boost.”

Pocosin Arts has worked with the ECU College of Education, School of Art & Design, the College of Human Ecology and Coastal Studies Institute on previous projects.

“I can’t say enough about how energizing it is to have young people with us,” Phillips said. “Your presence in our community will have benefits beyond what your students realize.”
Columbia, located in Tyrrell County in northeastern North Carolina, is classified by state officials as a Tier 1 county, meaning it is economically distressed and eligible for specific state and federal grants and programs.

Traditional forestry, farming and fishing industries are being supplemented with cultural and ecotourism opportunities embraced by local residents, Phillips said. The town is still recovering from Hurricane Irene, which flooded the first floor of Pocosin Arts in August with 24 inches of water.

Inquiries about the river lodge project should go to Clough at or 252-328-9479. A project advisory board likely will be appointed and provide periodic university updates, she said. 
For more information on Pocosin Arts, visit

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