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Future of Singletary Lake Group Camps discussed in meeting

Mike Murphy, Director of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation, was at Singletary Lake State Park on Thursday evening to conduct a meeting with the members of the Friends of the Bay Lakes and groups who rent the group camping facilities regarding the group camps future. Murphy told a group of about 20 people the park received $575,000 to spend on upgrading the facility through the Connect NC Bond.

“Every park has a project,” said Murphy. The proposed project for Singletary Lake is the construction of a 2,000 square foot visitor’s center and opening the facility up to day visitors. However, he added there are some constraints on the project. One constraint is the fact Red Cockaded Woodpeckers  call the park home. The birds are an endangered species which, according to Murphy, means park officials are limited in the scope of potential projects for the future. Because the birds are considered endangered, they cannot be disturbed.

Murphy also gave the history of the cabins located in what is known as Camp Ipecac. He said the Camp Ipecac cabins are historic and were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a project undertaken by the Roosevelt administration.

Murphy assured those gathered that any project slated for construction at Singletary Lake will not enter the design phase until end of this year. He said once the design of the building is created, the project will not be placed out for bid until late 2018 and any work on the site and proposed construction will not take place until 2019.

Murphy explained that the funds generated for the park by the rental of the group camps and the number of visitors to the park is low compared to the cost of maintaining the facilities. He said NC State Parks staff are exploring ways to increase the use of Singletary Lake.

“Want some ideas to change this balance of cost and people,” said Murphy.

One solution NC State Parks staff have proposed is constructing a contact station (visitor’s center) beside the Education Building between the two camps and allowing day visitors. Murphy also suggested the construction of camper cabins similar to those at Carolina Beach State Park.

Those gathered for the meeting expressed concern about increased automobile traffic and potential issues that could arise between those camping and the day visitors.

“The reason we are here is to talk about what you as users want,” said Murphy.

Barbara Patrick with the Friends of the Bay Lakes said there has been a vision for this park for a facility for day visitors for a long time. She suggested that if the contact station was located outside of the gate (to the group camping area), the gate could still be locked and campers will still have their privacy.

Murphy noted that no matter what project the state builds at Singletary Lake, the state will not see a profit from it.

Murphy explained Singletary Lake has always been a group camp and when there are no groups renting the facility, the park has traditionally been open to day visitors.

Those gathered continued to express concerns with mixing campers and day visitors, but Murphy said those concerns are true of every other state park. He noted that there are group camps at almost all of our state parks.

When asked how often the camps are being rented, Murphy said currently, the camps have a 53 percent utilization rate. It was suggested the NC State Parks study adding heat and possibly air conditioning to Camp Ipecac as way of possibly encouraging groups to rent the facility year-round.

It was explained that in order to add heating and/or air conditioning, the state would have to hire an engineer to come to the camp and study the buildings. The engineer would have to make recommendations about how to add heating and air. Once the engineer creates a design for the project, it will have to be put out for bid.

Another issue discussed is how to increase the exposure of Singletary Lake, thereby increasing the number of potential visitors.

Murphy stressed, no final decisions have been made regarding the facility and its future.

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