Builders and Shapers: Outer Banks Forever

Builders and Shapers: Outer Banks Forever

April 11th, 2023

In conjunction with the Outer Banks Community Foundation and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, WOBX has launched “Builders and Shapers: Nonprofits for a Greater Outer Banks” a weekly series featuring the nonprofits that serve our area. They share details about how they are working to make northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks a better place to live, work and play.

Outer Banks Forever is the official nonprofit partner of the three national parks located on the Outer Banks, helping to protect and enhance these special places.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the first national seashore in the U.S., Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which preserves the first English settlement in the New World and tells the story of the island’s Civil War history and Freedmen’s Colony, and Wright Brothers National Memorial, home of man’s first powered flight, are among the most-visited attractions by visitors and locals every year.

Their small-but-dedicated staff, led by Director Jessica Barnes and an eight-person Board of Directors, have in less than four years brought a host of new programs and initiatives to the parks. And even more significant developments are on the way.

But they require backing that only a nonprofit like Outer Banks Forever can provide to fill in the gaps left when federal government funding isn’t enough to improve and maintain these national gems.

Who do you serve, and how?

As the official nonprofit partner of our Outer Banks national parks – Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial – we work with the National Park Service, our local community and visitors to ensure everyone can enjoy and learn from these special places.

We support our parks by raising funds for important projects and programs that ensure future generations can continue to learn, grow and create memories by experiencing the history, unique environment and spirit of innovation our parks preserve. 

When and why was your nonprofit created?

Outer Banks Forever was established in 2019 to provide additional support to our Outer Banks national parks through philanthropy, education and volunteer support.

We are a branch of Eastern National, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that promotes the public’s understanding and support of America’s national parks and other public trust partners by providing quality educational experiences, products and services.

Eastern National has operated the bookstores in our parks for many years. Our organization’s creation was a step towards providing this additional support for our parks since they did not have access to a dedicated philanthropic partner’s support previously.

What are some of the benefits of your organization’s work?

Since our launch four years ago, we have raised funds to support and implement projects that expand access to our parks, like the new mobility-friendly kayak launch at Oregon Inlet, a live-feed webcam on the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the upcoming multiuse pathway in Buxton that will better connect the lighthouse to our community.

These projects, and several others, offer locals and visitors new and different ways to experience the beauty, history and culture of these amazing places.

Do you think the issues you address will ever go away? Why or why not? 

As all national parks, and particularly our parks here in the Outer Banks, continue to see increased visitation, their federal budgets have not kept pace with ongoing park and community needs.

Philanthropy is what allows our parks to thrive and has helped expand and sustain our national parks for decades.

By diversifying our parks’ funding sources through our fundraising efforts, our parks are better equipped to innovate, respond quickly to community and visitor needs and achieve the margin of excellence we’ve all come to expect of these treasured spaces. 

What else would you like readers to know, perhaps an interesting insight or heartwarming story?

We operate with a small but mighty staff of three employees and a dedicated eight-member Board of Directors made up of local business and community leaders and long-time visitors to the Outer Banks.

Of course, we cannot do what we do without the generous support and enthusiasm of our donors!

Many have shared with us their memories of vacationing in our parks with their families and friends – some have been visiting these barrier islands for 40 years or more. We are touched by and grateful for every story and gift we receive. 

What’s new? What are your upcoming events or initiatives?

We can already tell it’s going to be another busy summer for our national parks!

Guided by our parks’ needs and priorities, we’re funding projects and programs that protect natural and cultural resources, enhance park experiences and engage the next generation in our parks.

Be on the lookout for a new way to experience the Freedom Trail and the story of hope after the Civil War at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the new multi-use path at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and our new “Artist in Community” program launching on Earth Day 2023 to celebrate our local artist community and their work inspired by our parks! 

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