ONE FOCUS OF the Cherry Point Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) was to look at training facilities in Carteret County that serve Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
Chief among them is Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue (MCALF Bogue), also known as Bogue Field. It is an 875-acre landing field that serves as the Marine Corps’ only East Coast site for Field Carrier Landing Practice; pilots perform night-time simulated landings on an aircraft carrier.
Bogue Field is located off Hwy 24 in the Town of Bogue, between Goose Creek and Cape Carteret. Bogue Field is partially surrounded by residential housing, so training is largely restricted after 11pm. The JLUS report states: “While the public has become accustomed to this, the reality is that Bogue Field is a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week training area, and its mission is integral to the capability of the Marine Expeditionary Forces stationed in North Carolina.”
The Marine Corps has concerns about the residences located within airfield Accident Potential Zones. A portion of the Town of Emerald Isle, across Bogue Sound, is affected as well.
“The challenge is to retain residential density at existing levels through the use of existing voluntary and regulatory tools,” the JLUS study team noted. “Long term, the counties and municipalities of the study area will need to develop new land use and management techniques and establish incentive and acquisition programs to lower residential densities over time.”
Natural buffers are a good way to curtail encroachment on Cherry Point, and the federal government is the largest single land owner in the area around Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point with more than 200,000 acres in land holdings.
This creates “a significant and valuable buffer for MCAS Cherry Point and its air training operations,” the study team reported.
Croatan National Forest (160,000 acres), Cedar Island Natural Wildlife Refuge (15,500 acres) and Cape Lookout National Seashore (28,000 acres) “are all focused on protecting and maintaining natural, undeveloped landscapes and habitats.”
The North Carolina Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is a collaborative effort between the Marine Corps and the NC Dept. of Agriculture. Its three tenets of compatibility are “keeping land in forestry and agriculture, limiting tall structures and preventing upward shining lights.”
Focusing on the first tenet, presently 16 percent of the land around Cherry Point is considered “permanent open space,” and 69 percent is categorized as “agriculture or undeveloped.” This includes almost all of Down East Carteret County, which is dominated by Open Grounds Farm.
With 57,000 acres, it is the largest farm in America east of the Mississippi River. Open Grounds Farm is practically a neighbor of both Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic (MCOLF Atlantic), also known as Atlantic Field, and Bombing Target Piney Island (BT-11).
The JLUS report suggests that an inventory of environmental resources as natural buffers be compiled and future conservation opportunities identified. This is valuable information that could reduce future conflict between the Marine Corps and the surrounding communities.
Another suggestion is to ask MCAS Cherry Point to partner with Croatan National Forest, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the NC Forest Service and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to jointly plan and coordinate prescribed burnings of forestlands.
“Controlled burns are necessary to maintain the longleaf pine and pocosin ecosystems or the region, improve habitat quality and reduce the risk of wildfires,” the report says.
Nonetheless, smoke affects visibility and air quality.
Mike Wagoner, President
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce