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What’s become of Lea Island?

Merton Vance
StarNews

Lea Island is a barrier island located just south of Topsail Island. Neighboring Hutaff Island was once a separate island, but shoaling in the inlet merged the two former islands into one.

Lea and Hutaff islands are two of the three barrier islands still undeveloped in North Carolina. The other is Bird Island, which is owned by the state of North Carolina and managed under the Division of Coastal Management as one of 10 N.C. Coastal Reserves, according to Hope Sutton of the N.C. Coastal Reserve.

We posed the question about Lea Island to Cassandra I. Gavin, an attorney who works for the N.C. Coastal Land Trust, which is working to help preserve Lea Island. Here’s her answer:

“The complex supports one of the largest colonies of nesting terns and simmers. In addition, federally threatened Piping Plover and Loggerhead turtles nest on the island.Thousands of shore birds stop over during the spring and fall migration.

“Lea Island was once subdivided for development, and split into 30 lots with acreages between 1 and 2.2 acres. Various owners still retain ownership. Most owners only own one lot, but several own two and one owner (the original “developer”) owns 10 lots. N.C. Coastal Land Trust has, since 2000, been working to protect Lea Island by purchasing lots and accepting donations of lots from willing owners.After acquiring the lots, we transfer them to the State of N.C. to be dedicated under the Nature Preserves Act, so that habitat preservation will be the primary public purpose. The Audubon Society assists the state with bird habitat preservation activities on the island. There is an old fishing shack on the island, in a state of disrepair; that is the only structure.

“Over half of Lea Island (Hutaff remains in private ownership) has been protected, and both N.C. Coastal Land Trust and Audubon continue working with remaining owners to protect the lots still in private ownership.N.C. Coastal Land Trust has protected approximately 28 acres since 2000 and transferred these lots to the state; 19 closings all together!”

User-contributed question by:
Ilene Hieronymus

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2 Responses to “ What’s become of Lea Island?”

  1. On August 24, 2010 at 9:54 am Robert wrote:

    “Lea and Hutaff islands are two of the three barrier islands still undeveloped in North Carolina.”

    In addition to the islands in the article there are; Masonboro Is., the Core Banks and Shackleford Banks.

  2. On November 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm Debbie Replogle wrote:

    was walking the south end of Topsail Island, Nov. 2011. Saw house on the next island, and was told it was Lee(Lea)Island. After researching it, I am surprised it is there, since I am being told there is no buildings there, and it is a sanctuary. Can you tell me about this house? Can you rent it? Do I have the wrong island? Are there more to come?



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