Peter and Cathy Meyer – Coastwalk North Carolina

[Peter Karl Meyer MD died on April 12, 2016, at the age of 63. He was a loving husband, exceptional father, dedicated physician, talented writer, inquisitive coastal naturalist, and an exemplary role model to many.  StarNewsOnline April 17, 2016 ]

Background: Peter and Cathy Meyer – ‘Coastwalk North Carolina’

by Nancy Gadzuk

Rebecca Taylor introduced the main speakers of the July 20, 2015 FPHPS Open Meeting , Peter and Cathy Meyer with ‘Coastwalk North Carolina‘.

Rebecca first met Peter when she was a New Hanover County librarian and Peter’s best-selling Nature Guide to the Carolina Coast was regularly stolen from the library by discerning patrons and regularly replaced by library staff as a must-have reference volume. Peter and Cathy have extensive knowledge of the North Carolina coast, and the Nature Guide is filled with photographs, drawings, and information on the flora and fauna of the region.

Cathy and Peter Meyer

Cathy and Peter Meyer

Several years ago, Cathy proposed that the couple walk the entire length of the North Carolina shoreline. So, over the course of 18 months, the Meyers walked every bit of the North Carolina coastline (with the exception of off-limits Browns Island at Camp Lejeune), from South Carolina to the Virginia border: 425 miles of coastline along 21 barrier islands.

Tonight they presented an informative and inspiring talk—complete with numerous photographs, short videos, and shells and other artifacts they collected on their walks—to chronicle their forays along the barrier islands, which Peter referred to as “the necklace gracing the neckline of the mainland.”

The Meyers divided their presentation of their Coastwalk into four sections, based on the titles of their four e-books ‘Coastwalk North Carolina’:

* SOHO—Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island (the shortest section, at 4.5 miles)
* Between Capes—Cape Fear to Cape Lookout
* The Wild Banks—Cape Lookout to Hatteras Inlet (5 islands, very much undeveloped)
* Out There—Hatteras Inlet and Bodie Island to the Virginia border (the longest section, with 56 miles)

Coastwalk North Carolina - Outer Banks

Coastwalk North Carolina – Outer Banks

The Meyers’ knowledge and appreciation of the Carolina coast was evident in their Coastwalk experience and presentation.

Their talk, incorporating both photographs and videos of the shoreline wildlife they encountered, as well as maps and diagrams detailing the logistics of how they completed sections of their walk, was varied, informative, and made several important points.

Some of their presentation highlights:

First, the North Carolina coastline belongs to all of us. According to the North Carolina Public Trust, all beach lands up to the vegetation line are public lands and we all have the right to access these beaches. That means there are no private beaches in North Carolina (unlike some other states) and we are all able to take advantage of the entire coast (with the exception of Browns Island.)

Second, Coastwalk North Carolina can be done in any way that works—as much or as little as anyone wants to do, or is able to do. The Meyers showed us various ways they put together pieces of their coastline walk: sometimes they approached a segment by car, sometimes by boat, sometimes with the assistance of a bicycle to keep from having to double back by foot to their starting point for the day. As Peter put it, “It is like the Appalachian Trail but shorter, flatter, kinder, great for beachcombers and the public can access every beach with the exception of Browns Island.”

Third, beaches should not become piles of rocks. They should be allowed to be the wide expanse of sand they are naturally, serving as barrier islands.

Finally, the Meyers reminded us to appreciate our coast for all that it is, and preserve it. As they quoted Thoreau, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

The presentation ended with a lively Q&A session. One of the young people in the audience asked if they considered doing a coastline walk from Florida to Maine and Peter answered that it was up to the questioner’s generation to make that walk.  Passing it forward!