Nags Head Board affirms support for Rogallo Museum, just not at Jockey’s Ridge

By on December 22, 2022

Rendering of the proposed Rogallo Museum.

Despite requests from Rogallo Foundation board members to rescind an Oct. 20 letter of concern sent to the state about the Foundation’s proposal to build a museum on Jockey’s Ridge State Park property, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners took no formal action on that request at its Dec. 21 meeting.

The nonprofit Rogallo Foundation had been attempting to negotiate with the state for a free, 99-year-lease of land on Jockey’s Ridge State Park property on which to build a 12,000-square-foot, $7-million museum honoring flexible-wing inventors Francis and Gertrude Rogallo.

But in late October, the director of North Carolina State Parks released a letter saying that while it supported the idea of honoring the Rogallos, the state “does not support proceeding with a lease of property to the Foundation or construction of a museum at Jockey’s Ridge.”

Considerable local opposition had surfaced as well, including a resolution against the plan from the Friends of Jockey’s Ridge Board of Directors, an online petition with more than 2,600 signatures and that letter of concern from the Nags Head Commissioners.

Both Rogallo Foundation President John Harris and former Nags Head Commissioner Susie Walters, who identified herself as a Rogallo Foundation Board Member, have asked the town commissioners to rescind their Oct. 20 letter during public comment in recent meetings.

At those meetings, Walters asserted that the letter included “inaccurate information,” and Harris made the request at the Dec. 21 meeting, asking the board to retract or rescind its Oct. 20 letter “which was based on some erroneous information.”

At an earlier Nov. 2 commissioners meeting, Harris addressed what he characterized as that inaccurate information. He said that while the town’s letter raised environmental concerns about the project, the museum’s “impacts to natural and recreational resources would be minimal.” Noting concerns expressed about the “lack of information…and public input” into the proposed project, Harris claimed the Foundation was “transparent” and “made a public presentation to the county, to the Dare County Tour[ism] Bureau and the Town of Nags Head.”

During the Dec. 21 meeting, Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon noted that “during our last several meetings, we’ve heard passionate appeals from citizens seeking to protect Jockey’s Ridge State Park from what they feel will be adverse development, and from citizens seeking to honor Francis Rogallo and his contributions to the science of flight. These are both worthy causes.”

He said that the Town’s land use plan recognizes Jockey’s Ridge State Park as a unique natural resource, and “conservation that focuses on minimal development is paramount.” As such, “any position the Town might ultimately take on the museum or any other development” would follow that land use plan.

Cahoon expressed his respect for those voicing concerns about the Oct. 20 letter while adding that “I do not believe the board [of commissioners] thinks they’ve done or intended wrong.”

In that vein, several of the commissioners on Dec. 21 voiced support for the museum concept, just not one located on Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

“I do apologize if the intent of the letter was information seen [as] not factual, but it was what we were hearing, and that’s why we sent the letter forward,” Bob Sanders said. “I wish them luck in being able to build a museum because I think it’s a good story to tell about our background. So I do support it; I just don’t support it on the property of the state park at Jockey’s Ridge.”

“At no time did the board ever intend to impugn anybody,” Renée Cahoon said. “I don’t believe we did that…I admire the Rogallo Foundation for wanting to honor the Rogallos. They made a tremendous impact to flight and the aerodynamics that we all see every day up at Jockey’s Ridge, as well as other places throughout the community and the country…”

Cahoon encouraged Harris to begin fundraising and seeking community support for the project “sooner rather than later” to be in a better position to move forward.

SEE ALSO: State rejects Rogallo Museum on Jockey’s Ridge


  • Yorick

    It still sounds like Kitty Hawk kites was just looking for free land to stuff another gift shop onto. Letting them have so much control over the dunes to make money there maybe went to their heads.

    Thursday, Dec 22 @ 11:44 am
  • Joe Newmark

    Here’s an idea, repurpose Pamlico Jack’s as the museum. Better than have it sit empty…

    Friday, Dec 23 @ 8:36 am