Spent shells and other trash are scattered around the area of one illegal shooting range in Croatan National Forest. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press
The U.S. Forest Service called a 120-day halt to target shooting throughout Croatan National Forest on July 13, 2015.
Then that restriction was extended, so it remains in place today, more than three years later.
That hasn’t prevented do-it-yourself shooting ranges from continuing to riddle the landscape and pose a public safety hazard throughout the 160,000-acre public forest near New Bern.
The illicit form of recreation often leaves damaged trees and plant life in its wake.
And garbage. Lots of garbage. Everything from bullet-pocked refrigerators and propane tanks to beer bottles and auto parts.
The rubbish and bullet holes have left a scar on portions of the public woodlands.
Chris Kent, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Commission, has observed the mayhem and “trigger trash” left in the aftermath.
Last summer, Kent went mountain biking on his own time to a favorite spot in an isolated northwestern corner of the Croatan, tracking black bear and observing deer and turkey for the upcoming bow-hunting season.
What he discovered churned his stomach.
“It was trashed,” Kent said. Left behind were shot-up sofas, televisions, and hundreds of rounds of brass and used shells littered in the grass.
“It broke my heart. I turned around and haven’t been back since.”
Connor Yungbluth, of Wake County, studies Mandarin Chinese through the North Carolina Virtual Public School.
After a regular school morning at Middle Creek High School in Cary, senior Connor Yungbluth, 16, takes his online Mandarin Chinese course at home through the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS).
When Yungbluth moved from New York, he wanted to continue the language studies he had begun there, but the local school in Wake County didn’t have a Chinese teacher. His curriculum is part of the blended, individualized instruction that virtual school in North Carolina can provide.
In the afternoon, Connor takes two online courses through Wake Technical College to prepare for his future in engineering or medicine.
Other students who have benefited from NCVPS include special needs populations, students who would like to attend the N.C. School of Math and Science but are not offered advanced courses at their school, students in rural areas, and a gymnast.
While the NCVPS may be unfamiliar to many North Carolina residents and not every school system cooperates with its program, the state has the second-largest virtual public school system in the country, with enrollment climbing from 17,000 at inception in 2007 to 58,000 students across the state today. Only Florida has higher enrollment in its comparable program.
North Carolina teachers developed the 150-course curriculum, which is aligned to state high school graduation requirements.