MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. -- The North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve will reopen three sites as part of the Phase 1 plan to reopen the state.

The Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island, and Bird Island Reserves were closed on April 3 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and local restrictions. The sites will now reopen on May 9.

Officials say state and local coronavirus-related guidelines will continue to be monitored, and reserve visitors will be encouraged to comply with all measures meant to protect themselves and their communities. This includes mass gatherings being limited to no more than 10 people, which is still prohibited under Executive Order 138.

Visitors are strongly advised to take the following steps to reduce transmission while visiting a reserve:

  1. Postpone your visit if you are sick or experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  2. Maintain at least six feet social distancing from other individuals, with the exception of family or household members.
  3. Wear a cloth face covering outdoors when you cannot maintain at least six feet distancing from other people with the exception of family or household members. These coverings function to protect other people more than the wearer.
  4. Carry hand sanitizer with you when leaving home and use it frequently.
  5. Avoid touching surfaces others may have touched, such as signs and boardwalk railings.   
  6. Do not share any personal items, including phones, cameras, water bottles, and recreational equipment.

Additional guidance for visitors and future updates can be found on the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve website.