Vol. 13


SOS – Saving Our Sand Dune

1973–1975; Nags Head, North Carolina, USA"SOS - Saving Our Sand Dune" illustration, by Janessa Hoffmann: Silhouettes of three children playing on a sand dune.

This is the story of how my grandma Carolista, whom I am named after, risked her life to save the largest sand dune on the East Coast.

The year was 1973 in Nags Head, North Carolina. Nags Head was a small vacation town on the Outer Banks1 with few stores and few year-round residents. My mom, Inglis, who was five, and her siblings, were playing on a big sand dune that everyone called “Jockey’s Ridge,” directly across from their house. It was quite normal for them to be playing on the dune, since it was just across the road, but what was about to happen wouldn’t be normal at all.

As the kids and their babysitter headed back to the cottage, they saw a bulldozer at the foot of Jockey’s Ridge bulldozing small dunes. Worried about their sand dune, they sprinted back to the house to call their mom, Carolista, to tell her.

Upset after hearing the news, Carolista quickly left her store, Carolista Jewelry Designs, picked up her kids, and scurried across the street to Jockey’s Ridge. She then marched up to the bulldozer operator, and she didn’t ask but she told him to stop bulldozing the dunes. She then proceeded to stand in front of the bulldozer, which could crush her at any given moment, and refused to move.

The standoff between the two seemed to last for an eternity, but it was probably just a few minutes until the operator hopped off his bulldozer defeated, and left. After he left, Carolista pulled off the distributor cap so the bulldozer wouldn’t start.

Carolista called Jim Hunt, the North Carolina governor, begging him to find funding to save Jockey’s Ridge. The governor, moved by Carolista’s enthusiasm and determination, obtained an injunction to stop the process of building the condominiums. The state agreed that if they got enough money, they would buy Jockey’s Ridge and preserve it as a natural landmark.

Carolista then set out with the goal of making Jockey’s Ridge a state park. Her thought was “This land belongs to the people,” because it is so unique and special. She started raising funds by selling T-shirts and bumper stickers in a booth that sat at the foot of the dune — and even “selling square feet” of Jockey’s Ridge for five dollars apiece. Between the contributions from donors, and state grants, enough money was raised to purchase the property. On May 31, 1975, Jockey’s Ridge was preserved as a state park forever! It is now one of the top three most visited state parks in North Carolina, with over 1.3 million visitors per year.

Sadly, this incredible, unstoppable woman died when my mom was only twenty, which is sad for my mom, me, and everyone who got the chance to get to know this powerhouse of a person. I wish with all my might that I could have met her. Even though Carolista has passed, she left an amazing legacy and, of course, the sand dune she worked so hard to save.

Carolista Walsh; North Carolina, USA

Illustrator: Janessa Hoffmann; Missouri, USA


1. The Outer Banks is a string of sandy islands and peninsulas running parallel to the coast of North Carolina and southern Virginia.



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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