ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT) – If you’re looking for a place to recycle your Christmas tree this year, Fort Macon State Park has got you covered. 

For over 70 years, the park has been taking recycled Christmas trees and using them to restore dunes along the beach strand.  

“I want to help the environment by bringing them here and help with erosion and other things that the park does,” said one Carteret County resident, Pat Rapaport, who was dropping their tree off.  

Locals like Rapaport try and take advantage of it every year.  

“I like having a fresh tree. So, this works out great for me and it’s part of my holiday spirit. I just love at the end of Christmas to bring my tree here,” said Rapaport. 

The park came up with the idea in the 1960s because the water from the beach was washing onto the road. They decided to take Christmas trees and place them on the sand to help build back up the dunes. 

“The sand starts collecting around the trees, it slowly starts to build up. Once that happens, other kinds of plants that normally stabilize the dune start to fill in things like sea oats and things like that,” said Park Ranger Benjamin Fleming. “Once that happens, it kind of helps build the beach up further and further out, protecting the beach as a whole.” 

They’ve collected thousands of trees over the years, and it’s helped make the beach what it is today. But since Hurricane Florence in 2018, some of the dunes they’ve worked hard to make are becoming eroded again. 

“We had kind of a major setback. And we kind of have to go regroup and start back over and start building the beach back out again,” said Fleming.  

That’s why they need as many trees as they can get this year, and they’re reaching out to spread the word. 

“Last year was quite down, donations were down and we’re hoping this year more people were able to enjoy a real Christmas tree and that number will go back up again,” said Fleming.  

The park will be collecting trees through the end of January. You can bring your tree to 2303 East Fort Macon Rd. in Atlantic Beach.