Ocracoke is “the little island that could.”
It seems we’re always fighting for something here. Often we win.
In early March, thanks to a lot of hollering, coastal North Carolina won round three of the ferry toll fight when the two Regional Planning Organizations (RPOs) for Coastal Carolina ignored the NC DOT’s request to, yet again, enact tolls on the Hatteras Ferry. This action followed several NCDOT hearings and email and letter campaigns to these regional groups now tasked with deciding how to spend transportation funds.
The ferry toll issue went back to the NC Legislature where Rep. Paul Tine of Kitty Hawk said they will “fix” in May. We sure hope they will once and for all.
So, Ocracoke has another stay of execution for a few months. This is the third time in as many years that voices raised have stopped the enactment of tolls on the Hatteras ferry. To do so we’ve had to mount email, letter and social network campaigns, hire lobbyists and woo legislators.
Our challenge now is with Barclay Trimble, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, deciding to cut funding for lifeguards on the three beaches in the Seashore.
The ocean here is rough and a frequent claimer of lives. While the National Park Service’s own policy states that “the saving of human life will take precedence over all other management actions,” Trimble says “the water is not part of our mandate.”
Before taking action to eliminate such a crucial service, one would think we would have been consulted, but we weren’t.
So, the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association mounted a petition campaign to reinstate the lifeguards.
Then there’s the unpopular beach-driving permits the NPS began in 2012, the longstanding impasse on the rebuilding of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge and issues along Highway 12. The Rollinson Channel—the short run between Hatteras and Ocracoke—has suffered shoaling since Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Even with a couple of months of dredging last year by the Army Corps of Engineers, it still has navigational glitches. Fortunately, there’s a longer, natural channel the ferries can use.
We who live here do so by choice and accept the challenges of living on an unbridged island. People in other parts of the country might have other dangers to deal with and don’t seem to be asked to pony up more money or are told to move.
Are “They” trying to get us to move and revert the islands to wilderness? Some folks here think that indeed is the grand scheme being done a little at a time. Is Ocracoke the “red-headed step-child” as B.J. Oelschlegel says in her column? Perhaps, but we have a history of being a force to be reckoned with.
North Carolina receives a lot of financial return from Ocracoke and the OBX. We are a key tourist destination. We pay taxes, too, and deserve a fair shake from the government we pay for, including the NPS.