The idea of having a passenger-only ferry service from Hatteras to Ocracoke has been around for a long time. Due to the longer route the car ferries have to travel between the two islands, it is once again getting scrutiny. The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division has started a feasibility study to see if this additional means of traveling to Ocracoke could be possible.
Passenger ferries traveling from Hatteras Island directly into Ocracoke’s village harbor has a lot of appeal for many reasons. It would reduce the congestion in the village, save on fuel, and permit the “day-trippers” to spend more time exploring Ocracoke’s historic village and its many shops and restaurants. The infrastructure today for having people move around the village is better now than it was several years ago. Both golf carts and bicycles can easily be rented, and Hyde County Transit is looking into an open air trolley that would make regular stops at locations such as the Lighthouse, Springer’s Point and throughout the village.
Ed Goodwin, the director of the Ferry Division is enthusiastic about this possible new service. He has said that for it to succeed, many parties in Hyde County would have to cooperate. This should include the Ocracoke islanders, many of whom have worked for the ferry system over the years and/or have made extensive use of the ferries under the most challenging environmental conditions.
As an example, Bob Chestnut, owner of the Ride the Wind Surf Shop, noted one morning on the porch of the Ocracoke Coffee Shop, that if it is a go, near the loading dock there should be a waiting area with a canopy for refuge from the bright sun or rain for passengers awaiting their return trip. Insights like this would be invaluable in gathering as much information as possible to make an informed decision.
We at the Observer commend NCDOT for undertaking this study and urge Susan Pulliam, the NCDOT’s director of strategic planning and study coordinator, to hold public hearings on Ocracoke to gain the wisdom and experience of our residents.