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By Connie Leinbach
Visitors and islanders now have two new ways to access the sound side of Ocracoke Island.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore recently opened an access area with parking north of the pony pens.
This area is called Bitter Swash, said David E. Hallac, seashore superintendent, at the Sept. 5 Hyde County Commissioners meeting.
“This is a new day use area,” he said about the parking area that’s paved with shell hash and roped off. A short trail leads to the Pamlico Sound.
And, across from the NPS campground area, the newly designated Devil Shoals Road takes motorists to another spot in the sound from which to launch kayaks or just view.
While this road is little more than a two-tire path, Hallac said plans are to widen and harden it.
Neither access point requires an off-road vehicle permit that is required for any driving on the beach side of the island.
At the north end of the island where beach is eroding at the ferry stacking lanes, Hallac said the NPS received permission to add more dredge spoil to create sand berms.
The NPS has been taking sand from the dredge spoil island beside the ferry docking area for this effort and also has received permission to add more dredge spoil to this area.
Hallac also reported that the public boat launch at the end of the NPS parking area at the south-end ferry docks will be rebuilt.
The launch had been damaged from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
When it was rebuilt in 2013, the slopes on the two ramps were wrong and neither was long enough for launching. Both visitors and locals had complained.
Hallac also noted that the Ocracoke water tower is at the end of its life and will have to be replaced. Since it is on NPS property, the NPS is preparing an environmental assessment for this project that will include a public comment period.
In anticipation of the addition of passenger ferry service next spring to the island, modifications to the ferry docks on the south end of the island and to the Hatteras docks will begin this fall.
Visitors to the Ocracoke lighthouse may in the future have more parking in an unimproved lot at Martha Jane and Lighthouse roads.
For this to happen, Eastern National, which is a retail partner with the NPS and which owns the property, would have to convey it to the county, Hallac said.
Ocracoke’s commissioner Tom Pahl said turning it into a parking lot is not in Hyde County’s budget at the moment.
“We would have to do an environmental assessment and wetlands mitigation then find the funding to build a parking area,” he said.
Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said the county will have to first get some costs and find grant money if this project were adopted.
Hallac asked the commissioners to get back to him with an answer within the next six months.