A summer view of Ocracoke’s Silver Lake harbor. Photo: C. Leinbach

Ocracoke is fortunate to host many visitors who return year after year. As a result, many long-time friendships are made between them and locals. How many vacation sites can claim that special feature?

When new visitors learn that you live here, a common discussion such as this unfolds:

“You really live here?”

“What’s it like, especially in the winter?”

“It’s a fantasy of ours to live here.”

Then, there is the long pause as the possible reality of the dream takes a serious turn,

“So, what’s health care like?”

In answer to the last question, our Ocracoke Health Center is doing well with a high-quality staff that has recently increased. The Hyde County Emergency Service, consisting of paramedics and emergency management technicians and separate from the Health Center, is getting more funding to support the ambulance service.

Yes, there is the romantic image of living on Ocracoke: The walks on the beach, hearing the wind and not trains, jets or sirens, few lights, spectacular views of the night sky and, increasingly, satellites passing overhead.

One gets the opportunity to experience powerful unnamed storms that at times drills home that we are truly living on the edge on so many levels.

The island can be a source of inspiration for writers and artists and the rest of us as well.

For many who would love to live here, they find they cannot due to the lack of affordable housing that matches pay scales for the jobs available here.

But for those who can turn their fantasy into a reality, they eventually come down from their pink cloud and see what daily life and not a vacation is really like.

For some, it is what they expected, and they accept that. They are aware of some of the island’s unique inconveniences. A trip to large stores and special medical services are a ferry ride and long drive away to Nags Head to the north, Morehead City to the south and Washington, Greenville and elsewhere to the west.

East? Well, the closest services are on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ocracoke, like most places, is undergoing change.

 Some of it is positive. The island’s first pharmacy will open soon with an improved health center with more staff, as will a brand new, state-of-the-art school in September. The island’s first Catholic chapel is almost complete.

On the other hand, some lament the loss of green space in the village. The ferry service —lifeline to the island — has faced budget restraints this year causing a cutback in service that is having a ripple effect on the island’s businesses and tries the patience for visitors having long waits to get onto the island.

It’s frustrating to them to see one or more ferries loading up vehicles and departing while still waiting in a stacking lane at the Hatteras dock.

As for stormy weather, Ocracoke seems like much of the rest of the country, living with an angst that a major weather event will strike. Although we may weather the storm — literally and figuratively — we still must confront the aftereffects of suspended ferry service, overwash and damaged roads that impede easily getting off and on the island, one of those “unique inconveniences.”

As the N.C. General Assembly continues to debate the 2023-2024 budget, possibly into July and beyond, islanders and local officials have been advocating for adequate, if not, more funding for these moving highways.

For our livelihoods, ourselves and our visitors who love our island, we hope the N.C. General Assembly understands this and passes a budget that will at least let the ferries run their typical summer and fall schedules.

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