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NC Ferry Division is responding to concerns

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NC Ferry Division Director Ed Goodwin.

The NC Ferry Division of the North Carolina’s Department of Transportation needs to be singled out.

With an opening like that, read­ers may brace themselves for a little “good ol’ government bash­ing.” This is not the case.

Division Director Ed Goodwin, appointed last April, immediately took on the very serious access challenges to Ocracoke. In his monthly meetings with Ocracoke residents, listening to him, one would think that he took person­ally the long waits last summer at the Hatteras terminal.

He said he was determined to turn this around. He supports adding a passenger ferry option from Hat­teras and ordered a feasibility study for it that will include input from Ocracokers. This study is expected to be concluded in August.

A passenger ferry, Province­town III, a catamaran-style vessel, will stop in Hatteras May 4 to 5 on its way from the Caribbean to Boston so that the Ferry Division can have a look and make some test runs between the islands.

One cannot blame the Ferry Di­vision for the problem area in the short route. That section is under the Army Corps of Engineers and bigger players make that decision.

When the “long route” (via the Barney Slough) started, it took about one hour and twenty minutes. Now this crossing takes about one hour, a significant improvement in time that needs to be noted. More­over, the ferry division has hired an engineering company to determine if even more time can be shaved off that route.

It is not just the director doing good work.  Communica­tions director Tim Hass quickly returns calls (and emails). The division last summer appointed a new director of operations at the Hatteras Ferry Terminal, Chris Bock, who welcomes concerns and improvement ideas.

In the monthly meetings here, Deputy Director Jed Dixon takes note of comments and addresses them.

As an example, it was brought to his attention that the Hatteras ferry staff did not have flash­lights, and those waiting in line had trouble seeing their signals to board. He soon after reported back that flashlights are in place.

Goodwin, who has worked closely with Hyde County manager Bill Rich,  knows how important it is to keep Ocracokers informed on the ferry issues that have such a major impact on our community. He also knows how important it is to work with the larger NC Department of Transportation, the General Assembly and Hyde County officials.

They are doing their work and we commend their efforts,

To read more about ferry division’s efforts on passenger ferries:

Ferry officials discuss passenger ferry idea

Passenger ferry study to begin in March

Passenger ferry study to begin in March

 

Elimination of 10-day waiting period for building permits on Ocracoke on hold

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By Peter Vankevich

Yesterday (March 3) the Ocracoke Observer published an article on the Hyde County commissioners vote Monday (March 2) to eliminate the 10-day waiting period on Ocracoke before builders can obtain building permits.

The story reported that Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said that this action might have to be rescinded and re-voted on because a public hearing was not held prior to a commissioners’ vote.

Building permits are part of the Ocracoke Development Ordinance and any changes to that must have a public hearing prior to official action.

After publication of the story, the Hyde County Public Information officer Sarah Johnson contacted the Observer to say that this amendment to the Ocracoke Development Ordinance will not immediately take effect.  The Commissioners will make a decision following a public hearing at their monthly meeting at 6 p.m. April 6 in Swan Quarter.  Islanders can attend via teleconferencing in the Ocracoke School Commons room. 

The public hearing notice is printed below and posted online here.

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Fisherman’s Forum set for March 13 in Swan Quarter

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County commissioners eliminate 10-day wait for building permits

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Islanders attend the Hyde County Commissioners meetings via teleconferencing in the Ocracoke School Commons room.

By Peter Vankevich and Connie Leinbach

Hyde County Commissioners voted unanimously last night (Monday, March 2) to eliminate the 10-day waiting period on Ocracoke before builders can obtain building permits, but this action may be rescinded.

Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said today (Tuesday) that that this action might have to be rescinded and re-voted on because a public hearing was not held prior to a commissioners’ vote.  

This is because this building permit regulation is included in a section of the Ocracoke Development Ordinance, and, according to the ordinance, any time the ordinance is changed, a public hearing has to be held for public input.  No public hearing was held last night.

Rich said he will talk to County Attorney Fred Holscher about it and that a hearing and other action would probably be on the commissioners’ April 6 meeting agenda.

On behalf of the Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board, Benji Hart, a board member, made the request noting that a few other things in the Ocracoke Development Ordinance (ODO) are unclear.

The section on home occupancy of businesses (section 36-183) also is not clear, he said, and asked that the county attorney review that and another section dealing with parking at residences that include businesses.

Hart also said that Ocracoke could use a part-time enforcement officer.

The OPAB is in the process of reviewing and revising the ODO, which can viewed by clicking here .

More information about the Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board can be found here.

In other action, the Commissioners heard a report from Kris Noble, county planning and economic development officer, that another public meeting about a proposed Tourism Development Authority will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 12 in the Ocracoke Community Center.

Although the approval of this new authority was poised to be approved by the commissioners last night, that action has been postponed because of the recent flurry of public comments the county has received, many of which are against the addition of another tax.  Those comments can be found here.

Noble, at a meeting Feb. 12 of the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board, unveiled this concept and first made the presentation at the commissioners meeting Feb. 2.  For a report on the Ocracoke meeting, click here.

“Tourism is the second largest job sector in Hyde County,” she had said, “and tourism on Ocracoke is economic development.”

Yet there’s a lack of cohesive, full-time marketing of the island and the county. 

This authority would fund the hiring of a full-time Hyde County employee devoted to tourism marketing among the various groups on the island and be a liaison to the mainland.

State legislation passed in 2006 but never enacted allows for the creation of this authority that would be empowered to collect another 2 percent on the 3 percent that’s currently collected on all short-term lodging and cottage rentals. This tax would be in addition to the 6.75 percent North Carolina sales tax.

The commissioners also are looking for a suitable building or land on which to locate Emergency Services on the island since the Ocracoke Community Center gave notice Feb. 2 that their lease of the building behind will not be renewed as of December.

The Hyde County Board of Commissioners meet every first Monday of the month in the county services building in Swan Quarter on the mainland. Meetings are conducting with teleconferencing so that islanders can attend.

 

WOVV annual meeting this evening (March 3)

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WOVV logoOcracoke Community Radio’s (WOVV)  annual open meeting will take place this evening at the Ocracoke Community Center.

Some items on the agenda are the status of the move of the radio station to the second floor of the old fire house on Back Rd, update on the Fourth Annual Ocracoke Island 10k/5k and 1 Mile Family Fun Run scheduled for Saturday April 25, current on-air programs and plans for future ones, election of directors and officers, budget report and a request for volunteers for both on-air and off-air operations.
One may bring a dessert or snack to share at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting will start at 7.

WOVV can be heard on the island 90.1 FM, and online at wovv.org.

Ocracoke Community Radio’s mission is to provide the Village of Ocracoke, and its visitors, with a community-enhancing medium of education, information, civic discourse and entertainment through access to the public airwaves for locally-focused, regional and national programming produced by, and responsive to the needs of, our unique island community.

A foggy morning on Ocracoke

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Ocracoke in the fog PS
Photo by P. Vankevich

 

Awakening Ocracoke begins with a foggy morning on March 2, 2015

Clam Chowder Cook-Off and dance to benefit Ocracoke Child Care

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The Ocracoke Rockers, above, will play at a benefit dance, 8 to 11 p.m., and Clam Chowder Cook-Off 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4, in the Community Center.

In what organizers hope to be an annual event to benefit Ocracoke Child Care, a Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Dance will be held April 4 in the Community Center, 99 Irvin Garrish Highway.

The cook-off will be from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the dance will be from 7 to 11 p.m., featuring the Ocracoke Rockers.

All–individuals, businesses, restaurants and professional chefs–are invited to create their best version of “traditional” Ocracoke Clam Chowder and/or non-traditional.

Traditional means the only ingredients allowed are clams and their juice, water, potatoes, onions, salt pork or bacon, salt and pepper. Pepper vinegar and hot sauce may be used as condiments.

“The inclusion of any other ingredients is considered non-traditional,” said Ruth Toth, who is organizing the cook-off.

Attendees will vote for the best chowder in both categories and the top vote-getters in each category will be awarded a Golden Clam Trophy, each uniquely fashioned by island artist Susan Dodd.

There is a $25  fee for each chowder entry, and an admission fee of $10 per person will be charged for one taste of each chowder and to vote for the people’s choice award.  Hot dogs and bake sale items will be available for purchase as well.

Details of the two events are on flyers circulated throughout the island and at the Center. A community donation appeal letter also has gone out in the mail.

The Center also is looking for housing summer and long-term housing for new and summer staff. Those who have accommodations are asked to contact Chaeli Moyer, OCC director, at admin@ocracokechildcare.org, or call 252-928-4131.

The Center reopens for business today (March 2). An open house for the public to visit the center, see the new renovations, ask questions and meet the new teacher Patricia Sanchez, who is bilingual and who moved over the weekend to Ocracoke from Malibu, CA.

When school is out, the Center plans to extend its childcare offerings to older children and to stay open on evenings and weekends to accommodate the island’s summer workforce as well as visitors or island parents who might like a date night without their children.

The OCC has raised its rates and no longer is providing snacks or lunch.

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Islanders visit the Ocracoke Child Care Center during their open house yesterday (Sunday).
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Patricia Sanchez, from Malibu, Calif. is a new teacher at Ocracoke Child Care Center.

Heard on Ocracoke: John Golden

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John Golden. Photo by Mary Ellen Golden

By Peter Vankevich

At bottom, click play to listen to The Pioneer Bounty

Anyone fortunate to have attended the Ocrafolk Festival that takes place in June every year, or has been to some of the many great music performances in the Deepwater Theater should recognize John Golden, a songwriter, performer, and lover of sea history.

Indeed, John’s interest in and knowledge of coastal Carolina history goes all the way back to the Lost Colony, the pirates Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard, colonial times, and the Civil War blockade runners and pilots. He has written sea songs such as the one you are about to hear, based on this fascinating history.

Originally from Florida, he got a degree in civil engineering from Duke Univsersity and went to work on dam projects for the Army Corp of Engineers in West Virginia where he became acquainted with Appalachian music and folklore.

Ocracoke has become practically a second home starting in 2000 when he made his first album in Gary Mitchell’s Soundside Recording studio.

“I love to visit with the music people on Ocracoke; they are excellent musicians and we love to get together in jam sessions,” he notes.  “The Ocrafolk Festival is the finest folk festival of its kind in the country and the storytelling is unique.”

He has teamed up with Martin Garrish to play and record 1950s rock and roll songs.  His next album will be “Old Jake’s Place” that celebrates a store run by Jake Alligood on Ocracoke where Martin used to listen to the jukebox as a boy.

John is a popular speaker for the Ocracoke Preservation Society’s summer Porch Talks program on the topic of sea songs and stories.

 

This song, “The Pioneer Bounty,” written with Philip Howard and recorded with Molasses Creek, is from his “Hatteras Memories” album.

Observed on Ocracoke: a rare Red Phalarope in the village

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Red Phalarope. Photo  by P. Vankevich
Red Phalarope. Photo by P. Vankevich

By Peter Vankevich

Many unusual birds have been in the Ocracoke village area over the past month. One of them that showed up today (Feb. 28, 2015) is really rare. An arctic breeding shorebird, Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), was wandering in the road at Irvin Garrish Highway near Lighthouse Rd.

Approaching it on my bike, my first impression was: I wonder what a Sanderling is doing in the village and not on the beach. As I got closer, it was evident that it was something different. The bird headed toward the pebble parking lot at Spencer’s Market and settled down. I did not have a field guide, but had something better, my camera, which permitted me to take several photos to help come up with an identification confirmation.

Red Phalarope. Photo  by P. Vankevich
Red Phalarope. Photo by P. Vankevich

I was pretty certain that it was a shorebird in the phalarope family. The challenge was deciding which one it was. In North America, there are three phalarope species: Wilson’s, Red and Red-necked. With the latter two species, as their names imply, when in breeding plumage, identification is relatively easy. In the winter after their molt in early fall, both are rather similarly drab with, gray, white and black plumage that can make identification challenging.

I sent it around to some of birding friends for their opinions. Paul DeAnna, who lives on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and participates in the Ocracoke Christmas Bird Count every year, weighed in with his opinion: Not much doubt here. I checked five different field guides, including Sibley, National Geographic and the O’Brien Shorebird Guide, and there is nothing I saw in any photo or illustration to indicate this is anything other than a Red Phalarope. Overall structure is Sanderling-like and more robust than Red-necked, with a shorter, thicker bill. The clincher for me is the pale gray mantle–nothing like the mottled appearance of Red-necked. It’s not too far out of range, but of course should be miles offshore. Must have been blown in on a storm. Congratulations on this rare find.

Kent Fiala, editor of the Carolina Bird Club website, replied, “I would call it Red. Unmarked gray back, not a needle bill. Red is probably the most likely species, as well.”

Jeff Pippen, who has an excellent website on North Carolina’s flora and fauna, made this observation: Yes, that’s a Red Phalarope.  Poor thing must be sick since it’s not bouncing in the water along the edge of the Gulf Stream with its brethren now.  Red Phalaropes are the expected winter species here in NC and are relatively common offshore but fairly rare onshore.

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Red Phalarope in Spencer’s Market parking lot. Photo by P. Vankevich

Phalaropes are unusual in that the female’s plumage is brighter and more striking than males. It is believed that a female’s drab plumage for many bird species is useful for concealment during their long period of incubating their eggs.

What is more unusual is that Red Phalaropes and Red-necked Phalaropes, unlike other shorebirds, winter well out to sea. So to see one on land this time of year and especially in the village was highly unusual.

I thought it was interesting that it chose the pebble parking area at Spencer’s Mark to rest. This was probably as close to its summer arctic habitat it could find.

Red Phalarope in breeding plumage. Photo courtesy  of Wikipedia Commons
Red Phalarope in breeding plumage. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

So why was it here? Possibly it is a sick and weakened bird that lacked the strength to resist wind and was blown onto the island. It did not appear to be injured and after more than an hour of observation, it flew off, perhaps back to sea.

Islanders Susse Wright, Maria Logan, Sue Dayton, Norma Sigal and Patty Johnson Plyler as well as her visiting birding sister, Barbara Rice, and our expert hawk and falcon observers, Gil and Jann Randell all got an opportunity to see it.

 

WOVV annual meeting set for March 3

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Ocracoke Community Radio’s (WOVV)  annual open meeting will take place Tues. March 3 at the Ocracoke Community Center.

Some items on the agenda are the status of the move of the radio station to the second floor of the old fire house on Back Rd, update on the Fourth Annual Ocracoke Island 10k/5k and 1 Mile Family Fun Run scheduled for Saturday April 25, current on-air programs and plans for future ones, election of directors and officers, budget report and a request for volunteers for both on-air and off-air operations.
One may bring a dessert or snack to share at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting will start at 7.

WOVV can be heard on the island 90.1 FM, and online at wovv.org.

Ocracoke Community Radio’s mission is to provide the Village of Ocracoke, and its visitors, with a community-enhancing medium of education, information, civic discourse and entertainment through access to the public airwaves for locally-focused, regional and national programming produced by, and responsive to the needs of, our unique island community.

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