Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Some Answers....

....or at least points to ponder.

Our recent posts about Ocracoke and change inspired a number of comments and questions. I always like to reply to our readers' questions, so here goes (I'll take the inquiries in the order we received them):

The East Coast (nay, the whole world)NEEDS your unspoiled serenity, not another overpriced, honky-tonk wasteland!

OK, this is a comment, not a question, but it is typical of so many comments of our readers who replied to Jude's initial post. (I chose this comment as representative of many others.) I can only say that I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and with the others who long for the Ocracoke they love and cherish not to "change" in the sense of becoming like every other coastal tourist trap.

You folks need to hold on tight to what you have as long as you can, because when it's gone there's no going back. I don't want Ocracoke to lose the charm that it has.
That's what keep bringing people back year after year. If Ocracoke winds up like a Myrtle Beach, then what have you got?.

I believe I speak for most, perhaps almost all, of our island residents when I agree that Ocracoke needs to hold on to our sense of community, our culture, our traditions, our lifestyle, our sense of humor....(you fill in the rest of the blanks).

What is your background in writing, language, etc? Your abilities as a writer are uncommonly good and suggest specialization in the field, or perhaps a career in teaching. Am I close?

Thank you for the kind words. Well, you are only close. I did teach a couple of years off the island; and I taught here at Ocracoke way back in the mid-70s. But I have no background in education. Wasn't really a very good teacher, either. At least I don't think I was that great. However, I love to read....and think. My educational background is in Philosophy and Religion. It's a wonder anything I write makes any sense.

One would only hope that Ocracokers have their zoning laws in order, and that esthetics and "quality of living" trumps "making money" under at least [some?] circumstances. Also, that the cost of living is somehow kept down so that the kids of native Ocracokers can afford land and a house AND non-natives of modest means can continue to visit and stay in Ocracoke. I would hate to think that in 20 years only rich people could live or vacation on OK Island.

Whoa! This is a complicated question/comment. Actually I have few answers. Ocracoke has no zoning laws (in the sense of commercial, residential, and industrial "zones"). We do have a building ordinance, but not a particularly strong one, and enforcement is problematic. For one thing, our county seat is so far removed, and we have so little influence in county decisions. It is very complicated. Also, many other factors complicate this issue. To name just one, strict building codes, for all their good intentions and benefits (and there are many), tend to drive home prices up. When large lot sizes are mandated, and various restrictions are placed on construction, properties (especially in coastal communities) become more desirable, and thus more expensive. I wish I knew a solution to this dilemma.

How much more do you think the island can change? For example, how many more buildable lots are available? Is there the potential for lots more to be constructed or is most of the large places already full? Around the harbor, how many more lots do you anticipate will change or built upon? Can the towns infrastructure handle another building boom?

I don't know the answer to this question. But I do know that almost anything is possible, and all too often small communities like ours are re-active, rather than pro-active. How do you identify the next potential problem? How do you know you're right? How do you convince your fellow citizens to prepare for something that may never materialize?

How many buildable lots are available? I own four contiguous lots that total about an acre. Could I bulldoze everything down, connect the lots, and build a motel? I suppose, but, of course, I wouldn't. But how could we prevent someone else from doing the same thing? I don't know.

I wonder though if Portsmouth wouldn't have discovered a new breed of folks if the government hadn't stepped in.

Perhaps. An "artists' community?" Maybe an experimental Utopian society? It might have been wonderful, creative, and exciting. But it wouldn't have been the traditional island community.

I hope that there are ways for the next generation to be able to afford to stay on the island if they want.

We all hope for this. But it is a struggle. By now, most local families have pretty much divided up their traditional holdings for children and grandchildren. We'll have to see what will happen to the next generation. If only we could halt change. But then, what would we be hoping for. As I said before, change is inevitable. The only rational goal is to direct the change and work for change that is life-affirming and community-building. And then we need the good graces to accept the changes and to continue to strive for all that is good and healthy and nurturing (even if that means working for other changes).

I hope this discussion has prompted us all to do whatever we can to preserve all the best of this wonderful island of Ocracoke.

Our latest monthly newsletter is Lou Ann's story of commercial clamming with 13 year old Morty. You can read it here.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:20 PM

    This is a wonderful post and I appreciate you responding to a couple of thoughts that I had been wondering about. Portsmouth captured my heart while I was there and although I am not against change I do really wonder what would have happened to that island if Ms. Babb and Ms. Dixon hadn't been forced/asked to leave. On my one too brief visit on Ocracoke I received many different responses when I asked that question. Some people seemed downright hostile about the government stepping in particularly the gentleman who escorted us to the island but when talking further with him about that it seemed like he had a monetary interest in the island. I'm not sure if it's intentional that it's so hard to find out information about the island or if that's a reflection of time moving on. I truly believe Portsmouth Island is North Carolina's best kept secret and I wonder with all the publicity Ocracoke has been receiving lately what will become of Portsmouth.