Column: Anybody for a swim?
By JEFF ODEN
winter fading into spring and sunny days finally displacing the rain, a
jump in the ocean will soon be on most everyone’s
the simple truth is we shouldn’t have had to wait this long for that
Why is that, you might ask? Well, my answer to that is that
my brother Kenny Oden passed away back in 2004, in his will he donated
a piece of property to the kids of Hatteras Island.
He and his lawyer, Jean Louise Dixon, came to the conclusion that the
proceeds from the sale of the property would make a wonderful start
towards a swimming pool. And, let’s face it, what kid doesn’t enjoy a
So, with this in mind, in the summer of 2008 my family
check for $400,000 to representatives of the Dare County Board of
Commissioners towards the goal of a year-round aquatic
Consider on this island surrounded by water the potential
benefits of a school and community pool.
As a fisherman who spends close to a third of the year
am still amazed when I hear another captain or mate admit that he or
she doesn’t know how to swim. I can also
Guard safety training, which will soon be mandatory on commercial
vessels, being administered in such a facility. I was recently
reminded that nine fishermen in the last 25 years have
drowned in this county while pursuing their occupation, and I
think of four others. I am sure there are more.
Need I say more? If only one of those lives lost
was related to the inability to swim, then we should feel shame.
With these examples, I am looking at the issue of a community pool from
my perspective. So what about the kids my brother had in mind?
Well, what about a swim team for starters? Does anybody doubt
that our kids would excel? And, of course, this
facility would also open many other doors to more safely
the many aquatic activities available to our unique area -- surfing,
lifesaving, diving, kiteboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, bodysurfing,
waterskiing, or maybe even paddle boarding.
Also what about the elderly? They often have difficulty finding
suitable exercise for aging joints.
And, lastly, I am thinking back about my brother who went through 23
operations and spent untold hours and months in rehabilitation
away from this island. One of the most beneficial aspects of a
community pool facility would be its use for therapy and rehabilitation.
Yes, the possibilities are endless. So what’s the holdup?
Well, that’s a question that I need you to help me
In this case, the first order of the day is to acquire a piece of
county land which the project can call home. Other required
criteria for this project are high ground and a close proximity to the
With that understanding, it was quite a relief to find out that prior
to my brother’s passing, there was already an effort underway to create
this community pool complex that had identified county property for the
project. You see a survey done by the county has
identified a need for these facilities countywide, and this donation
gives us on Hatteras Island the inside track.
The most suitable property is called the “Blair tract,” which is
located by the Cape Hatteras Elementary School in Buxton. The
holdup there is that our Dare County Board of Education is hesitant to
relinquish this property for a couple of reasons.
One is the
board envisions a possible need for a middle
seems doubtful in my mind with the Coast Guard no longer the
presence it once was and enrollment down from projections, but
am I to question the wisdom of the Board of
Another reason the board cites is that because of the current economic
conditions, the school system doesn’t want to lose this asset.
Therefore, another suitable property is the old U.S. Weather Bureau
complex in Buxton that now serves as a soccer field. It is
high ground and close to both schools, and I would
another suitable soccer field can be found
Also, Allen Burrus, our Hatteras Island representative on the Board of
Commissioners, mentioned the possibility that the county might acquire
the old Navy Base/Coast Guard property in Buxton
might be an option in the future.
It is less suitable than the other properties since it is not on high
ground and farther from the schools. But one thing is for
It would certainly make a good soccer field!
So there it is, folks. At this point and in these tight
keep in mind that we are not asking for money for this project, even
though matching funds are available through The Dare County Parks and
Recreation Department. All we are trying to do at this point
to get a footprint that this project can call home. The
It also should be noted that there is a long list of citizens
waiting in the wings who have offered their particular expertise in
making this happen, including the Hatteras/Ocracoke Committee of the
Dare County Chamber of Commerce.
The rest is up to you -- the public. If you think
project is a good idea, then help us make this happen by
a dialogue with both our county commissioners and our Board of
Education for a solution to the deadlock.
If you islanders show just 1 percent of the persistence my
could when he wanted something done and was restrained by his
physical disabilities, then the project will start the day
tomorrow -- if not sooner.
It’s your call -- and thanks.
Oden lives in Hatteras village and is a commercial fisherman.)
Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners: [email protected]
Allen Burrus, vice-chairman of the board: [email protected]
All seven Dare commissioners the clerk: [email protected]
School board members and e-mails: http://www.darecountyschoolsonline.com/moxie/board/members/index.shtml