December 28, 2010

The highlights of the year on the islands


Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers has put together his view of the year on Hatteras and Ocracoke through his camera lens.

The photos cover events large and small that are basically very community oriented.

And that’s what life is like every year for islanders and our regular visitors.

The slide show begins last year – New Year’s Eve of 2009 – when the folks at Conner’s Supermarket in Buxton wound up their 50th anniversary celebration by raffling off a 2009 Chevy HRR.  Customers had been entering with their receipts all year, and the winner was Dennis Waters of Taylorsville, N.C.

An interesting event last winter, especially for anyone who spent any time on the beach, was the U.S. Geological Survey’s scientific study of beach processes.  For weeks, beach goers could see boats, divers, and amphibious vehicles at work.

And, of course, the main event of the winter was the move of Serendipity, the beach cottage that became famous in the feature film, “Nights in Rodanthe,” starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. 

The iconic house was built in 1988 and was the northernmost cottage on Hatteras Island.  However, erosion had seriously threatened it, and it was condemned by Dare County after a 2009 northeaster.

Ben and Debbie Huss, huge fans of the movie and Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, came to the rescue.  They bought the house the first week in January and hired Expert House Movers, the company that moved the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999, to jack it up, load it on a flatbed trailer, and move it about a half mile south to another lot with a spectacular ocean view but less threatened by the ocean. The move happened on Monday, Jan. 18.

After about four months of repairs and renovations, Serendipity was restored to its former glory and now looks just as it did in the film.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse has been undergoing a much-needed and long-awaited facelift. The $2.8 million project to restore and refurbish the lighthouse got underway late in 2009 and is expected to take about 18 months.

When the restoration is finished, sometime in 2011, the Park Service is planning to allow the public to climb to the top.

The Lady Hurricanes basketball team had another bang-up season.  In late February, the team became sectional champions after several exciting games.  The Lady Canes advanced to the state tournament, but, alas, lost their first game in early March.

The Hatteras village shipwreck at the end of Flambeau Road has continued to fascinate locals and visitors for many years. The very large, old, and interesting wreck is periodically uncovered by coastal storms and then covered again by sand, and much more of it has been visible in recent years because of winds and tides that take sand off the beach. 

Don Bowers photographed the wreck on a stormy day in March.

And an Island Free Press reader, Helen Pannell of Salvo, sent us terrific photos she took of the wreck in late October after Hurricane Earl and several other storms brushed the coast. They comprise our second year-end slide show.

A new Dare County Department of Parks and Recreation and Hatteras Island Babe Ruth Baseball field was dedicated on April 17 in Buxton and named for Maurice “Dick” Burrus, a Hatteras village native who played baseball for the major leagues.

Throughout the winter and into the spring, work continued on Clam Shoal off Hatteras Island to restore an oyster reef there. The funds, which provided jobs for several islanders, came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Portsmouth Island’s Homecoming this year was April 24. Every other year, descendants of island families and visitors who have come to love Portsmouth gather for a church service, singing, and dinner on the grounds.

In May, a 32-foot juvenile humpback whale stranded itself on a shoal in Hatteras Inlet and caused quite a stir and various park and wildlife officials tried to save it.  In the end, the whale was euthanized.

The two major issues on the islands this year were, as they have been for some years now, the replacement of the aging Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island and the future of beach access in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The third annual “Stand in the Sand” was on June 25 this year and raised money for the groups that are fighting for beach access.

In July, what might be the oldest shipwreck in North Carolina was moved from Corolla on the northern Outer Banks where it was discovered to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village. The overnight move on a flatbed trailer went smoothly, despite stormy weather.

July 4 fireworks displays were cancelled on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands this year in the wake of a tragic explosion last year that killed four workers for a pyrotechnics company and injured another. After the explosion, the state wrote new regulations for folks who handle the fireworks, and the organizers of the three displays on the islands couldn’t get workers certified in time or didn’t want to spend the money in tight economic times.

In late summer, Jeff Johnston of the Greystone Project in New York traveled to Hatteras with employees and colleagues to film a video on the beach access issue on the seashore.  It was entitled “Piping Mad” and it got wide exposure on YouTube. It was later made into a full-length documentary that has not been shown publically yet.

Hatteras and Ocracoke were lucky this year during a busy hurricane season.  A few storms passed offshore and brought heavy seas, but only one – Earl in early September – got close enough to do minor damage. The fishing pier in Frisco, which has been in bad shape and closed for several seasons, took a major beating from the huge waves.

And several regular fall events were major undertakings for islanders and attracted good crowds.  They included Day at the Docks: A Celebration of Hatteras Island Watermen in September and Bike the Light and Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation’s Fun Run in October.

And December brought some movement on two issues that have plagued the islands for decades.

On the same day, The National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration issued Records of Decision that will affect our future.

The Park Service signed off on an environmental study that will be the basis for off-road vehicle regulations next year.  And the Federal Highway Administration signed off on a much-studied, discussed, and delayed replacement for the Bonner Bridge.

A few other notable events happened this year.

On Dec. 7, voters in the villages of Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras approved a referendum on selling mixed drinks in restaurants and other venues.

And University Health Systems of Greenville, N.C., announced it would close one of its two medical centers on Hatteras.  HealthEast Family Care in Hatteras village will close on Dec. 30.  Villagers are making other plans to continue to offer health care in the building, which is owned by the county.

And, finally, the day after Christmas, a northeaster moved past Hatteras and Ocracoke with a promise of some snow.  To the north and west, there was plenty of snow.  But our islands saw only a dusting of the white stuff – and plenty of wind.

Happy New Year.



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