Though the name for the Bonner Bridge replacement is not yet set in stone, a new moniker for the structure has caused heated debate across the board for island residents and visitors, especially in online and social media spheres.
The debate unofficially began at the January 7 meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC), when Commissioner Ervin Bateman first floated the idea of renaming the new Bonner Bridge structure after another prominent county citizen, Marc Basnight, after he was approached by his local constituents.
After some discussion, the Board of Commissioners decided to take the decision out of their own hands, and to pose the question to the public. An online form was created by the county so that members of the community could submit their input and suggestions, and the results were tallied and presented to the BOC roughly a month later, at their February 4 meeting.
Per a report by the Outer Banks Sentinel, the total votes via the county’s “Honorary Designation and Naming of New Bridge at Oregon Inlet” form were as follows:
- Basnight – 309 votes
- Bonner – 266 votes
- Oregon Inlet – 74 votes
- Toby Tillet – 60 votes
- Hatteras Island – 34 votes
- Scott Day – 33 votes
- Bert Austin – 15 votes
- Midgett (various) – 14 votes
- Warren Judge – 11 votes
- Andy Griffith – 4 votes
At the February 4 Board of Commissioners meeting, (and after hearing the final form results), the commissioners then approved a resolution by a 3-2 margin to ask the North Carolina Board of Transportation to support naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet after former State Senator Marc Basnight.
On Wednesday, February 6, the request cleared its first hurdle as the N.C. Board of Transportation’s Road, Bridge and Ferry naming committee recommended naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet the “Marc Basnight Bridge,” with a sign underneath it saying, “Oregon Inlet,” and keeping the remaining section of the current bridge, (which will be used for a as walkway / fishing pier), as the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.
The full N.C. Board of Transportation will vote on the resolution at its next monthly meeting on March 7. However, the story of a new bridge name doesn’t end there.
Per a recent press release, a group of Hatteras Island locals started a Facebook page called “KEEP It Bonner.” The page was first published midday on Friday, February 8, and by Sunday evening, the page had nearly 600 followers who supported not renaming the new bridge.
Organizers of the group pointed out that, per the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Road, Bridge or Ferry Naming Request Process, the name was required to get unanimous support on a local government level, per part four of the process which reads “If the local government(s) pass(es) the resolution unanimously, the application progresses in the process…” The group says that this did not occur in this case, citing the 3-2 vote by the BOC.
“It’s the opinion of most that the matter should have been dead on February 4th when it didn’t receive the unanimous vote typically required to bring the matter before the state,” stated the group in the press release.
“We feel strongly that sufficient awareness wasn’t brought to the public and that if a more thorough polling had been conducted, the Commissioners would have realized the overwhelming opposition to their vote,” the statement continues.
Though not scientific, casual polls on social media sites and media outlets seem to lean in favor of keeping the name Bonner, but other organizations – like the town boards of Manteo and Kill Devil Hills – have publicly supported and passed resolutions to name the bridge after Basnight. Simply put, it’s a question that has divided the community, and which continues to attract strong voices from multiple directions.
The bridge name question will be officially answered after the March 7 vote of the N.C. Board of Transportation on the resolution, but until that occurs, the heated debate will likely continue in the days to come.
What do you think the name of the bridge should be?
The Island Free Press wants your input via our online poll on what the replacement bridge should be named.