What to Develop for Tourists?

Jenny Scarborough

The Ocracoke Tourism Development Board met October 15.

The five member board has existed for about a year, and discussed the need to shape its procedures and clarify its mission. 2/3 of their yearly budget of approximately $300,000 is designated for marketing and promotion. 

How can the remaining 1/3 best support services and facilities that enhance a visitor's experience? The group mentioned drafting a mission statement to guide their decision-making, and are at work on a press release that will outline their goals. There was no discussion of what those goals might be, or how they translate into action, but talk of several potential projects took up the bulk of the (blissfully) only hour long meeting.

Land is available at the site of the former Island Inn for public restrooms. Ocracoke Preservation Society purchased the property with plans to do a historic renovation of the structure for use as a visitor center. The TDA has committed $20,000 in support of the Island Inn project, and anticipates providing financial assistance in the future, though budgets are approved yearly. OPS is willing to provide space for restrooms, but has no interest in funding their construction or maintenance. 

Commissioner Tom Pahl said a working group is forming to look at restroom options, which "could very well be up and running by next season."

A new septic system will be installed on the former Island Inn property this winter. A $15,000 grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation will allow the committee guiding the rehab to stabilize the building, making it less of an eyesore now that demolition of two wings has been completed. 

Public bathrooms seem to be a reasonable request, said TDA board member Daphne Bennink. The TDA could provide funding to an entity, such as Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, to take on the project, said Pahl.

Board member Martha Garrish questioned whether anyone would want the job of cleaning the facilities. Pahl said a draft design allows for selling advertising space within the restroom facility, which could help offset the costs of cleaning and maintenance.

Bennink said the Island Inn/visitor center endeavor appears to have broad public support, but in approving $20,000 for the project it became clear that they had yet to establish a procedure for how funding requests to the TDA should be made. Board member Greg Honeycutt said it should be transparent and equitable for all local organizations that seek resources for infrastructure projects and events.

Another project that may merit TDA funds is a walkway, planned by the NC Coastal Land Trust, over the salt marsh between Loop Shack Hill and the Community Park. Honeycutt is part of the campaign to raise $300,000 to build the trail in 2020. He would recuse himself from a TDA decision to provide financial support for the walkway, but hopes the board would consider contributing $15,000 each year for the next two years.

The TDA approved $390 to design a logo for use on their letterhead and promotional materials. The logo should be beachy, clean, and convey a sense of community and strength, it was suggested. 

Marketing Director Helena Stevens, whose position is funded through the TDA, said office space continues to be a need. She currently works out of her home, and has materials stored both there and at her business. The board has been looking at possibilities. 

The next TDA meeting is scheduled for December 10, at 1 p.m.in the Community Center. The board members are Amy Howard, chair; Daphne Bennink; Wayne Clark; Martha Garrish; and Greg Honeycutt.

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