Jenny Scarborough
Day One

Robert Raborn got the tenth beach driving permit issued on Ocracoke. 

"The Park Service owns the beach now.  This is the beginning.  Pay attention," he said.  Robert is not a fan of big government.  He wore his Ron Paul T-shirt to commemorate the first day since the National Seashore was established in 1953 that islanders and visitors have to pay to drive on Ocracoke's beach.

Robert and I take a beach ride several times a week.  This afternoon we saw more vehicles than we have all winter, roughly 10.  That may have been because the drum are finally starting to hit.  About 2/3 had the stickers affixed to their windshields. 

We pulled up next to two fellows from Pennsylvania to chat.  One has owned a home on Ocracoke since 1980.  Between the gas to get here, a NC fishing license, and the beach driving permit, I don't have any money left to spend, he told us, at least partly in jest. 

Reid Robinson was taking a ride out to south point.  Captain of the charter boat Devereaux, Reid told us he'd had four groups call and cancel because they didn't want to pay to drive on the beach. 

Even though Robert ponied up $120 for the permit, good through December 31 of this year, we weren't entirely in compliance, lacking the mandatory jack support board. 

Yesterday we were just a couple of middle aged friends driving the beach, listening to public radio, and stopping to scoop up sand dollars.  Today we were criminals.

Day One

We broke the law a second time.  It states that drivers must overtake pedestrians on the landward side.  There were kids running around --pedestrians!-- up near the dunes, and we were cruising the shore, watching for dolphins.  Should we do the legal thing, and manouever up and around them, we wondered.  Feeling rebellious, we opted not to.

Are permits driving away visitors?  Kimberly Hansen answered the phone at Blue Heron Realty.  They have lost "a handful" of customers, she said.  One couple that cancelled had vacationed on Ocracoke for the past 28 years. 

"Rumors scared a lot of people," said Kimberly.  About half of the people she talks to have concerns and questions.  Reassuring visitors that driving beaches are accessible, albeit at the cost of $50 per week, has added to the workload of property managers and associates. 

On the other end of the spectrum, "Lots of first time visitors have no idea you can drive on the beach anyway," said Kimberly.

Kari Styron at Ocracoke Island Realty said their office hasn't had any cancellations due to the new fees imposed on beach driving.  Kari said she is "surprised" that there hasn't been as much negative feedback as anticipated.  When people do mention it, they are not in favor, she said, adding, "We shall see."

As of 3 p.m. today, 22 yearly permits and 2 commercial fishing permits had been issued on Ocracoke.  The commercial permits only apply when the driver of the vehicle is working. 



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