Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Maritime Forests

Maritime Forest of the Outer BanksThe beach, that wonderful merging of ocean and sand that seems so perfect will always be the draw bringing visitors to the Outer Banks. But there is another side to this strip of sand, another world of beauty and wonder waiting for the slightly adventurous.

The soundside of the Outer Banks seems to be a world apart from the seashore. Heavily forested but with easy trails, it calls out to be explored.

There are four protected maritime forests on the Outer Banks. Three of them are part of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve— Currituck Estuarine Lands, Kitty Hawk Woods and Buxton Woods. Nags Head Woods in Kill Devil Hills is administered by the Nature Conservancy.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve lands do have some ongoing research and they are protected lands, but all of them are open to the public and all offer some great opportunities to get to experience a the maritime forests of the Outer Banks.

Currituck Estuarine Lands

About three quarters of a mile past the village of Corolla heading north, NC12 takes a 90 degree bend to the right. At that bend there is a small parking lot that that is the trailhead to explore the Currituck Estuarine trails.

There is a gate that leads to a boardwalk. The gate must remain closed at all times. The Corolla Wild Horse herd does come into the reserve from time to time and the horses must be kept away from the heavily traveled areas of Corolla.

The boardwalk is a very easy half mile stroll to Currituck Sound. The boardwalk crosses wetlands and swamp, bordered by towering pine trees. The view at the end is wonderful, looking across to Monkey Island, an island that was once home to one of the most storied hunt clubs of the Outer Banks.

A little more adventurous, but still a very easy walk through the woods, is the three quarter mile Maritime Forest Trail. Look for some steps with a sign marking the trail on the right side of the boardwalk about 200 yards from the gate.

A good pair of sandals—not flip-flops—or walking shoes is fine for this trek. Eight years of age and up, should be fine be able to navigate the path.

The trail, marked by blue-topped posts, winds through the forest, passing through one of the most spectacular groves of live oak on the Outer Banks. Squirrels are abundant and there are lots of birds around.

A seasonal note: horses do come into this area during winter storms to get out of the worst of the wind.

Kitty Hawk Woods

A little more challenging than the Currituck trails, the paths in Kitty Hawk Woods should be fine for anyone in reasonably good shape ten years of age and up. The terrain does have some hills in it—although those hills, which are very heavily wooded are actually relict sand dunes.

Best trailhead is probably at the end of Ridge Road in Kitty Hawk. The trail will be right in front of you.

There are a couple of intersecting paths along the way. For anyone who has never hiked through Kitty Hawk Woods before, it’s probably best to stay on the main path—the trails can bet a little bit confusing at times.

This trail is remarkably different from the Currituck trail. There is enough elevation gain in the relict sand dunes and sufficient soil has accumulated to create a hardwood forest.

On both sides of the trail there is are extensive wetland swamps, and the trees and vegetation in the those areas are noticeably different than the trees and vegetation along the trail. The trail is about three quarters of a mile long so out and back would be 1.5 miles.

Bikes are allowed in Kitty Hawk Woods and any bike rider with reasonable skills on a mountain bike will have a great time in the reserve.

Buxton Woods

Unlike the other Outer Banks maritime forests, Buxton Woods, located on just south of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, does not border a sound—Pamlico Sound in this case. Rather, the forested area is protected by a line of dunes that keep the worst of the Atlantic Ocean winds away. It is located at the elbow of Cape Hatteras.

There are a number of ways to explore the reserve with entrances on the south end of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and off NC12.

It does take a while to drive there from the northern Outer Banks—45 minutes to more than an hour—but there are some very interesting characteristics to Buxton Woods.

All of the Outer Banks maritime forests are at a transitional point between subtropical and temperate zones. At Buxton woods it is at its most apparent. Towering pines, typical of temperate forests make up the canopy, but at their base, saw palmetto palm trees thrive.

The roads into the reserve are very sandy and recommended for 4WD only.

Nags Head Woods—The Nature Conservancy

Nags Head Woods has something for everyone. There is an ADA trail, simple loop trails suitable for younger children and a surprisingly rugged trail that follows the ridge line of what was once sand dunes.

For the adventurous, the Blueberry Ridge Trail is the way to go. The elevation gains are as steep as anything seen in mountain hiking, although not nearly as extended. Surrounded by hardwood trees, hiking up an incline of 25-30%, there are areas in Nags Head Woods that are unlike any other trail on the Outer Banks. Listen carefully, though, and the distant sound of the surf breaking on the shoreline create a sensory treat unique to a maritime forest.

Bikes are not permitted on the trails in the park. However, there are some dirt roads running through the preserve that make for a great ride.

During the summer especially, the Estuarine Preserve and Nags Head Woods have a number of programs geared toward kids.

The Estuarine Preserve offices are in Kitty Hawk at 4352 The Woods Road. Nags Head Woods offices are on the grounds at 701 West Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills. The Estuarine office is very short staffed and someone is there only sporadically. Someone is always manning the Nags Head Woods office.

 

 

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey's Ridge State ParkWith over 1,000,000 visitors annually, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is one of the most visited parks in the North Carolina State Park system.

A relatively small park—426 acres—it’s appearance is striking with Jockey’s Ridge, a massive 74’ sand dune higher than any other natural feature on the Outer Banks. The park is home to the Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School, the oldest and largest in the nation. From the slopes of the dune, novice hang glider pilots learn how to soar.

It is an ideal place to learn how to fly what are actually gigantic kites. With nothing to disturb the wind, there is almost always a breeze blowing across the dunes; as landing zones go, sand is a far more forgiving surface than the packed dirt or rock of schools located in mountains.

Jockey’s Ridge may also be one of the finest places in the world to fly a kite. A consistent wind practically guarantees ideal conditions for kite flying, and the view from the top of the dune is spectacular with the Atlantic Ocean to the East and Roanoke Sound to the west.

The park, though, is much more than a huge dune or a place to fly a kite…regardless of size.

Jockey’s Ridge, that massive sand dune is called a medaño. Medaños have a number of similar characteristics; they are high, steep and hold a tremendous volume of sand. Typically vegetation does not grow on its slopes and that is the case here. Jockey’s Ridge is actually the highest of a series of dunes within the park, and because of the interaction of forces of sand, wind, sun and rain, the environment is remarkably complex for such a small area.

A good introduction to how complex the ecosystem of the park is can be seen at the end of the boardwalk that starts at the Visitors Center.

Standing on the observation deck there is a pond immediately in front of visitors. The pond varies in size by season and the amount of rain. Called a vernal pond. the water that is seen is ground water that has been forced to the surface. It is not surface water from rainfall.

That area seems to be in transition right now. Especially during the summer, if there is abundant rainfall—and that was certainly the case in 2017—the pond expands and takes on characteristics of a marsh. Grasses begin growing along its banks and sedges and rushes spring to life in the pond itself. As that first plant life dies off, it stabilizes the soil—which is sand— and provides nutrients as they decay.

If there is enough moisture, those decaying plants provide the environment for woody plants to begin to grow. Looking to the right from the observation deck, on the north end of the pond, there is an excellent example of that. A small but distinctly maritime forest has taken root. Pine trees dominate in that patch of forest; still not completely mature, larger trees—in southern coastal environments, live oak—have not yet become a part of the forest.

To see a mature maritime forest in the park…take a hike.

On the right side of the pond, there is a trail that leads up the dune and to the Roanoke Sound. Sometimes there is a bit of water on the trail, but it’s harmless water. Wade through it. The trail is not very well marked, but once on the other side of the dune, there is almost no vegetation. Keep heading to Roanoke Sound.

Even though it looks like an open field of sand, there are some interesting things to note. The entire dune field is very active, constantly migrating to the south. At one time, some areas were well-protected between two dunes with a vernal pond at the base. The fate of a maritime forest that would form at those sites can be seen in the dead, denuded tops of trees that at one time were thriving but are now covered in sand.

Arriving at Roanoke Sound, look to the south (left) and there is a beautiful, mature maritime forest. Protected from the corrosive effects of salt spray by Jockey’s Ridge, the maritime forest on the westerns side of the barrier island is representative of a barrier island ecosystem.

The evidence of that can be seen in a number of places on the Outer Banks—Nags Head Woods, Kitty Hawk Woods or the Currituck Estuarine system.

All I want for Christmas is… A Beach House

Christmas beach houseSo if your office is anything like mine at this time of the year it is less than a finely tuned machine running at full speed. Between the 2nd week of December and the end of the year we have staff out of the office for just under 100 days of combined work. It seems that when you call on any service firm (plumber, surveyor, electrician, etc.) to perform a job at this time of year the story is the same “sorry, we aren’t going to get to that until after the first of the year, you know with the holidays and all we just can’t get it done.”

The same may thought to be true in real estate sales at this time of year as many of our local attorneys on the Outer Banks close for that week between Christmas and New Year’s day (making it very difficult to get a sale closed and recorded), but hold on just a jingle bell minute. I am here to tell you….you never know!

There are still properties going under contract and selling at this time of the year. There is no reason to think that just because winter is arriving this month that sales on the Outer Banks go into a deep freeze. In fact if the property is listed at the right price you just never know when it will sell so be ready!

Just this past week I had notice of a property going under contract in Corolla and the buyer wants to close on the transaction before Christmas. That is less than 3 weeks between contract and close! This is a very unusual circumstance as most properties take 45 or more days to close, but it does happen that we get serious buyers and short closing times at this time of the year.

But the story to beat all is several years ago I was in real estate sales and had the experience of a real estate lifetime.

I was in the office on Christmas Eve morning wrapping up some loose ends before heading out to visit family that evening. I had some shopping to do and was organizing myself to head to the mall and do just that. As you can imagine from the 1st paragraph in this article that indeed things were pretty slow around the office. I was there, one of our receptionists was there, and someone in the accounting department was working for a half day that day as the company owner was closing the office at noon on Christmas Eve. Well imagine my surprise when I was called to the lobby to meet a prospective buyer who walked in and wanted to see a real estate agent to show some real estate. On Christmas Eve!

That surprise turned to stunned silence when I met the man, exchanged pleasantries and he promptly announced he wanted to buy his wife a beach house for Christmas.

Three hours later we had an offer to purchase written, and by 6 PM that night I had a copy of a full price cash contract to sell a house to this gentleman which he photocopied and presumably put under his Christmas tree for the Christmas present of a lifetime for his wife (no she did not see the house before he contracted to buy it). Talk about a Christmas miracle!  It was truly an unbelievable situation. To top it off the transaction closed without incident 2 weeks later.

Of course that doesn’t happen often (in fact I’ve never heard of it happening before or since), but it just goes to show you that as a seller you never know the motivation or timing of a buyer. As the great showman and World Wrestling Federation champion “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair said once “You don’t have to get ready – when you stay ready.”

Happy Holidays!

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: The National Parks

The National Parks of the Outer BanksThe Outer Banks stretch over 100 miles from Carova at the Virginia/North Carolina border to Ocracoke. There is even an uninhabited island just south of Ocracoke—Portsmouth Island—that could properly be called part of the Outer Banks.

There has certainly been development—the Outer Banks economy is healthy and it’s based on visitation. But an interesting feature is how much open space remains and how much effort has been made to retain that open space and to honor the history of the area. Much of the credit for that has to go to the National Park Service and the outsized role it plays in life on the Outer Banks.

There are three separate National Park areas locally, but they are administered jointly from Roanoke Island by the Outer Banks Group. They are Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

Cape Hatteras and the Wright Brothers Memorial are very well known, but all three sites are worth a visit.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers so much to do that we can’t list everything, but certainly some of the highlights are worth checking out.

There are a number of beaches that are managed by CHNS, and the Park Service does a great job of protecting the environment.

One of our favorite beaches is Coquina Beach in South Nags Head. The sand is remarkably soft, the beach is wide, there is plenty of parking, and restrooms and showers are well-maintained. There is a bit of a walk across the dunes to get to the beach, but the effort is well spent. A fantastic beach.

Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are open for climbing, although they do close during the winter. The climb is up a narrow twisting stairwell, and yes in the summer, it gets quite warm. There are height and age restrictions on children, and that is a safety issue. It would not be safe to carry a child on the stairs; if a child is too small or too young to climb on their own, it is best that they do not go.

Although Cape Hatteras gets most of the press, the view from Bodie Island Lighthouse is spectacular and worth the effort. It is a little bit lower than it’s sibling to the south, but getting to the top still takes some muscle power.

There is a wonderful nature trail at the base of the Bodie Island Light. Take a camera for the nature trails and the views.

Off-road driving is permitted at CHNS. A permit is required, and certain areas are placed off-limit from time to time. It is very important to know which areas are restricted and to not drive in those ares. The fines for infractions are significant.

The fishing is great on Cape Hatteras beaches, with The Point at Cape Hatteras offering some of the best action on the East Coast. Best access for most of the prime fishing beaches is with an offload vehicle. Local’s Tip—Fishing at Oregon Inlet at low tide? Watch the tide. High tide covers much of the beach. Also-anyone over 16 will need a North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License

Wright Brothers Memorial

This is where heavier than air flight began, and the National Park Service has done an extraordinary job of telling the story.

A good place to start is with a trek to the top of the Monument. It is a steep climb but putting energy into the climb yields a huge reward. The view is amazing and the opportunities for pictures unlimited. Along the base of the monument the words, “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, Conceived by genius and achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Look carefully at the word “commemoration.” The m and e run together; the story goes that the stone cutters miscalculated how much space would be needed for the quote.

Kids will be fascinated by the walk along the path of the brother’s flight, and if the flight paths seem short, it’s important to remember that before that first 12 second flight no one had ever launched an aircraft with an engine in it, controlled the flight and landed safely.

Also for kids, the interpreter’s discussion of the Wright Brothers and the Wright Flyer in the visitor’s center is outstanding. Adults and children will find it interesting and informative. For the over 12-year-old set—take some time to check out the museum as it  traces Wilbur and Orville’s quest to conquer powered flight. The genius of these American originals really comes to the fore.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Tucked away on the west end of Roanoke Island, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site marks the site of Fort Raleigh, the location of the Lost Colony. There is an easily walked trail behind the visitor’s center that passes by what has been interpreted as the stockade or fort. It’s a pleasant walk and a worthwhile glimpse into one of the great mysteries of history.

Also on the grounds is the Elizabethan Gardens. a marvelous formal garden done in a traditional English style. Waterside Theater, where the play The Lost Colony is performed is also part of the Fort Raleigh site.

The Play is the oldest continually performed outdoor drama in North America. Production runs from late May to mid August. The play’s production values and acting are outstanding and attending should be a part of any visit to the Outer Banks.

The headquarters for the Outer Banks Group is located at Fort Raleigh.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Urgent Care, Primary Care and Specialists

Outer BanksThere was a time on the Outer Banks when a broken wrist or birth of a baby meant a trip to Elizabeth City or Chesapeake. In March of 2002 everything changed when the Outer Banks Hospital opened in Nags Head.

Outer Banks Hospital

With 18 beds, the Outer Banks Hospital is a relatively small hospital, but it serves the needs of the Outer Banks community well. In addition to the 18 acute patient beds, there are two labor and delivery rooms and three operating rooms.

For most people the first visit to the Hospital is usually the emergency room. Depending on the month, daily visits to the ER average between 40 in the winter to 80 plus in July and August.

The Outer Banks Hospital was the first North Carolina hospital to receive a dementia friendly designation.

Part of the Vidant Health network, one of the largest healthcare providers in northeastern North Carolina, the hospital is also associated with Chesapeake Regional Healthcare system, giving patients access to larger hospitals with more resources.

The Vidant Health network includes a number of regional hospitals in northeastern North Carolina as well as the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, a 900 bed facility associated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

There are three areas of care the hospital has focused on—Women’s Health, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Cancer Care.

Cancer Care

The Outer Banks Hospital offers cancer care through two facilities. Its Radiation Therapy Center located just across the street from the hospital. The Cancer Resource Center is located in the Medical Office Building next door to the hospital. In addition to treatment, the cancer care team is active in promoting early detection through screenings and prevention.

Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

With two clinics, one in Southern Shores and the other in Kill Devil Hills, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine offers a full range of services including surgical procedures for joint replacements and sport injuries. Surgery is performed at the Outer Banks Hospital. The medical team also provides nonsurgical care and rehab services.

The Kill Devil Hills office is located at 3102 N Croatan Highway in Kill Devil Hills; the Southern Shores office is in the Marketplace.

Outer Banks Women’s Care

Located immediately adjacent to the Outer Banks Hospital, Outer Banks Women’s Care offers a full range of services to women, including prenatal and maternity care, well woman and gynecological surgical procedures. The practice has recently been awarded a Mother-Baby award for outpatient healthcare.

Urgent Care Clinics

The Outer Banks Hospital operates two urgent care clinics. The Southern Shores location is in the Marketplace Shopping Plaza.

The Nags Head offices are located at 4923 South Croatan Highway in Nags Head, directly across from the hospital. The Nags Head office also offers primary physician care by appointment.

Sentara Healthcare

Sentara Healthcare operates five hospitals in the Hampton Roads area and one in North Carolina at Elizabeth City. Most of the healthcare providers on the Outer Banks working in Sentara facilities are associated with Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, the Elizabeth City hospital.

Sentara maintains a large facility in Kitty Hawk at 5200 North Croatan Highway.

The Kitty Hawk site provides primary and urgent care as well as a number of medical specialist including internal medicine, OBGYN, and orthopedics and sports medicine. There are also onsite diagnostic tools.

There is also a Sentara location in Manteo. Sentara Family Medicine Physicians is located at 715 N. Main Highway and provides primary care for children, adolescents and adults.

Community Care Clinic of Dare

The Community Care Clinic of Dare provides primary and urgent care to anyone who cannot afford medical care. In addition to primary and urgent care, the Community Clinic helps patients with the cost of medications.

There are two clinics in the system: in Nags Head at 425 Health Center Drive, and on Hatteras Island at 50347 NC 12 Highway, Frisco, which is the Hatteras Island Health Department building.

Building a House on a Sandbar

Building a house on the Outer BanksWith its beautiful beaches and inviting waters, there are very few places as relaxing, as perfect for a vacation or a weekend getaway, as the Outer Banks. That’s why hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive every week during the summer, and even in the shoulder seasons people still look forward to some time by the sea.

With that popularity, quite a number of our visitors think about moving to the Outer Banks either to work or retire. Many look to build locally, either as a second home or primary residence. Building in an environment as remarkable as the Outer Banks is different from most other locations, and there is some information first time property owners planning to build need to be aware of when they begin their project.

This is general information. There are many reputable and very good builders and contractors on the Outer Banks who can fill in the details.

CAMA

An acronym for Coastal Area Management Act, the regulations covered by CAMA are administered by the Coastal Resources Commission and enforced by the NC Department of Environmental Quality. CAMA regulations and permits cover any area of environmental concern (AEC) in the 20 coastal counties of North Carolina. An AEC is defined by CAMA as, “…an area of natural importance: It may be easily destroyed by erosion or flooding; or it may have environmental, social, economic or aesthetic values that make it valuable to our state.”

In their literature about permits and regulations, CAMA note that AECs only pertain to about 3% of the land within its jurisdiction. That figure is certainly higher in Dare County and along the Currituck Banks, but it is a valid point that not every construction project on the Outer Banks requires a CAMA permit.

However, for projects that do fall within CAMA guideline, it is imperative that a permit is issued. CAMA enforcement includes work stoppage and fines, and in some cases the fines are assessed daily until the infraction is corrected.

For the most part, CAMA regulations protect wetlands and areas near the shoreline, shorelines that include the ocean and sounds.

CAMA has created a list of general guidelines for when a project might need a permit:

▪  in, or on the shore of, navigable waters within the 20 CAMA counties;

▪  on a marsh or wetland;

▪  within 75 feet of the normal high water line along an estuarine shoreline;

▪  near the ocean beach;

▪  near an inlet;

▪  within 30 feet of the normal high water level of areas designated as inland fishing waters by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission;

▪  near a public water supply;

▪  within 575 feet of Outstanding Resource Waters defined by the Environmental Management Commission.

Outer Banks builders and contractors are aware of the guidelines and should be able to get the necessary permits if required.

Weather

On a beautiful summer day with the surf running at 2’ and a gentle southwest breeze, it may be hard to imagine how harsh the environment is on buildings. But it is. The Outer Banks is considered one of the most severe environments for building in the United States.

There is always some salt content in the air and that is exacerbated in the winter when northeast winds dominate and nor’easters track up the coast. There is also almost always moisture in the air. That combination of salt and moisture is very corrosive.

The FEMA guidelines put into perspective what to expect:

“Materials and construction methods in a coastal environment should be resistant to flood and wind damage, wind-driven rain, corrosion, moisture, and decay…”

Wind is certainly a concern on the Outer Banks and all newly constructed buildings must be able to withstand a 120 mph wind.

Construction

Outer Banks homes have two somewhat unique characteristics in their construction—pilings and septic systems.

Pilings

Almost every home on the Outer Banks is built on pilings, and there are two very good reasons for that. Neither is more important than the other, and in combination, they make a good case for elevating the structure.

Even though the latest FEMA flood zone maps have moved much of the northern Outer Banks into more favorable flood zone designations, the fact is, this is a low lying area susceptible to ocean overwash or soundside flooding during storms. Elevating the structure is the most effective way to stop 6” of water from creeping into a home.

The other reason for building on pilings is two closely related factors.

Inland areas typically have dense soils with a ground water table at least 6’-8’ below the surface and usually more. Neither is the case on the Outer Banks. The soil is sandy and the water table is just below the surface. Basement construction typical of homes inland is not practical with those environmental factors.

In some of the higher elevations, the water table is deeper, but the soil still tends to be sandy.

Septic Systems

Except for an area of the central business district of Kill Devil Hills, there are no central sewer systems on the Outer Banks. Waste is handled by septic systems that are part of the homeowner’s property and responsibility.

Because of advances in technology, septic systems have become very efficient, and the effect on new home construction should be minimal if it is even apparent. However, some older smaller lots in Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head could limit the size of a structure.

Remember—septic systems do need to be maintained.

This information is designed to guide but is not definitive. As is always the case, a reputable builder who understands local ordinances and building codes is the key to a successful project.

Getting to Know the Outer Banks: The Cultural Scene

Getting to Know The Outer Banks The Cultural Scene

Living on the Outer Banks is an interesting proposition. Just about everyone who lives here owes their livelihood to the four or five million visitors who find there way to this strip of sand every year.

Full time residents love living here—most of us feel as though we have found a small slice of paradise on earth, although it does create an interesting way of life.

In the summer it is just go, go, go. And anyone who wants to work should have no problem finding a job during peak season. A lot of our retirement community take advantage of that, working 12 or 15 weeks over the summer and using that as “mad money” for a special trip or purchase.

In the off season, the Outer Banks has a surprisingly vibrant music and art scene. It’s not as diverse or as large as a major metropolitan city, but for an area with a total population of maybe 40,000 if Corolla and Ocracoke are included, this area does very well.

Our summer visitors may not be aware of how strong that scene is for a simple reason—the groups that sponsor the art shows and concerts are volunteer, nonprofit organizations and the membership is too busy during the summer to put organize those types of events.

After the summer rush, though, things really pick up for the Outer Banks cultural scene. Here’s a list of some of the nonprofit cultural organizations, what they do and how to contact them.

Dare County Arts Council

If there is a father of the Outer Banks nonprofits, the DCAC is it. Marking its official birth in 1975, it was the outgrowth of a number of working artists who felt an organization was needed to promote the arts and creativity in Dare County.

The offices and gallery are located in the Old Courthouse in downtown Manteo, and the gallery is worth a visit, with the works of some of the best artists on the Outer Banks on display.

The Gallery has become the focal point of much of the cultural activity of Manteo. A favorite happening in the town is First Friday that runs from April to December—although the December First Friday is the town’s tree lighting…a must see event.

First Friday is a celebration of small town life, with live music, restaurants and bars serving food and drinks at sidewalk cafes and businesses staying open late. In the DCAC Gallery the featured artist for the month is introduced

The Gallery is also the home to two annual art shows—the Frank Stick Memorial Art Show in late January into February and the Mollie Fearing Memorial Art Show in May.

The DCAC also sponsors Surfalorus, a surf film festival in September and Artrageous—a celebration of kids and the arts—in the fall.

The DCAC is always looking for volunteers and artists. For more information call 252-256-1610 or online at darearts.org.

Outer Banks Forum

The full name for the organization is the Outer Banks Forum for the Lively Arts, and it has been bringing outstanding music to the Outer Banks since 1988.

When First Flight High School was built, the Forum was the first group to understand that the auditorium was better than anything that had been seen on the Outer Banks and as good as any school auditorium anywhere. That is where all of their shows are held.

The Forum generally opens their season with the Richmond Ballet in September and close with the Virginian Symphony Orchestra in late April or early May. In between there is a remarkable diversity of performers. Last year that included April Verch, a Canadian fiddle player and step dancer and AJ Croce, Jim Croce’s son. Both concerts were outstanding.

For ticket information or to join call 252-256-9361 or online outerbanksforum.org.

The Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series

Don Bryan was a remarkable man. joining the Army Air Corps in 1942, he rose through the ranks, retiring as a full Colonel in the Air Force in 1972, when he moved to the Outer Banks.

He went on to become the mayor of Nags Head, but what he was probably best known for was his artwork. His paintings are wonderfully real depictions of life.

Near the end of his life, he established the The Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series to bring a variety of cultural events to the Outer Banks.

Because Don’s mandate was not limited to art or music, what the Cultural Series offers is remarkably diverse. Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough has given lectures in conjunction with his book, The Wright Brothers, the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players have made two trips to the Outer Banks, and working with the state of North Carolina, a traveling art exhibit has been part of the mix.

It is a wonderfully eclectic mix of lectures, music and art and it has helped to create a more vibrant Outer Banks culture.

For more information check them out online: bryanculturalseries.org.

Getting to Know the Outer Banks: The Schools

Getting-to-Know-The-Outer-Banks-2-The-SchoolsMoving a family to a new home involves a lot of decisions and some very real concerns. One of the most important considerations for parents is the quality of the education their children are going to receive.

The good news for families coming to the Outer Banks is the schools here are excellent—consistently rated among some of the best in the state.

This article will focus on Dare County Schools; although there are schools in Ocracoke and Corolla, most of the population of the Outer Banks and most of the schools are located in Dare County.

For information on Corolla schools contact Waters Edge Village School, 252-455-9449—a K-8 charter school, or Currituck County Schools, 252-232-2223. For information on the Ocracoke school, K-12, contact Hyde County Schools, 252-926-3281.

Dare County Schools Overview

There are approximately 5100 students in Dare County public schools. The student to teach ration is 13:1, which is notably better than the national average of 16:1.

In North Carolina, teacher pay is determined by the state and public school teachers are state employees. However, county commissioners can provide additional funds for teacher salaries and Dare County commissioners have consistently supported teacher pay. As a consequence, compensation for county teachers is better than surrounding areas. Teachers also tend to be better qualified, with better skills and the turnover rate is low.

The four year graduation rate for Dare County High Schools has been between 93-95% for some time. That is a remarkable achievement and the school system typically ranks in the top ten in the state for graduation rates.

High Schools do participate in the College Promise: Tuition-Free Courses for High School and College Credit program. Juniors and Seniors who meet course and GPA requirements can take college level classes at the College of the Albemarle, a community college that serves northeastern North Carolina. Course credits are fully transferable to any state school in the University of North Carolina system.

There are 10 campuses and 11 schools in the Dare County system. The Alternative High School is housed in First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills.

The Schools

Elementary Schools
Dare County elementary schools are K-5 schools. Although all elementary schools in the system rank well, Kitty Hawk Elementary has consistently stood out as a top tier school in state rankings. Elementary schools in particular feature very active parent participation. School PTOs sponsor annual fairs that are used to finance a number of improvements and programs in the schools. All elementary schools offer after school programs.

Kitty Hawk Elementary
16 South Dogwood Trail
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
Phone: 252-261-2313

First Flight Elementary
107 Veterans Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Telephone: 252-441-1111

Nags Head Elementary
3100 S. Wrightsville Ave
Nags Head, NC 27959
Phone: 252-480-8880

Manteo Elementary
701 North Highway 64/264
Manteo, NC  27954
Phone: 252-473-2742

Cape Hatteras Elementary
47500 Middle Ridge Trail
Buxton, NC 27920
Phone: 252-995-6196

Middle Schools
Dare County middle schools are grades 6-8. On Hatteras Island the middle school is part of Cape Hatteras Secondary School. In addition to offering a full range of team sports, county middle schools also offer band and chorus.

First Flight Middle School
109 Veterans Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Phone: 252-441-8888

Manteo Middle School
1000 Hwy 64-264
Manteo, NC 27954
Phone: 252-473-5549

High School

The three Dare County high schools rank very well in statewide evaluations. Manteo and First Flight High Schools do rank higher than Cape Hatteras Secondary School, though.

Cape Hatteras with a limited student body cannot provide the full range of athletic teams that Manteo and First Flight offer. In general, Dare County Schools compete very well in athletics and sometimes excel. The First Flight Men’s Soccer team took home the state title in 2016 and were runners up in 2015.

The schools, though, offer much more than athletics for extra-curricular activities.The three schools have very active arts programs that include award winning jazz bands, outstanding chorale groups and performance of very challenging plays.

As a gage of how popular theatre is at the schools, performances at First Flight and Manteo regularly use 60-100 students in their productions.

First Flight High School
100 Veterans Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC, 27948
Phone: 252-449-7000

Manteo High School
829 Wingina Avenue
Manteo, NC 27954
Phone: 252-473-5841

Cape Hatteras Secondary School (6-12)
48576 Hwy 12
Buxton, NC 27920
Phone: 252-995-5730

Getting to Know the Outer Banks: Basic Orientation

Getting-to-Know-The-Outer-Banks-1-basic-orientationVacationers find the Outer Banks to be a beautiful and pretty straightforward place to visit—there’s Corolla on the north end, Ocracoke to the south, and everything for the most part is aligned north and south.

However, for anyone who has made the decision to move to the Outer Banks, it quickly becomes apparent this is a more complex area than it appears at first. Different groups, of course, will have different needs and different questions; a retired couple will want to know about cultural activities, maybe a part time job and a social network; a family with children will want to know about the school systems and recreational activities.

There is some knowledge, though, that anyone moving to the Outer Banks will find useful, so we’ll start there and provide more specific information in the future.

Counties, Towns and Communities

From the Virginia state line to Ocracoke is about 125 miles and includes three counties. Currituck is the northernmost, Dare County begins at Duck on the northern end and includes most of the Outer Banks, and Ocracoke is part of Hyde County.

The Outer Banks north of Duck is sometimes referred to as the Currituck Banks and it consists of two communities. Corolla is the area from the county line to the end of the paved section of NC 12; Carova begins at the end of the paved road and extends to the Virginia state line. Carova, the home of the Corolla Wild Mustangs, has no paved roads and is accessible by 4WD vehicle only.

During the summer Corolla is a thriving small city of 40,000-45,000 new residents every week. During the winter the population shrinks to 800 permanent residents including Carova.

The Dare County Outer Banks consists of the northern Outer Banks—Duck to Oregon Inlet, and Hatteras Island or the southern Outer Banks—Oregon Inlet south to Hatteras Village.

The towns of the northern Dare County are, from north to south, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head are the original towns of the Outer Banks and have the most concentrated populations and the most services.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore begins in Nags Head and extends south to Ocracoke Island.

After crossing Oregon Inlet, the northern 12 miles of Hatteras Island is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The first community is Rodanthe, which is the northern most of the Tri-Villages—Rodanthe, Salvo and Waves.

Although they have never boasted large populations, the Tri-Villages have a rich cultural history that extends to colonial times.

After the Tri-Villages the next town south is Avon. Old timers will sometimes refer to it as Kinakeet, which was its original name. In some ways, Avon is the commercial center of Hatteras Island with the only true supermarket and shopping center south of Oregon Inlet.

Between Avon and Buxton there is a beautiful stretch of open road where Cape Hatteras Light is located. The road then goes through Frisco and finally Hatteras Village.

At Hatteras Village there is a ferry to Ocracoke. The only way on or off Ocracoke is by boat…or aircraft. Ocracoke is a beautiful little village with a permanent population of 900.

Local Representation

Neither Corolla nor Carova are incorporated towns, and zoning decisions, local fees and ordinances are made by County Commissioners who meet in the town of Currituck on the mainland. The combined populations of Corolla and Carova elect a County Commissioner who represents them.

The northern Outer Banks towns are incorporated, as is the county seat of Manteo. The towns are responsible for fire and police protection as well as enforcing their own zoning and permitting procedures.

County Commissioners are elected from the incorporated towns and work with the towns on a number of issues. Town and county cooperation was particularly important in developing an Intra-local funding formula for beach nourishment.

None of the communities of Hatteras Island are incorporated and they are represented by a county commissioner.

Rental Property Furnishings

So you have done it.  After weeks, months or maybe even years of debate you have decided to jump into the investment property swimming pool and you aren’t quite sure what is in the water.  You know the numbers based on your dealings with your Outer Banks Blue Sales agent who has shown you the long and steady historical gain of owning property at the OBX, and the decision was obvious.  Congratulations on being an Outer Banks property owner!

The house you have purchased needs some work, but you have plans to make improvements and put it in a vacation rental company’s pool of properties (Outer Banks Blue we hope) to help with the bottom line on the investment.

Over the years I have encouraged vacation rental property owners to keep in mind how lucky they are to have a place to use themselves 9 months of the year to enjoy with their family, but the fact is you have opened up a business on the Outer Banks and you need to approach the ownership of your property in just that manner.  What will help my property stand out and gain repeat clientele?  What should I do with décor and equipping the house for my future guests?  In short, what is your why?  Why your property?!

I was reading an article recently in the Miami Herald where a designer gave some great advice when it comes to décor of your vacation rental property.  “Consider a design that reflects the area where your vacation property is.  Keep the décor universal and look at it as an investment.  This is not a place for fine art, irreplaceable family items or things like bearskin rugs or antlers.”

Amen sister!   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a property and seen family heirlooms, high end art, or furniture that the owner would be upset if someone spilled something on.   As a property owner of a vacation rental you have to get used to the term “cost of doing business” when it comes to décor and guest experience.

Here are some other practical tips that I can pass along from 3 decades of managing properties on the OBX regarding equipping your property:

Rental Property Furnishings

Rental Property FurnishingsYou want furniture to be practical and durable (Cargo or This End Up furniture is neither).  With that said you also should think of style.   You want top dollar for your vacation rental, and just as I said you should not put items in that you get attached to, that doesn’t mean going the cheap route.  Today’s guests know when you cut corners and put inferior items in place.  Be sure you have enough seats for the amount of people your property sleeps, and don’t overcrowd rooms.  There are lots of flooring options, but the latest durable and practical products do not involve carpet.  Think LVT (Luxury vinyl tile that looks just like hardwood), tile or hardwoods.   Costs have come down, and you don’t have to worry about a spilled glass of punch.   Another thing to consider is “solution-dyed fabrics” popularly known as Sunbrealla fabrics.   They hold up incredibly well inside and out.

Rental Property FurnishingsDon’t Block The View

I can’t tell you how many times I go into a property and see potentially great views marred by either plastic vertical blinds (seemingly always with two or three slats missing) or ornate complex pull string/chain draperies on the sliding glass doors.   Keep it simple, but practical here too.  Large curtain rod with wooden loops holding fabric drapes are the way to go.   No strings to get tangled, no plastic blinds to break and fall out, and no instructions needed.

Sleeping Accommodations

The local health departments on the Outer Banks have a renewed emphasis on enforcing permitted sleeping capacity over the past couple of years (two people per bedroom unless your septic permit says otherwise).   No double bunk beds is the rule if you have a septic tank.  Don’t overload your house as it will directly impact the wear and tear on everything else.

There are lots more design and décor tips that we can share on this.   Be on the lookout for our next article on what items bring the biggest return on your investment.

Until then….all the best from the beach!

Contributed by Tim Cafferty, President of Outer Banks Blue.