As of today, you can add Wednesday to the days when summer vacationer traffic cuts through Southern Shores on South Dogwood Trail.
Yes, that was cut-thru traffic that you saw all afternoon streaming up South Dogwood Trail, running the stop sign at East Dogwood Trail, turning left on Hickory Trail, and then making another left on Hillcrest Drive.
Homeowners in the 200 block of Wax Myrtle Trail also reported watching a steady flow of cut-thru traffic on their street during the afternoon. They traced it to traffic turning off of a backed-up Duck Road at Porpoise Run and Dolphin Run.
I also saw “jump-off” traffic on Ocean Boulevard north of the Duck Road split, as I came and went several times today from the Southern Shores woods to the beach.
Bob Woodard , chairperson of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, recorded a videotaped message last Friday in which he asked Dare residents to “be respectful” and “patient with those around us,” as we experience “record-high visitation numbers at Dare County beaches and attractions” this summer.
The cut-thru traffic in Southern Shores yesterday and Monday was noticeably greater than it usually is on a week day during the summer, but it did not reach the volume of traffic heading north on our roads today.
At different times, northbound traffic on N.C. Hwy. 12 backed up to Chicahauk Trail.
Mr. Woodard advised us in his message that we are going to be confronting “some challenges” this summer, “particularly in the amount of traffic” on the roads.
He told us to “expect some delays and traffic jams on [our] way to work and to visit [our] friends and family,” as well as “longer lines and wait times” at restaurants and at shops.
He told us to be “prepared” for these challenges and to make allowances, as he once again held aloft King Midas’s golden cup of vacationers’ money, calling our out-of-town visitors “the lifeblood of Dare County.”
You may recall that we heard that same refrain last summer when the tourist hordes arrived in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Woodard told us then: “Be respectful. Be patient.” Nice words. I don’t disagree.
At no time in his four-minute video, however, did Mr. Woodard ever mention what Dare County would do to help to alleviate the congestion, the crowds, the unsafe conditions, the sheer misery in what the Chairman called “our little slice of Outer Banks paradise.”
Government unquestionably played a role in creating the “challenges.” So where is government now? Backing up to a laissez-faire stance, taping messages about respect.
I know tourism makes resort areas go round. No surprise there.
I also know how resort areas are ruined by over-developing land with high-occupancy “structures” like those you see on the Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head oceanfronts, one after another, where modest cottages and family motels once stood, and by constructing over-sized houses in remote places that are not served by adequate infrastructure.
Sorry, Mr. Woodard, telling me to be patient just doesn’t cut it.
It took me an hour and 15 minutes to travel round-trip today from the intersection of East and South Dogwood trails to the Outer Banks Hospital–an essential errand–and I considered that good time.
It was the middle of the day; the sun was shining brightly; and people were on the U.S. Hwy. 158 bypass, jamming it up, as if a mandatory evacuation were in effect.
I took Woods Road to Kitty Hawk Road to the bypass and stayed on it until I reached the Dare Centre. At that point, I saw no future in driving on the highway and diverted to the beach road. I returned to the bypass at Dowdy’s Park, near the YMCA, and took it past the Nags Head Woods Preserve and Jockey’s Ridge, and on to the hospital.
Thank goodness for the nature preserves and parks. If only the Outer Banks had more.
I’m going to give you better advice than the Chairman of the Dare County Commission gave you: Avoid N.C. 12 in Southern Shores and take the beach road if you have to drive anywhere south of the Kitty Hawk Post Office.
I also encourage restaurant owners and other businesspeople to remember their local clientele by offering us special incentives (discounts, hours, nights) for coming out. We don’t want to avoid you, but patience can only get us so far.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/23/21
Residents of Hillcrest Drive seem to have borne the brunt of the cut-thru traffic in Southern Shores yesterday when both a left-turn ban from U.S. Hwy 158 on to South Dogwood Trail and “local-traffic-only” road closures were in effect, according to reports received by The Beacon from homeowners as well as comments posted on our Facebook page that were mixed, but mostly favorable.
(In a background story on 6/18/21 about this weekend’s traffic mitigation, we called the addition of road closures to the left-turn ban at the 158 intersection “Plan B.” The Town Council authorized Town Manager Cliff Ogburn to implement the Plan B local-traffic-only barriers if, in his sole discretion, he thought they were warranted.)
Homeowners in the 300 block of Wax Myrtle Trail, where traffic—including a commercial-size bus—came to a standstill on Memorial Day weekend for hours, emailed The Beacon that “Whatever the town did today 100 percent solved our problem at this end of town. . . . [There was] absolutely no backup or cut-through traffic of any type” yesterday. The couple described the change as “Absolutely wonderful.”
“Without question, the Local Traffic Only signs were a success!” emailed another homeowner in the 200 block of Wax Myrtle Trail.
The reason for the traffic backup on Hillcrest Drive, which extended westward from Duck Road (N.C. Hwy. 12) up the hill well past the SSCA tennis courts, was obvious to any observer of the South Dogwood Trail-to-East Dogwood Trail cut-thru traffic flow: Despite a local-traffic-only barrier on Hickory Trail, out-of-towners were routinely turning left there and then taking a left on Hillcrest Drive.
With Sea Oats Trail closed because of road construction, most motorists reached N.C. Hwy. 12 via Hillcrest Drive, not Sea Oats.
Mary Ann Hurd, who lives in the closed 300 block of Sea Oats Trail, which is generally jammed with cut-thru traffic on a summer Saturday, said it was “relatively quiet” on her street yesterday. Traffic seemed to have increased today, Mrs. Hurd reported, noting, “I can hear them crunching by” on the gravel pavement.
Homeowners who live on Sea Oats Trail between Hickory Trail and Hillcrest Drive also told The Beacon that yesterday’s traffic was “relatively quiet, but we did see several cars race by quite quickly.”
Hickory Trail homeowner David Watson said he watched through traffic making illegal turns on to his street yesterday whenever he went out to walk his dog. Motorists with out-of-state license plates only obeyed the barrier, Mr. Watson said, when a police officer was on the scene. As soon as the officer left, they resumed turning illegally on to Hickory Trail.
Mr. Watson also noted that the heaviest cut-thru traffic flow on Hickory Trail occurs between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., a time when there typically is no police coverage.
While one homeowner who lives on East Dogwood Trail near Holly Trail commented that “there seemed to be more than normal traffic on East Dogwood” yesterday, it would appear that Hickory Trail, the westernmost of the four cut-thru streets restricted by the Town yesterday and today, experienced the heaviest flow of scofflaw motorists, while the other roads were largely spared.
This same homeowner said he had no trouble driving to the Hillcrest Beach in the morning, but on his way home around 2 p.m., he saw a backup of about a dozen vehicles waiting at the Hillcrest Drive-Duck Road intersection.
The Beacon heard from only one oceanfront/oceanside homeowner, who reported in the late afternoon yesterday that the “traffic wasn’t that bad on Ocean Boulevard before the [Duck Road] split and pretty non-existent on the split,” meaning on Ocean Boulevard between the cell tower park and Hickory Trail.
Remaining on Ocean Boulevard past the cell tower has been a way that northbound vacationers have tried to get around the congestion on Duck Road.
No one from Chicahauk contacted The Beacon yesterday to weigh in on road conditions there.
The Beacon looks forward to a comprehensive assessment from the Town about the effectiveness of Plan B on the weekend cut-thru traffic.
We also welcome comments from all Southern Shores residents about their experiences this weekend with traffic. We especially would like to hear from people who went through the U.S. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection. Police presence there appears to have made a difference in the volume of traffic on South Dogwood Trail.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/20/21
“Local-traffic-only” barriers with signage are in place already today at the entrances to four residential roads off of East Dogwood Trail that are part of Southern Shores’ notorious weekend cut-thru traffic route.
The barriers will block northbound through traffic tonight and this weekend at East Dogwood Trail’s intersections with Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail.
The road closures are part of a “Plan B” that the Southern Shores Town Council authorized Town Manager Cliff Ogburn earlier this month to invoke in conjunction with a weekend left-turn ban at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail.
Unlike last weekend’s left-turn ban, which proved especially unsuccessful on Saturday, Mr. Ogburn told “The Outer Banks Voice” this week that the June 19-20 ban will be enforced by the Southern Shores Police Dept.
He also said that the left-turn signal off of U.S. 158, which is controlled by the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, will be red at all times. Last weekend the light went through its green-yellow-red rotation, appearing to be operational.
We have driven legally by a local-traffic-only barrier three times this afternoon. The first time, we were the only travelers on the road. The second time, another vehicle with a North Carolina—but not an OBX—license plate passed through in front of us, and an SUV with New Jersey plates that was jammed with beach vacationer equipment passed through behind us.
The third time we observed the driver of a pick-up truck with Virginia plates in front of us hesitate and then drive straight on East Dogwood Trail, instead of turning left on to Hickory Trail at the local-traffic-only barrier.
The left-turn ban at U.S. 158 and South Dogwood Trail will be in effect Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m., according to the Town of Southern Shores newsletter, which was published online today.
Please post your comments about the effectiveness of Plan B tomorrow and Sunday below today’s Beacon blog and Facebook posts. Thank you.
Have a good weekend.
THE BEACON, 6/18/21
I have been in the hospital the past four days, sitting bedside with my mother, who became so sick last week that I had to call for emergency assistance. An ambulance transported her home yesterday around 5:15 p.m., and I followed in my car.
While sitting at the traffic light at Woods Road and U.S. Hwy. 158—waiting to cross over to South Dogwood Trail—I observed five vehicles turn right from 158 on to Woods Road and then turn around in the middle of the road. I saw more doing the same after the light turned green, and I passed through the intersection.
I observed no police presence at the intersection.
I drove as slowly as I could on South Dogwood Trail until the traffic came to a standstill, somewhere between Tall Pine Lane and Yaupon Trail.
From my brief encounter with the cut-thru traffic yesterday, I would say that the left-turn ban was a failure. I have received text messages from friends in Southern Shores who confirm that assessment.
It is time for the Town Council to step up and “gate” South Dogwood Trail and Juniper Trail on summer weekends, so only locals can use those roads, and close all of the “jump”-off roads from N.C. Hwy. 12 into the residential areas, including Ocean Boulevard at the Duck Road split, Porpoise Run, Dolphin Run, Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, and Eleventh Avenue.
East Dogwood Trail must remain open, but the arteries off of it—Wax Myrtle Trail, Sea Oats Trail, Hillcrest Drive, and Hickory Trail—should be open only to local traffic.
Desperate times call for (long-overdue) desperate measures. The cut-thru traffic in Southern Shores is no longer just a matter of diminished quality of life and inconvenience. It is a threat to the well-being of all residents, an obvious safety hazard. The Town Council cannot just look away and pretend it does not exist and does not demand preventive action.
I will say more when I can. In the meantime, please record your comments on the Beacon blog and Facebook pages. Thank you.
Best wishes to all, Ann
The Southern Shores Town Council voted unanimously last night to start the no-left turn weekend program on June 12, instead of June 26, as originally planned, in light of the crush of cut-thru traffic that jammed residential roads for hours over the Memorial Day weekend.
The Council also gave Town Manager Cliff Ogburn authority to initiate road closures to try to further mitigate the traffic problems created by vacationer traffic entering Southern Shores at South Dogwood Trail, traveling to East Dogwood Trail and Hickory Trail, and then coming to a standstill on Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail.
The dates when eastbound motorists will be prevented from legally turning left on to South Dogwood Trail from U.S. Hwy. 158 are as follows:
June 12, but not Sunday, June 13, as of yet;
July 31-Aug. 1
As Councilman Matt Neal explained—and the Town Council finally made clear—the Council’s intent is to evaluate the effect that prohibiting the left turn at South Dogwood Trail-U.S. Hwy. 158 has on the volume of residential cut-thru traffic before deciding to close roads.
The Council is well aware of where vacationers “jump the line” on Duck Road by turning into the residential area and would like to see traffic counts on these roads, as well as on South Dogwood and Hickory trails, when the no-left-turn is in effect.
Mr. Ogburn was delegated the authority to restrict entry to Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail at their intersections with East Dogwood Trail to “local traffic only,” a measure that would force all other traffic to join N.C. Hwy. 12 at the East Dogwood Trail intersection.
Although the Council did not discuss enforcement measures, in the event that these roads are closed, it indicated an awareness that police presence is necessary.
The Town Council also discussed closing Ocean Boulevard to through traffic at the Duck Road split/cell tower park. Diverting off of N.C. Hwy. 12 on to the section once known as the “low traffic area” of Ocean Boulevard and then rejoining Hwy. 12 at Hickory Trail has become increasingly popular among vacationers headed to the northern beaches.
According to Mr. Ogburn, week-day closures of the section of Sea Oats Trail now under construction are scheduled to start today.
The Town Council further directed that Sea Oats Trail be closed to through traffic on the weekends, during the duration of the road project, preferably at its intersection with Hillcrest Drive, but it did not take a formal vote to authorize such a closure. Presumably this closure, too, is within the discretion of the Town Manager to execute.
BEACH NOURISHMENT TAX RATES SET
In other action last night, the Town Council approved the fiscal year 2021-22 town budget with the following tax rates to fund the 2022 beach nourishment project:
Properties in municipal service district (“MSD”) 1 (oceanfront): 7.15 cents per $100 of property value
Properties in municipal service district 2: 3.0 cents
Remaining properties townwide: 4.0 cents
These rates compute to cumulative totals for each property category as follows:
MSD-1: 14.15 cents for every $100 of property value, for a total tax in FY 21-22 of 33.73 cents (14.15 cents plus the general tax of 19.58 cents)
MSD-2: 7 cents, for a total tax of 26.58 cents
Townwide: 4 cents, for a total tax of 23.58 cents
These rates are only in effect for the next fiscal year and may be changed by the Town Council in subsequent years of the five-year debt cycle for the project.
The Town’s annual debt for the project is about $1.4 million, of which the Town will pay $200,000 from its undesignated fund balance.
According to Mr. Ogburn’s figures, the tax rates approved by the Town Council mean that of the remaining $1.2 million, MSD-1 property owners will pay 20 percent; MSD-2 owners will pay 17 percent; and the remaining property owners in town will pay 63 percent.
While last night’s meeting was unusually sluggish and the Council adjourned after 3 ½ hours without finishing its agenda, The Beacon appreciates and commends members for the decisions they made.
PLEASE NOTE: Mayor Tom Bennett announced that the Council will no longer accept written public comments transmitted to the Town Clerk and read aloud at meetings. Henceforth, the Council will observe its customary pre-pandemic policy of receiving only in-person verbal public comments, which are limited to three minutes.
The Council will not meet again until July 6, so I will have ample time to attend to the demands of my real life and put The Beacon on the back burner.
Yes, I lied about not reporting on the meeting, but I just couldn’t leave you in the dark, especially about the cut-thru traffic.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/2/21