Your roving Beacon reporter will not be in Southern Shores today. Please let us know what kind of day you have, on the roads and elsewhere.
Town Manager Cliff Ogburn did not change his mind about canceling today’s left-turn prohibition at U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail, telling homeowners who contacted him, and then contacted us, that he would restore the prohibition next Sunday if the traffic today warrants it.
On a different subject . . . Southern Shores Mayor Tom Bennett and members of the Town Council reported at their meeting last Tuesday about a special program they had attended at Jennette’s Pier concerning “sustainable” tourism.
“We’re at our saturation point” on the Outer Banks, Mayor Bennett said, succinctly stating what many of us year-rounders have been feeling this summer, as we head up or down the road on any day of the week and run into traffic backups.
The section of the so-called bypass from the site of the former Kmart, south to the YMCA, has been especially congested. So has the road to and from Duck.
Town Councilman Leo Holland said that if he were a vacationer, encountering bumper-to-bumper traffic upon arrival to, and departure from the Outer Banks, and then while staying here on any day, he would consider vacationing elsewhere. We can empathize with that view.
It did not take a glance into a crystal ball during the past 25 years to foresee that with the pace and density of development in the Currituck County Outer Banks and with the redevelopment in towns to the south of Southern Shores that replaced modest family motels and cottages with “mini-hotels” and other high-density housing that a “saturation point” would arrive one day. (Which is not to say that Southern Shores, which adhered to a policy of gradual growth in its development rollout, has not contributed to the saturation.)
Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the European vacation and other distant vacations away from American tourists, has accelerated the arrival of that day, and next summer, as Mr. Holland suggested, the traffic congestion will abate a little.
But the U.S. public-health scenario is not responsible for the increase in Airbnb and VRBO rentals, which add more people to resident single-family households, and encourage new buyers to purchase year-round houses and convert them to Airbnbs.
While we all can identify causes for the saturation, we would prefer to hear from our government officials, especially at the county level, what “solutions” they may have. A report to town residents from the Southern Shores Town Council about the ideas they heard at the “sustainable tourism” meeting would be much appreciated.
One idea that we believe deserves serious consideration—and at one time (decades ago) was implemented half-heartedly—is public transportation, including shuttle buses that ferry tourists from bus stops to destinations they commonly visit, such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Nags Head Woods Preserve, and Jockey’s Ridge.
Any type of shuttle that allows vacationers to leave their vehicles at their vacation residences when they go out would be welcome. Minibuses or trolleys could take them to restaurants, to the outlet mall, to Roanoke and Hatteras islands for a day trip, or to “The Lost Colony” production, as just a few examples.
We believe Dare County, and the individual beach towns, need to engage in what is essentially urban planning to reduce the crush of “saturation.”
We welcome your comments on the Beacon blog and Facebook page. Thank you and have a great day.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/8/21