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Last year when vacationing in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina we hopped over to Ocracoke Island just to see what was there and to see if there was anywhere left where huge houses didn’t block the view of the beach for the peasants unable to afford the $5,000 a week rent.
It so happens there was.
The United States thankfully has preserved the beaches on Ocracoke – or their location makes them too susceptible to the elements to make development cost effective, so the feds were forced into conservancy – resulting in a lovely pristine beach with nary a turret or widow’s walk in sight.
Ocracoke and neighboring Portsmouth Island are where Blackbeard the pirate hung out when not indulging in his illicit shopping sprees. It is to islanders credit that they keep this fact low-key and there are no gigantic plastic buccaneers greeting you when you disembark one of the island’s three ferries.
The island is accessible only by ferry or, for the wealthy, airplane.
“It’s a whole different atmosphere,” my brother warned us. He had day-visited the island the year before, knowing better than to rent there with his teenage son in tow. “It’s a lot quieter than anywhere on the Outer Banks.”
He said this knowing we purposely rented in the most active part of Outer Banks – Nags Head – because of our own kids. From our usual rental the kids could access a lifeguarded beach, a shopping mall, miniature golf and go-carts without needing a adult to drive them there. It provided the Heirs with that heady first taste of freedom without their parents having to white-knuckle it back home. We would constantly “bump into them by chance.”
Now the Heirs are older and one of them drives and one of them will be driving. Go-carts and hanging out at the mall don’t cut it anymore and I think they’ve caught on to that whole chance meeting thing.
On Ocracoke I can give them an entire island and a curfew. There are no bars, since beer and wine are the only alcoholic beverages legal for sale in restaurants. They couldn’t speed through village streets if they tried since not only are they so narrow as to barely let two vehicles pass each other, they’re also clogged with pedestrians and bicycle riders.
But there is enough of a teenage population here for them to do what teenagers love to do more than anything, which is look at other teenagers. And, as mother to boys, I was happy to see the tart ratio is at a minimum and very few thumping basses roam the streets.
As you may have guessed by now, there is the usual resident/developer, local/tourist tension here inevitable in an ideal vacation area.
Right now the charming village and slow pace are amenities that cost. For the same price on Outer Banks we could be in a luxury condo with a private pool, hot tub, and a bathroom for each person.
Not many people will tolerate the – er – intimacy of sharing a vacation in such close proximity to family members a small cottage offers. Our bed is in the same room as the back door and we all share two bathrooms. (Then again, there is no sneaking into or out of this house after curfew — not that such a stunt has ever entered the mind of the Heirs. . .)
But we look out to a harbor and are within walking distance of cute, privately-owned shops and local entertainment. The beaches are quiet and clean.
Still, I have a little nagging guilt that I can enjoy all this only because I can afford it. I can afford “quaint rusticity.” I am a “Bobo in Paradise” and this bothers me.
It doesn’t take a genius to know a whole lot more money can be made if you tear down these charming cottages and build four luxury condos in their place, turning cozy little Ocracoke into the cookie cutter Outer Banks. And then your view becomes other luxury condos that look exactly like yours.
Yet, I would be uncomfortable telling a local resident that he must turn down juicy offers from developers so that I can enjoy the ambiance of looking at his cottage two weeks out of the year.
This is hardly a dilemma to be contemplating while enjoying the fruits of that dilemma and there are others to struggle with it more experienced than I with resort development.
Until that time I will breathe deep, relax and pay up.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 7:42 AM | Permalink

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