Work on Wright Memorial Bridge to End Soon

Wright Memorial Bridge looking west.
Wright Memorial Bridge looking west.
All Lanes to Be Open Before Peak Season

The Wright Memorial Bridge has been in NCDOT news lately. The immediate news is that the work on the eastbound bridge—inbound—will be finished on schedule or maybe even a bit earlier than scheduled.

The scheduled reopening for the bridge is May 14.

The bridge has been closed since October for $21 million in much needed upgrades and repairs. During that time, what is normally the westbound bridge has been used for inbound and outbound traffic.

The twin spans of the Wright Memorial Bridge were completed at different times, with the first bridge completed in 1966 and the parallel span 30 years later.

The refurbishment was overdue. An October 2016 assessment rated the eastbound bridge’s overall condition as poor with a sufficiency rating of 37.9. Although that is a relatively low rating, at no point in time was the bridge considered unsafe, and the 37.9 sufficiency rating is significantly better than the Bonner Bridge rating in the single digits.

All signs point to the replacement for the Bonner Bridge completed on schedule in the fall of this year.

There is other news from NCDOT about the Wright Memorial Bridge, although this news has to do with the chronic traffic backups that occur during the summer on weekends.

NCDOT has ranked the intersection of US158 and NC12 as NC12 heads north to Duck and Corolla as a priority. Priority in this case means it ranks high in projects that need to move forward. It does not mean construction is imminent.

What the actual plans are for the intersection will be is difficult to say. The notice simply ranks the project compared to other statewide priorities and assigns an approximate dollar figure.

That dollar figure is $97 million. For that amount of construction money, it is likely that a much discussed flyover for the intersection that would take northbound traffic directly to NC12, bypassing the traffic light is likely. There will certainly be other improvements as well.

Start date for the project is 2025 0r 2026.

Outer Banks Taste of the Beach This Weekend

Annual Taste of the Beach a Feast for the Senses
At last year's Chowder Cook-off.
At last year’s Chowder Cook-off.

The Outer Banks Taste of the Beach is not like any other food festival out there. A culinary adventure? Yes, it is. A chance to tour the Outer Banks with a purpose? It certainly is. An opportunity to discover how talented Outer Banks chefs really are? You bet!

From Corolla to Manteo there are events scheduled all day every day now through the Grand Tasting that wraps things up on Sunday. Unfortunately the Grand Tasting is sold out already, but there are still lot of events worth checking out.

Tomorrow it’s the Outer Banks BBQ & Wings Showdown at the Pointe Golf Club in Powells Point—a couple of miles north of the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge on the Mainland.

The graded of the Taste of the Beach cook-offs though is the 10th Annual Chowder Cookoff that’s sponsored by Coastal Provision in Southern Shores every year. It begins at noon. Bring a really good appetite, and a jacket may be a good idea this year. It’s an outdoor event and no rain in sight, but it may be a bit chilly.

The Taste of the Beach is much more than the big events, which is what makes this such a special time on the Outer Banks.

Lots of wine tasting—and even a few beer tastings. A wine tasting that we have always enjoyed is at Sanctuary Vineyards where they’re hosting “Toast The Coast: A Selection of NC’s Finest Wines & Cheeses.” It’s an all day event every day through Sunday. It’s a great opportunity to try some very well made local wines.

In the morning on Saturday and Sunday, Brooke Mayo is offering “Food in Focus: A Delicious Crash Course in Culinary Photography.” Brooke is one of the finest photographers on the Outer Banks and is married to John Wright, the manager of Sanctuary Vineyards.

The weather is looking a bit on the cool side for the weekend, but there is so much to do that the weather shouldn’t matter that much anyway.

Northern Outer Banks Brewing Latest OBX Microbrew

Newest Microbrew Located in Corolla
Northern Outer Banks  Brewing logo.
Northern Outer Banks Brewing logo.

And now there are four—that’s right, now there is one more microbrew on the Outer Banks.

Northern Outer Banks Brewing joins, The Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills, Weeping Radish in Jarvisburg and Lost Colony Brewing in Manteo in creating locally brewed beer.

Unlike the other microbrews, Northern Outer Banks Brewing is not going to have a pub or restaurant on premises, although located at the shopping center on Old Stoney road between Cosmos and Metropolis there will be plenty of great food available.

Brought to life by lifelong Corolla resident Michael Cherry, NOBB is starting off with four beers: Corolla Lager, Penny’s Hill IPA, Swan Beach Honey Pale Ale and Corolla Honey Saison.

According to reports the beers will be available at a number of locations. Here’s what the reporting says: Black Pelican, Hurricane Mo’s, Mulligans, Lucky 12 and The Pier House Restaurant. Four packs are available from Manteo to Corolla. Check out Buffalo City Jug Shop, Trio, Chip’s Beer and Wine, Tommy’s Market, 7-11, Stop N Shop, Brew Thru, Butcher Block, OB Gas Corolla and Tommy’s Market to see what Norther Outer Banks Brewing is brewing.

However, we looked around and it doesn’t look as though the microbrew is in full production yet.

In our quest to insure accurate and timely information for our Joseph Lamb, Jr. readers, we were going to taste all four beers and report on our findings. Unfortunately a trip to two of the listed locations—Trio and Chip’s—only turned up the Penny’s Hill IPA.

After much internal discussion we decided to forego waiting for all four beer to be available and just go with what we had. Besides, it was calling to us from the refrigerator.

Review: Penny’s Hill IPA

Looking or a big hoppy IPA with a dry finish that leaves you begging for water? If that’s the case, this is not your beer.

Unlike many of the modern IPA that are out there, this is a very well-balanced beer. Yes, there is a bit of a hoppy finish, but it’s full flavored ale.

This is a beer that would go with a wide variety of foods, or do nicely as a standalone sipper at any time of the year.

Changes Coming to Carova Beach Use

County Commissioners Consider Beach Parking Fee for Northern Tip of Outer Banks
Carova Beach is the main thoroughfare north of Corolla.
Carova Beach is the main thoroughfare north of Corolla.

There may be some changes coming to how the beaches of Carova are enjoyed this summer.

The Currituck County Commissioners are considering an ordinance that would charge a fee to park—not drive—on county beaches in the 4WD area.

It is important to note that this is still tentative; the commissioners have not voted on any legislation yet. Equally important, this does not impose any fees on driving on the beach.

The proposal is a response to growing complaints and concerns that beachgoers parking in the middle of the beach are creating a hazard in the 4WD area. Because the beach is the the main thoroughfare between the end of the paved section of NC12 and Carova, the safety of drivers and the people enjoying the beach have become an issue.

As now proposed the fees would be somewhat similar to the structure used for NPS 4×4 permits.

As now proposed, there would be two parking pass fees—a $50 for a 10-day parking pass or $150 that would be valid for a calendar year.

According to the reporting we’ve seen, the permits could only be purchased at the County’s two visitors centers in Moyock, just over the state line, or at the visitor’s center in Corolla. Similar to the NPS system, purchasers of a permit would have to watch a video on safe use of the beaches.

There are a number of concerns with the proposal as written.

With travelers already using the visitor’s centers heavily during the summer, a number of critics have wondered if staff is adequate to handle the new demands. The purchase of a pass would also require a second stop for travelers who have often been driving for most of the day.

Under the current proposal, Currituck County residents and property owners would not be charged for a pass.

Kill Devil Hills 4th of July Fireworks Friday Night

Extending the 4th of July celebration. Fireworks on the beach at Kill Devil Hills this Friday.
Extending the 4th of July celebration. Fireworks on the beach at Kill Devil Hills this Friday.
The Celebrations

We had a spectacular 4th of July for most of the Outer Banks. The Duck Parade was every bit as whacky and wonderful as ever, and the watermelon at the end of it was perfect.

Manteo really came through this year with a wonderful outdoor concert from the 208th Army Band at Roanoke Island Festival Park followed by a spectacular fireworks display.

And Nags Head…there is something beautiful and powerful about celebrating the birth of our nation with fireworks on the edge of a continent. Looking east, there is only the vast darkness of the sea, and the lights of the fireworks are like a beacon of freedom in the darkness.

Kill Devil Hills Fireworks

There’s still a chance to catch some Independence Day fireworks, even if the event isn’s quite on Independence Day.

Kill Devil Hills will be holding their pyrotechnics show tomorrow night—that’s Friday June 7. Evidently the demand for fireworks was so great this year that it could not be scheduled earlier.

But in this case it seems to have worked out well.

Tuesday, which was July 4th this year, was an iffy day for weather;  there were threats of rain and rain showers all day. At RIFP there was a light occasional rain throughout the performance of the Army Band, but that didn’t keep what looked like 1500 people away.

But the weather did put the Whalehead Club plans on hold and at last check we didn’t see anything about rescheduling, so it looks as though Corolla may not have fireworks this year.

Admittedly it’s a bit of a trek from Corolla Kill Devil Hills—about 25-30 miles. In the winter it’s about a 45 minute trip. In the summer? Figure an hour to an hour and ten minutes. But if fireworks are part of the July 4th week itinerary, there is an option for visitors staying in Corolla.

Grab a beach towel and maybe a beach chair and put some time aside to enjoy fireworks on the beach in Kill Devil Hills.

Three Outer Banks Parks for the Whole Family

Sandy Run Park in Kitty Hawk is an ideal place for a family to introduce children to nature.
Sandy Run Park in Kitty Hawk is an ideal place for a family to introduce children to nature.

The Outer Banks prides itself in being a family oriented place for a family to visit and there is a lot for the whole family to do while here.

There are the obvious things…going to the beach, checking out the Wright Brothers Memorial, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island.

Sometimes though, it’s the small things that make a place special and the Outer Banks does that well too. Especially the town and county parks that often offer a break from the regular vacation things to do.

Here are three Outer Banks parks, all of them absolutely suitable for families

Whalehed Club, Corolla
The Whalehead Club seems to have something for the whole family.
The Whalehead Club seems to have something for the whole family.

The Whalehead Club, which is part of Currituck County Heritage Park, isn’t so much a park as it is a place to visit.

With a large, expansive lawn kids can run until they drop; the setting is exquisite so Mom and Dad can spend some time just enjoying the view.

Lots of activities here too, with a tour of the Whalehead Club available, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is a wonderful small museum and of course Currituck Beach Lighthouse begs to be climbed.

Sandy Run, Kitty Hawk

Located on the Woods Road in Kitty Hawk, Sandy Run Park is a beautiful example of

a maritime forest and wetlands.

A boardwalk circles the pond and wetlands and in the summer hundreds of turtles like to sun themselves on logs that are on the surface of the pond. Kids will love that.

There is also a catch and release area for fishermen.

Local families make this a regular spot to bring their children because of its beauty and the chance to talk to kids about the natural environment.

Dowdy Park, Nags Head
Dowdy Park--a great playground for kids.
Dowdy Park–a great playground for kids.

The newest edition to the Outer rBanks Park scene, seems like it has something for everyone.

There is a beautifully designed playground with some really innovative concepts—a swing designed for a child who is in a wheelchair is just one of the design features that make this a must see place.

For the adults , there is a fitness trail. For everyone, there are picnic pavilions, covered tables and grills.

OBX Weekend Music Highlights Spring Festivals

Southern Culture on the Skids performing at Shred Fest.
Southern Culture on the Skids performing at Shred Fest.

Hot music but cool temperatures…that sums up the weekend music scene on the Outer Banks.

Last fall we lost out on one of the best music weekends anywhere when Hurricane Matthew caused the cancellation of the Mustang Music Festival and the Duck Jazz Festival. This past weekend may have made up for that with Shred Fest on Saturday and the Mustang Spring Jam on Sunday.

Saturday-Shred Fest

It looks as though Shred Fest is here to stay and if so, that is great news for the Outer Banks music scene. And for the shredders out there on skateboards, BMX bikes, roller blades and yes even a scooter.

Saturday started with temperatures near 80 and it was all downhill for the chill factor after that, but the rain held off, and with headliners Southern Culture on the Skids and Los Angeles based Pharcyde, the sounds were varied, innovate and great.

S.C.O.T.U.S. never disappoints. A great show with their send up of Southern culture including throwing fried chicken in to the audience. But the show only works because they are so good musically that the audience keeps coming back for more.

It would be hard to imagine any two groups being any more different that S.C.O.T.U.S. and Pharcyde.

Hiphop and rap based rhythm and vocals, seem to have nothing in common with the tight musical chords of S.C.O.T.U.S., but talent always wins out, and the Pharcyde is talented and creative and worth seeing.

Shred Fest does benefit local charities, including the Mustang Music Outreach Program, veterans groups and the special need population.

Sunday-Mustang Spring Jam

Mike Dianna has been putting on the Mustang Spring Jam up in Corolla for the past six years. It looks as though this is going to be the only Mustang music festival this year as Mike recovers from the Hurricane Matthew forcing him to cancel his fall Mustang Music Festival.

One thing’s for sure—Mike has the magic touch when it comes to music promotion.

The head liners, Big Something and London Souls were fantastic.

Big Something’s music is a complex weaving of different styles with band members playing a variety of instruments.

London Souls is in your face, loud, head banging rock; but take a step back from how cranked up the volume was this is a duo that’s almost redefining what two musicians can do with music.

What Mike always does at his Mustang festivals is bring out some of the best of local talent and this year was no exception with Zack Mexico and the debut of The Ramble.

The Ramble was really good, playing a wide variety of arrangements and playing it really well. They’ll be playing around the Outer Banks this summer, so they are definitely worth checking out.

The shows always begin with the kids from Ruth Wyand’s Mustang Music Program. They never disappoint.

Cold & Snow Bring OBX Magic to Corolla

Whalehead Club boathouse with the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the snow.
Whalehead Club boathouse with the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the snow.

It snowed yesterday on the Outer Banks an it’s cold today. By any standards, it’s cold. The daytime temperatures struggled to make to 25 degrees and there was a brisk northwest wind all day to make it seem more like 12 or 15.

Even though we didn’t get much snow there wasn’t much melting. From the Village of Duck and south it was really just a coating, and it’s still laying in the ground.

North of Duck, though, it did snow.

Everything started as a cold rain on Friday night, but by early afternoon, the Village of Corolla looked like a scene from a Currier and Ives New England lithograph from the 19th century.

North of the village the maritime forest of the Currituck Banks Estuarine Reserve lost the vibrant green of summer beneath a blanket of white. There were reports that some of the Corolla Wild Horse herd was wandering through the woods, scraping the snow from grasses and plants; taking shelter, no doubt, from the wind.

The wind was a howling merciless foe along the sound. Looking into the wind, the snow—with a little bit of sleet mixed in—was painful to face. And no amount of layers or winter clothing could stop the cold from seeping through.

Yet it was undeniably beautiful.

It was snowing so hard in the afternoon that it looks as though a haze had fallen over Corolla. From the Whalehead Club, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse which usually looms over the grounds, became a towering shadow, its brick red walls an indistinct gray in the snow.

There was almost no one out during the afternoon; the wind, the cold and the snow were an effective deterrent to spending much time outside. With so few people about, there were no footprints in the snow, and no sound except for the wind and the music of falling snow.

The snow and cold weather is a temporary thing—jutting out into the ocean as the Outer Banks does temperatures rarely stay below freezing for long. But for one day at least, there was winter magic in the Village of Corolla.

Dog Friendly Rules for Enjoying OBX Beaches

Along with being a family-friendly place the Outer Banks is also dog-friendly.

For our visitors Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates offers a great selection of pet friendly homes, and for visitors and residents Outer Banks beaches and towns offer plenty of opportunity to take four-legged family members to the beach.

There are some restrictions and it’s important to know what they are. The rules also change from town to town so know your location.

There are amendments from time to time the rules governing when dogs are allowed on our beaches. As an example, the town of Kill Devil Hills just added two months when dogs are allowed on the beach. The only restrictions at this point in time in Kill Devil Hills are the cannot be on the beach during the daytime during the summer.

Here’s a quick rundown of the local rules when it come to dogs on our beaches.

Cape Hatteras Seashore

Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round as long as they are restrained by a leash of 6 feet or less. They are restricted from designated swim beaches such as Coquina Beach and buildings.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round as long as they are restrained by a leash of 6 feet or less. Pets must not disturb wildlife and must be under the physical control of the owner at all times.

Nags Head

Dogs must be on a leash, but there are no other restrictions.

Kill Devil Hills

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day no dogs are allowed on the beach between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Dogs are permitted on the beach at all other times of the year, but they must be on a leash.

Kitty Hawk

During the summer, from the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day dogs can be on the beach beach. Between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. they must be on a leash that is no longer than 6’. At all other times, dogs can be off the leash but must be within 30’ of the owner and the owner must have a leash with them.

Southern Shores

Southern Shores has a leash ordinance and dogs must be on a leash at all times. From May 15 to Sept. 15 dogs are not permitted on the beach between 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.


Dogs are allowed on the beach and they can be unleashed, but owners are responsible for their pet’s actions. In the town park and public areas dogs must be leashed.


Dogs are allowed on the beach year round but must be on a leash at all times.

Exec Director of Corolla Wild Horse Fund Retires


Measuring the impact that Karen McCalpin, the Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, has had on the Outer Banks and Corolla in particular is tough. Not because there hasn’t been any, but because the impact is so huge.

For the people who have gotten to know her and the passion and love for the Corolla Wild Horses it’s tough to imagine what it would be like without her. But that reality is coming to pass.

After 10 years, Karen is retiring. Her last day will be December 31.

Karen McCalpin.
Karen McCalpin.

She’s moving back to her native Pennsylvania. Most of her family is there…grand kids, children and a husband who has commuted for most of her time at the CWWF.

The CWHF was 10 years old when Karen took over and under her leadership it has become a dynamic advocate for the Colonial Spanish Mustang. Before she came on the scene, there was some doubt about the genetic pedigree of the Corolla herd, with many horse experts believing the Corolla herd was a mixture of American breeds and at most there was a little bit of mustang in them.

Karen wanted to know. She insisted on working with the best genetic experts and having the herd examined by some of the most respected members of the Horse of Americas Registry and the American Livestock Conservancy—two organizations that determine the lineage of horses. What she found was, yes, the Corolla Wild Horses are a direct genetic link to the mustangs the Spanish explorers brought to the New World.

Having the Colonial Spanish Mustang designated as the North Carolina State Horse was a result of her outreach to school children.

There was a side to her that was tough and unyielding—qualities she needed when she went toe to toe with USFW over the size of the herd that would be allowed in Carova—a herd that would have been so small if USFW had their way that it is doubtful if the horses could have survived.

And this is just a partial list.

So…yes, Karen will be missed, but she is one of those luck few who can look back on something an know their legacy will live on.

She will be moving on to another position. Somehow it’s not surprising what she will be doing next. She will be the executive director of a therapeutic riding center in Pennsylvania.