The Price of Paradise

For the third time in recent years, the emergency ferry
route from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe has been activated, due to the Bonner
Bridge closing. This may come as a shock to most landlubbers, but to
natives, incidents like this come with the turf. Having been born and
raised on Colington Island, IâåÛåªve witnessed firsthand the many ways Mother Nature
can put up her road block. Colington road follows an ancient cow path
that dates back to the days of Sir John Colleton, and as you can imagine, they
didnâåÛåªt always follow the most suitable route. Before the state
raised the most problematic spots, it only took a NW wind around 20 knots to
completely submerge the road. If there was a hurricane, it wasnâåÛåªt even
worth trying. I can remember getting my feet wet because the water would
splash up through the gear shift, this always made for great conversation at
the lunch table. How that little Toyota truck rolled through the water
all those times, still baffles me It would have made a great
Residents of Colington
and Hatteras islands have shared many of the same hardships, including only
having one way on and off. There is however, one glaring
difference. The Bonner Bridge had an original lifespan of 30 years, and
recently scored 4 out of 100 on its inspection prompting NCDOT to deem it
unsafe for travel, again. The closest Colington came to being permanently cut
off was during the construction of the new bridges. The old wooden span
had caught fire, just as the new span was being completed. As for the Bonner
Bridge, this is not the first time the bridge has been compromised in recent
memory. Twenty -three years ago, a barge working on the Oregon Inlet navigation
channel, came loose from its moorings during a norâåÛåªeaster and smashed into the
bridge. It knocked down five sections and left about a football field
sized gap in the span. During this incident, a WW2 era LCU was used
to transport personnel and supplies to Hatteras Island. It wasnâåÛåªt until a
decade ago that NCDOT set up the emergency ferry from Stumpy Point to Hatteras
Island. They could not have timed it any better. It was in 2003 that
Hurricane Isabel decimated the Outer Banks. This was the first time I
rode the ferry across the Pamlico Sound to Hatteras Island. Along the way
I recall seeing a man with body guards and a brief case hand cuffed to his wrist,
I asked my father about it and turns out, he was a representative from the bank
carrying much needed cash to the island. Since credit cards werenâåÛåªt working,
most everything was dealt with in cash.
This inclines one to ponder, why hasnâåÛåªt the
bridge been replaced after all these years? The hurdles began long before
my time with groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center and Audubon
Society suing the State and Federal Government citing a host of EPA regulations
and environmental acts. Today, this debate is more heated than ever
due to the fragile state of the Oregon Inlet Bridge. According to NCDOT
the necessary funds needed to build the new bridge have been allocated; but
donâåÛåªt hold your breath. Oregon InletâåÛåªs future rests in the hands of just a few people; and until the first vehicle makes its way across the new span,
residents on Hatteras must live with an uncertainty most canâåÛåªt fathom.