Now we're all at least partially to blame for situations like this and similar projects are perpetually ongoingt across the nation. Most of us sit by silently and watch the land torn apart thinking that it's not our problem and it doesn't impact our view or our life directly. And we are all in such a hurry to get somewhere that we really don't care if we cover the land with huge road projects which will naturally attract more and more development whether anyone wants it or not. Then a few years later, the problem repeats itself due to the massive growth and we start the cycle over again. In the case of the "jug handle" bridge, only a small group who were directly impacted got involved and, even then, battling the brute force of so-called economic development with the big dollars behind it always gets the attention of politicians. You see, in today's world, government, be it local, state or federal has become much more of a business for it's own satisfaction than for the will of the people. It's what happens when places get too big and only those who have deep pockets can devote the time and effort to get involved. It's pretty hard to separate your personal gain from the investing lobby special interest groups if your election depends on their financial largesse and therein lies the rub. I'm not saying it's illegal, not it is absolutely not unless it is bribery, but I am saying just that it just happens routinely everywhere and most people just shrug it off since they know they can't win against it.
Over the years I've fought a number of huge projects in Virginia and Florida and have been on both the winning and losing side, but even when you are on the winning side the deep pocketed opponents can always wait you out and you can't devote your life savings to the cause when you still have to live. So, I'm not writing this to say that you can stop progress, but I am saying we need to redefine what the word progress means. I don't think it means destroying someone's way of life in order to maximize gain for someone else. Surely, taking the already overcrowded Nags Head example, wouldn't it have been much better to not try to go so big and make it so crowded that the very things that made it attractive have done just the opposite for many? Many locals were priced right out of their family homes so that spread out land ownership could be subdivided and jammed with large oceanfront homes close together that blocks the breeze, blocks the free flow back and forth of sand, makes it much more difficult for the "average Joe" to visit the oceanfront. The heavy building on most of the sand and it's impact on limiting sand to blow in the different season has had a dramatic impact on a fantastic Jockey's Ridge of old by turning it into a pancake of its former size.
Back in my childhood days, before the bypass was built, flood waters from both rain and sea could percolate back to nature through the sand filter of the scrub land that filled the inland land. With the bypass, which was explained as a way for through traffic to get through fast, we ended up with a Main Street USA which has become anything but a shortcut. And why? Because as streets were cut through and developed, beach sprawl occurred. Just like the Field of Dreams, if we build it they will come. The politicians and the locals both knew it, but the politicians saw the dollar signs while the many locals opposed didn't have a chance. Kind of like the naming of the new Oregon Inlet Bridge.
So, now the push is on to load up Hatteras Island with more and more residents and visitors, as if the long term fate of the island isn't obvious enough. Is there still hope for Hatteras Island? I don't know, but I do know this. A conservative approach to development, one which insures that the proposals aren't going to create more damage in the end than the good from their tax dollars is always a sound approach. History has shown that despite the many claims, the proposals are always rosier than their results and that means the people who reside there full time pay more and more for less and less. Factor in added major infrastructure costs (not easily done on an occupied offshore sandbar) and the resultant tax liability, the already noted increase in crime and traffic congestion and accidents and you have a major issue that won't go away. And don't forget the impact on the aesthetic quality of life which you can't put a dollar figure on as part of the cost, although not measurable. On top of all that, should the economy face a downturn, which at some point will invariably happen with our continued deficit-spending American lifestyle both as a nation and as a people, when things turn sour and the bond rates jump, the cost increases will be much higher than even the highest pricing estimates.
The Outer Banks was such a special place, there was none other like it. But when we allowed it's future to be governed by massive growth, sameness of everything with little respect for the capacity of a narrow long body of sandbars, in the end it won't be pretty. We can still do some things right that may help, but I don't think "jug handle" bridges serve that purpose, for if and when the approaches are ultimately part of the sound, it will become useless. For you information, a picture of the plan for it's layout is shown below.
I guess you can just call me an old son of an Outer Banker who hopes for the best, but expects the worse. At least I have my memories, memories from growing up in those "Summers at Old Nags Head." I wish those much younger than I could have experienced it as well.