Let's Vow to Preserve This Priceless Heritage
I love North Carolina’s midsection, where I have had my roots for most of the last half of my life. And I harbor a special passion for the breathtaking mountains that grace our fair state’s western third.
Still, there’s nothing quite like the heart-stopping buzz I feel on the other end — when, in the late summer of most years, our heavily loaded car first attains the crest of the tall bridge linking the mainland with Oak Island and the eye drinks in that magnificent panorama of green tidal estuary, honey-colored sand and, off in the distance, the first glimpse of the primordial sea.
North Carolina has by far the longest coastline of any of the original 13 Colonies. Over the years, Homo sapiens has done his damnedest to screw up this precious resource, laying down hundreds of miles of road and putting up thousands of houses on precarious spits of sand where neither really has any business being.
Still, despite all the damage we have inflicted, all the schlocky swimwear stores and fast-fish restaurants, we humans have never quite managed to destroy the magic of a week at the beach. I’m not sure I would want to live there. But, dang, what a nice place to visit.
Oak Island in particular, located south of Wilmington and just around the corner from Southport, seems to be a particularly popular destination for Moore County folks. It certainly is for us. My wife, Brenda, went to a lot of trouble arranging last week’s family get-together as an extended observance of my rather significant birthday.
At the last minute, it looked as if the whole thing might be spoiled when our long-arranged rental house, located in the second row on the far western end of the island, suddenly became unavailable because of some unspecified problem. But then — bingo! Bad news became good when the rental company put us in a oceanfront house instead — one called Adventures in Paradise II. Yesss!
I mostly kept myself occupied with standard beach adventures: sessions of Frisbee with son Ben, a couple of long bike rides up and down the island with daughter
Kate, and a really fun kayak excursion into the interior wetlands with son Jacob. There were great seafood meals and exhilarating swims in the surf, where unusually powerful waves (spinoffs from distant hurricanes?) sent one tumbling head-over-heels.
Still, the fondest memories — and the best photos — came from several long, quiet seaside walks taken at daybreak, either solo or with our aged dog, Kelci. The beaches were nearly deserted at that hour, especially when the crowds thinned out after the Labor Day holiday.
Though one feels dwarfed by the powers of nature at such times, there is also a heightened awareness of the extreme fragility of this sublime ecosystem where land meets water.
A place like this could be devastated by a rise of a foot in world sea levels. It could be rendered sterile by overfishing. It could be terribly vulnerable to a BP-type oil spill if our state were to rush into big-time offshore drilling.
Our coastline is such a priceless heritage. If we don’t take good care of it, we will — and should — be answerable to heaven itself.
Steve Bouser is opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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