Walking the Beach with Dr. Mike
Having grown up on the salty banks of Bogue Sound one would assume I’ve always been in tune with the environment. However, growing up in an area doesn’t mean you automatically appreciate it, and often times the opposite happens. My experiences at N.C. State instilled a deep appreciation for the environment around me and led me to pursue a degree in environmental science.
Being able to come back to Bogue Sound with a newfound appreciation for the native landscapes and knowledge of today’s environmental challenges has been an incredible experience. This time around I’m able to appreciate the inherent beauty that dwells in the thickets of maritime forests and the sea oat covered dunes. Furthermore, one of the many awesome aspects of interning at the federation over the past 10 weeks is learning about my roots through coastal policy from the numerous lectures, policy meetings, restoration efforts and field visits.
Mike Orbach, center, talks to our interns at The Point on Emerald Isle,
Last week my fellow interns and I were given the pleasure of touring the Bogue Banks from The Point in Emerald Isle to Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach with Dr. Mike Orbach, professor of the practice of marine affairs and policy at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment. Orbach teaches at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort and has lived in Carteret County for 30 years. In addition to his extensive academic expertise, Orbach brings a unique perspective to coastal policy from his roles as avid surfer, beach enthusiast and longtime resident. Furthermore, Orbach has seen the firsthand escalation of development on Bogue Banks, from a few scattered communities to a tourist and retiree hotspot.
As we stand on the vast expanse of sand at The Point in Emerald Isle, I remember back to my junior year in high school when the beach was but a fraction of the size it is today. Contrary to popular belief, high schoolers aren’t as interested in beach nourishment policy as one might think. In fact, my friends and I were quite oblivious to it. Surprising, right? What 17-year-old doesn’t love a good discussion on home development laws in regard to sea level rise and the tax money set aside to fund beach nourishment efforts? Luckily for me, my crash course in coastal policy at the federation has me actively engaging in such topics today, although I can’t say the same for when I was 17.
Food for Thought That You May Not Know (compliments of Dr. Orbach):
- The number of year-round residents on the island is approximately 6,000, but in the height of the tourist season the island supports around 80,000.
- Years ago, on his way to ride the swells, Orbach came across developers piping stormwater from flooded streets near the Point directly into the ocean without a permit. He reported the issue to the state and over time such water quality violations decreased as permitting became more and more enforced.
- If you want to cut down a tree in Pine Knoll Shores, you’re going to have to seek permission. Such policy is a direct result of smart land-use planning from the local government, bringing about the distinct visual separation with Atlantic Beach.
- No home has ever fallen in the water from beach erosion on Bogue Banks (although the circular house at The Point wins the award for coming the closest).
- The federation’s efforts to preserve natural areas from condo construction in the early 1990s resulted in the present day conservation of a chunk of maritime forest in Atlantic Beach, known as Hoop Pole Creek.
- The unique East to West orientation of Bogue Banks makes the island less susceptible to traditional barrier island migration and erosion (but, rest assured, island development still has its issues).
Every day sparks an “ah ha” moment in connecting my experiences on the Crystal Coast with how things came to be this way. Even with only two weeks remaining at the federation, I’m confident I’ll continue learning about chapters to the story that I didn’t know before.
-- Katie McKnight