Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and continuing right on through the 21st, the Outer Banks have seen two distinctively different economies, leaving many to adapt or be left behind. Consider for example, a banker born and raised on Ocracoke during the 40s or 50s. This banker most likely grew up fishing and working various odd jobs throughout the course of a year to make ends meet. This same banker, now in his late 50s or 60s, needs to adapt to a totally different, tourist (or dingbatter) based economy, or else be left in the dust. An interesting topic broached by Bailey in his book is one that concerns the local-tourist relationship. Bailey notes that although there is often much disdain towards a dingbatter, the deciding line is drawn "between those who want to keep up with the times and make money and those who want to keep things the way they were" (Bailey pg. 223). This dynamic presents an interesting dilemma for those locals who are understandably dedicated to preserving the past, but simultaneously need to earn a living, and since fishing and fishing related industry has been on a general downward slope for a number of decades, other methods (i.e. hotels, motels, charter fishing, etc.) must be utilized to earn an income. An Ocracoker interviewed by Bailey, by the name of Dr. Sessons also interestingly points out that though many locals want to stay and preserve their heritage, "It is ironic that it seems to be largely tourism that create jobs which allow younger islanders to stay on their own island" (Bailey pg. 226).
Although not a local, yet someone who holds the banks very close to their heart, I believe it is absolutely crucial that the unique and truly remarkable history of the Outer Banks be preserved before ensuring that the 21st century accommodations are met for the traveler. If one is coming to the Outer Banks in the first place, they are most likely doing so to escape the crowds of people elsewhere, and to return to a state of solitude and semi-isolation, a combination which can be found very few places in the United States. However, as the title of this post suggests, the times are changing, and if the Outer Banks is to survive economically in its current state as a tourist mecca, tourists accommodations must be made. Perhaps in order to cope with over development yet still meeting the needs for tourists, the banks should embrace the natural resources that surround them, focusing more on eco-tours, rustic cabins like those of Cape Lookout and small scale development rather than the high rise hotels popping up along the Outer Banks. In any case, the Outer Banks has shifted from an economy run by the sea to one run by tourists from afar, and if this is to be the way for years to come, action must be taken to ensure that the attractiveness of the now does not compromise the beauty of the past.
|Nags head circa 1920, still very much a rural beach community.|
|Nags Head in the 21st century, showing the high-scale development.|