A couple of Sundays ago, just a few days after arriving on the Outer Banks, Bill volunteered with the Carova Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Once back at the beach house, he suggested writing a short guest post about his experience. Without further ado, here’s Bill…
Even if you have been to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you may not be aware that there are a few areas of beach down south in Hatteras and along the northernmost twelve miles of coastline below the Virginia state line that are only accessible via four-wheel drive. There are houses and wildlife refuges, coastline, and sound accessible in these areas, but they have not been developed, or perhaps not yet developed with paved roads and access and modern utilities. My parents discovered this area in the 1960s and fell in love with the isolated expanse of beaches, the blue Atlantic, and their dream of beautiful pastel-colored beach houses on pilings. Though they anticipated that one day there would be roads and neighbors where they bought land, for several reasons, this area was never really developed, and houses only dot the area from Corolla to False Cape State Park in Virginia.
One of the primary reasons that development never occurred is that there was a movement in the 1970s to stop development from Virginia south through the Carolinas. The National Wildlife Federation and other groups bought up land, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service tried to buy up most of the rest of the Outer Banks. That never happened, of course, due to the sheer cost of the endeavor, but that is another story. What did happen is that sections of the Outer Banks from Duck to the Virginia Line were either privately owned or ended up as wildlife refuges, and roads were not built across these tracts for many years. In some cases such as north of Corolla, roads have not been built to this day.
For thousands of years, there were native Americans living on the Outer Banks who lent their names to places like Hatteras, Wanchese, and Rodanthe. Later, the English and Spanish came, and small villages, outposts, and developments were built from Virginia Beach south to Hatteras. The wild horses that now populate the areas north of Corolla, Cape Lookout, and Ocracoke are highly likely the descendants of Spanish mustangs from Spanish voyagers shipwrecked on the banks in the early 1500s. Later in 1585, the oldest English settlement was built at Roanoke Colony in today’s Dare County but it only lasted a few years. Small villages like Corolla and Nags Head were established by locals who fished along the coast, and of course, the keepers of the lighthouses along the Outer Banks that were built in the 1800s. None of these areas gave rise to much development as it was mostly based on subsistence fishing or occasional hunters or railroad barons who built structures such as Whalehead Club for their leisure time.
Some houses were built back then along the beach by people who may have worked in Virginia Beach at places such as Dam Neck or Oceana Naval Air Station. They lived just below the Virginia state line in North Carolina in a place that came to be known as Carova – a conjunction of Carolina and Virginia. My parents built their house on their land a little further south in place called Swan Beach. Since those early days, a lot more people have built houses and there are more year-round residents in this area.
Back in the 1970s, access from Carova along the beach to Sandbridge and Virginia Beach had been closed off with a fence and only a few year around residents were given keys, and only because they had jobs in the Virginia Beach area. The only other way to get to Virginia Beach from Carova was by boat on the sound across to Knotts Island or driving all the way south to Kitty Hawk and across the bridge to travel north again, about a three hour drive. In contrast, it takes 30 minutes to drive the 11 mile trip up the beach to Sandbridge.
As would be expected, emergency access for residents was very difficult. Years ago, Carova itself had a fire house and rescue station due to its isolation in the north. There was no other easy access and it was over 10 miles of 4×4 driving up the sand beach from the paved road for an emergency vehicle to get to northern beach residents. So Carova provided its own on-the-sand-4×4 emergency vehicles and fire trucks.
Since then, development has increased and there are now more houses, people riding around on wild horse tours, and daily visitors who drive up the 4×4 beach just to park on the sand and enjoy the surf. There are more emergencies, accidents, and rescues, house fires, and people who need transport to medical facilities today than ever. Since Carova is near the Virginia line, and there are a number of houses in Swan Beach, there was a realization that there now should be another fire house in Swan between Corolla and Carova on the 4×4 beach.
So, Sunday was volunteer day to help fence the new helipad for the future Swan Beach Fire and Rescue Station with my brother, Neil, our neighbor, Tom, and friends from Carova Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue. The volunteers at Swan and Carova have banded together to raise $250,000 to build a new station in Swan. The new station will cut the time and wear and tear for covering 12 miles of beach. Carova Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue (CBVFandR) are in the process of raising the rest of the money for the Swan Beach station.
If you visit and stay on the northern Outer Banks, take a wild horse or jeep tour, drive up the beach for the day, or stay up in Swan or Carova, please consider donating so that emergency services are available for visitors or residents.
- Have you visited the Outer Banks?
- If so, have you stayed on or toured the 4×4 section?
- Where’s your next vacation destination?