Ocracoke Foundation Purchases Community Square

July 4th Celebration on the Docks 2012On November 10, 2013 the Ocracoke Foundation announced the acquisition of the Community Square, a 0.5-acre waterfront property in the heart of the Ocracoke Island historic district. The Foundation was able to purchase the property with generous financial support from Foundation partners and The Conservation Fund’s Land Conservation Loan Program.

Located along the shores of Silver Lake, the Community Square has served as a hub for commerce and social activity for decades. Many early island photographs depict daily life centered around the Square’s iconic Community Store, the Will Willis Fish House, the Ice Plant and the island’s first generator plant.

Since 2008, the Ocracoke Foundation (OFI) has been working with the Senseney Family to develop a conservation strategy that would revitalize the historic site. With the support of The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities Program, OFI engaged community members in ensuring that the natural, cultural, historic and human assets of Ocracoke Island are protected and promoted. This purchase is the first step of OFI’s Community Square Revitalization Project. The Foundation will be working to preserve the cultural and historical resources on the property, where people of all ages can gather to access the harbor, connect with the waterfront heritage and visit at the Community Store once again.

“Our primary goal is preserving and protecting the Community Square,” said Scott Bradley, OFI Board President. “From there we can accomplish so much: long term working waterfront access, open availability for public use, environmental improvements, public restrooms, value-added local foods production, a space for social gatherings and a source of dedicated funding for community needs. We are fortunate that David Senseney and his family are in full support of these goals.”

The vision for the Community Square is to recapture the very reason people have always been drawn to this un-bridged barrier island: to leave the clutter of urban life behind, become engrossed in the pristine natural environment and become part of the traditional fishing village atmosphere. “Rejuvenating this distinctive identity and doing our part to preserve this is essential; it is a core value of this community and the key to its economic success,” said Robin Payne, OFI Executive Director.

“Step one of the restoration process is reconnecting with the history of the buildings, landscape, docks and daily activities,” added Payne. “To fulfill this goal we will be relying on native families to be part of the redesign process.”

“OFI’s multi-faceted approach to the preservation of special places like Community Square serves as a sustainable model for other rural communities, where the potential is great but the funding is limited,” said Reggie Hall, Director of the Conservation Fund’s LCLP. “We’re honored to provide quick financial assistancefor the purchase and revitalization of this beloved community hub and excited to see its transformation.” Read More…

The Community Square – Landscaping with Native Plants

A large part of the restoration at the Community Square will be landscaping. Using traditional native plants is essential but as Chester Lynn, Ocracoke resident points out, we should also use landscaping elements popular at the time if the goal is to recapture an earlier era. During the 1940's for instance, there was no asphalt nor railroad ties, which are now at the Community Square. Flower gardens were rimmed with conch shells, placed point down and if available brick was used. Ocracoke also had "more sand, less dirt"! OFI, under the direction of Chester will begin to detail a landscape plan March 7, 2014. All are welcome - to learn and provide input. For more information call Chester at 252-928-4541.

Oyster Spat Recording Program

Elizabeth Hanrahan measuring recording data at the Watermen's Exhibit

Elizabeth Hanrahan measuring recording data at the Watermen’s Exhibit

Since January 2013, interested Ocracoke youth and adults attended a training workshop offered by NC Sea Grant where they learned how to monitor oyster spat around Ocracoke.  The island is surrounded by shallow oyster beds which were over-harvested around 1920.  North Carolina has implemented oyster restoration throughout Pamlico Sound but only in deep water.  Spat recording is essential so researchers can understand how many oysters are in the breeding population, how much habitat is available, and how many offspring they produce. The Oyster Spat Monitoring Project focuses on the last of these questions, being one of the more critical to overall oyster research, management, and restoration efforts.

Since then, volunteers Arlene Burley, Elizabeth Hanrahan, Sara Reece Johnson, Beverly Meeker and Susse Wright have been recording data and sending results to UNCW.  Volunteers deploy racks with tiles that oyster spat settle on. The racks are removed and replaced with clean tiles every 6 weeks, and then the number of spat and other organisms that settled are counted and recorded. To learn more about the spat program visit www.ncoystermonitoring.org

For questions please call Outdoor Classroom coordinator Elizabeth Hanrahan eh11@earthlink.net

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