How do we reopen the Outer Banks to tourism so that we maintain our quality of life?

By on April 14, 2020

 By John Harris

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for shouldering the tough jobs that you have. I appreciate the sacrifice that you make for the community every day. Our business is struggling like every other business on the Outer Banks. We have furloughed almost 90% of our employees. If we’re fortunate enough to receive the PPP loans, those funds can cover only part of our expenses for a limited time; they do not make us whole.

Outer Banks businesses need to open back up at the earliest feasible time and do what business they can. They will still need assistance but at least it will give them a shot at surviving.

So that leads me to the question of how do we open up the Outer Banks to property owners and visitors so we can begin rebuilding our tourism industry, the lifeblood of the Outer Banks?

If I put on my public safety hat only, l don’t see reopening the Outer Banks until the vaccine is available, a year to 18 months from now. If that is the case, I see the tourism industry on the Outer Banks being wiped out. I say that because the health experts talk about the virus continuing in one place or another throughout the summer and fall. As you know, we get visitors from all over the US, so the threat of the virus will continue to exist for the Outer Banks.

If 100% assured public safety is the only question, then we won’t open the Outer Banks until there is a vaccine. But there must be a way to open the Outer Banks to visitors as soon as the Governor lifts the “stay at home” order. We are different than many resort destinations. We are a drive-to destination, low density, and we are accessed by bridges.

So, let’s explore how to use those bridges to proactively let our customers on the Outer Banks. How can we do that?

  1. Could we test visitors at bridges? Check temperature or a COVID-19 test?
  2. Could we ask visitors to provide certification from their doctors of tests or other certified testing?
  3. Could we set up operating guidelines for restaurants, retail businesses, outdoor businesses, vacation rentals, and other tourism service businesses to minimize the risk of spreading the virus? Possibly the Outer Banks Restaurant Association could develop guidelines for the restaurants. As a retailer, I would copy what Walmart, Dollar Tree and the grocery stores have found to work.

I don’t want Kitty Hawk Kites to die from the “bankruptcy virus,” and I don’t want my beloved Outer Banks to die from the “bankruptcy virus.” The tourism business bankruptcy virus will be followed by the “town and county virus,” which will be followed by the “school and public service virus.” I am so proud of what our community has done for our schools. I don’t want to see us lose ground. I remember what our schools were like in 1974 when I had the opportunity to move here.

I’m almost 73. I am aware that opening the Outer Banks may put people in my age bracket at increased risk. But at this point, I have been educated on how to protect myself. It’s up to me to do that. It is up to the restaurants and businesses to put the best policies and practices in place, so that they can protect their employees and their customers. But let’s open those bridges to a trickle of visitors at least. Let’s make the Outer Banks the haven it was for malaria victims in the 1800’s. It is a haven and a place to heal for everyone. Let’s find a way to let our visitors come here to heal in spirit, while providing a way for our tourism industry to endure. It’s a big challenge to balance public safety and our local economy, but we have to find a way to do it. If we don’t, we will suffer the consequences of a lower quality of life.

John Harris is CEO of Kitty Hawk Kites



Barnhill Contracting Company will receive sealed proposals for Manns Harbor – EMS/Fire Facility (EMS-8), Kitty Hawk – EMS/Fire Facility (EMS-9), Manteo – Youth Center on January 09, 2024. Times to be given on via addendum #01. See the following SCOPE OF WORK: BP 100 – General Trades, BP 105 – Final Cleaning, BP 205 – Demolition, BP 390 – Turnkey Concrete, BP 400 – Turnkey Masonry, BP 500 – Turnkey Structural Steel & Misc. Steel, BP 505 – Light Gauge Metal Trusses, BP 740 – Roofing, BP750 – Siding, BP 790 – Caulking/Sealants, BP 800 – Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware/Toilet Specialties/Accessories/Division 10, BP 840 – Curtainwall/Storefront/Glass/Glazing, BP 925 – Drywall/Framing, BP 960 – Resilient Flooring/Carpet/Base/Epoxy, BP 980 – Acoustical Ceilings, BP 990 – Painting and Wall Coverings, BP 1230 – Finish Carpentry and Casework, BP 1250 – Window Treatments, BP 2100 – Fire Protection, BP 2200 – Plumbing, BP 2300 – HVAC, BP 2600 – Electrical, BP 3100 – Earthwork/Turnkey Site, BP 3213- Site Concrete, BP 3290 – Landscaping. Scopes of work may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager.

Bid Location and Time: Bid opening will be held in the Barnhill Contracting Rocky Mount Training & GPS Technology Room: 800 Tiffany Bvld, Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Time is as follows: January 09, 2024 at 10:00am and 2:00pm. Times per packages to be given on via addendum #01.

Barnhill Contracting Company will receive, open, and read publicly all bids received in person in the Training & GPS Technology Room at the main office and listed with the virtual viewing at the link to be posted on Barnhill’s Plan Room.

Bids will not be accepted from bidders that are not pre-qualified. No facsimile or email submissions are permitted. Sealed bids are to be hand delivered to the bid opening location noted above or mailed Sealed Bids can be delivered before 9:00am the day of the bid to the Barnhill Contracting Company Office at 800 Tiffany Blvd., Suite 200 Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Attention “Clint Hardison.”

The pre-bid meeting will be held in Person & Zoom Meeting on December 06, 2023 at 10:00 am at the Barnhill Contracting’s Rocky Mount Main Conference Room: 800 Tiffany Bvld, Rocky Mount, NC 27804.

The pre-bid meeting link can be located on Barnhill’s online Building Division Plan Room ( https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b) and below. A preferred brand alternates meeting will be held via the same link at the end of the Prebid meeting.

Bid Documents can be viewed or downloaded through Barnhill’s online Building Division Plan Room (https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b) after 12/04/2023.

All Bidders are strongly encouraged to include opportunities for HUB participation wherever possible in their respective Bid submission.  HUB participation is a part of this contract and must comply with all requirements set forth in the Bid Documents.

The Construction Manager and Owner reserve the right to add pre-qualified bidders. The Construction Manager and Owner reserve the right to reject any and all bids. Should you require additional direction, please call Barnhill Contracting Company, (Clint Hardison – 252-802-0740).

Clint Hardison is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Dare EMS – Phase 2 Pre-Bid Conference

Time: Dec 6, 2023 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 823 9069 2985

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  • Ellen

    This may our last year at OBX. We are a bit tired of the locals being rude to us and really only wanting our money. Excuse after excuse to take our money.
    Bridge out – sorry about you. You can’t get to your beach house, but we will keep your money.
    Property foreclosed – sorry about you. We can’t find you another rental, but we will keep your money.
    Hurricane – sorry about you. We have no electricity or plumbing and there is 6 inches of sand throughout your house. We weren’t evacuated so we will keep your money and you get the inhabitable house.
    We have ruined the scenery by building in every square inch but we think tourists are stupid enough to return year after year.
    Stuck in the sand, let’s charge them $900 to tow them out 1/2 mile.
    Enough! It’s time to find another beach! There are many just waiting for us and our money!

    Monday, Apr 27 @ 6:06 pm
  • Tom

    Just read another article about how humanity should rule over greed in OBX now. Of course the writer is a long time successful business owner…mid seventies. She said who cares if all business are wiped out. Greed shouldn’t rule. Old enough to retire comfortably obviously and a person in real danger if they catch the disease. Easy to preach about humanity and greed from that viewpoint. Just being a true humanitarian. Financially secure and doesn’t’ want to be put in danger and the person takes the pathetic….obviously manipulative high road. What about my kids, business, and mortgage. Who cares about my parents who rely on me? Who cares about my families future. I only care about greed and not humanity. What a load of s**t. I will never ever go to that persons establishment again and so will many other now. Then again that person is set and it’s so easy to ben,oral when your future is secure and u dont want to risk your won health, selfishly, in retirement. To hell with me, my kids, my parents and our future. U have yours and we r greedy to have one…..in anyway. Hypocrisy 101 using social preaching garbage as cover. Stay inside, take precautions and deal. Close your diner….money doesn’t matter to u. Give us a chance to survive. U r selfish….u r greedy….u r delusional. U r a hypocrite.

    Wednesday, Apr 29 @ 9:52 pm