We wear many hats at the Town of Nags Head

At first thought, local government is a boring, paperwork-filled nightmare highlighted bytownsealcolor-3 dull office phone ringtones and the incessant lull caused by a distant whirring copier.

Working at the Town of Nags Head has proved the exact opposite to be true.

Interning during my boss's birthday means getting a slice of the cake, too
Interning during my boss’s birthday means getting a slice of the cake, too

Armed with my laptop, clip-on phone case, pair of dark sunglasses, and a can-do attitude, I’ve taken to tackling the problems that most coastal communities shudder at the thought of: sea level rise, climate change, and future-proofing development. My task is relatively simple: ground-truth, analyze, and interpret any and all information that can help the town with these issues. My boss: an extremely dedicated, outgoing, knowledgeable principal planner by the name of Holly White. My partner in crime: Erika Munshi, always thinking of new approaches to the somewhat challenging obstacles we encounter in our office-going line of work. The semester has really flown by in Nags Head while we’ve aspired to be the best interns in the world, and bring a sense of “The Office” or “Parks and Rec” to the lively office of planning and development that literally sits on top of the protective shoulder of the Nags Head police department 1st floor of the town hall.

Our day officially starts with an 8:30 AM briefing with Holly in the planning nerve center for the town: her office. We discuss any weekend work-related developments and proceed to outline the goals for the day. Then we break off and spend the midday hours conferencing with various municipalities, binging on office coffee, speaking with citizens, and visiting local landmarks as part of our ground-truthing duties.

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◀ An intern’s eye view of ground-truthing flood zone discrepancies





▶ Our analysis and ground-truthing incorporated into an official town presentation on flood zone changes



While Nags Head lacks the hustle and bustle of a large city like Charlotte or Raleigh, its charm and unique coastal demeanor make it a prime experience for a coastal planning intern. This past semester has allowed me to delve into local government as I never had before, and somewhat incited a passion of seeing positive change in citizens’ lives. From the heights of Jockey’s Ridge to the swamps of Nags Head Woods, a more diverse and gem-like multiplicity to publicly serve simply doesn’t exist on the NC coast.

Some seas may rise, and others may fall. The Nags Head Planning and Development department will do its best to prevent this.



An Ode to OBX Aquatic Life

When most of my friends think of a beach day, they instantly picture a beaming sun above a sandy beach, with daydreaming eyes under a pair of gritty sunglasses, stained with sunscreen and sweat.

I picture a beach day as something a little different.

Hailing from the distant land of Charlotte, I grew up with artificial beach days. Long summer afternoons by the pool, same sunscreen, same sweat, same sunglasses. No sand, but a nice hum from countless A/C units as electricity bills slowly climb skyward.

Those beach days lacked a crucial element for me: the living things that swim and scurry and pinch and filter and take your last shrimp clean off the hook.

I’m talking coastal fauna, in particular aquatic life.

Seahorses at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island
Seahorses at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island


In my free time during the past few weeks on the Banks, I’ve personally come into contact with more biodiversity than I have over any stretch of time back in the woody suburbs of the Queen City. I’ve been in love with the creatures and critters of nature since I was just a wee lad, and the estuaries, wetlands, sounds, and shifting shorelines of the Outer Banks have reminded me of the youthful exuberance I associated with the natural world, before things like school and the great indoors lulled me away from the outside forces of nature.

The life found in these precious waters comes in many different forms: gooey, slimy, instagram cute, and everything in between. If you can think of an adjective, there’s some aquatic critter out here that matches it nearly perfectly. Every one, no matter how bizarre, finds its niche in its ecosystem.

No matter the odds of life, nature carries on. Whether its an R or a K type organism, a broadcast spawner or a mate for life, the surprising resiliency of the species I’ve encountered on the OBX is a shining example to how nature will continue to surprise us even as we learn more about it.

The little coastal treasures hiding in the dunes and surf are what make the perfect beach day for me. Beachcombing in itself isn’t what I’m referring to, but the sheer possibility of finding a Scotch Bonnet, tropical scallop, ghost crab, or even the occasional whale, whilst walking along the crushed manifestation’s of the waves is more than enough to make my beach day.

Aquatic life isn’t the only thing that’s out here on the OBX, but I personally find it enough of a reason to make this special little place a destination for me again and again in the future.

That's right, whales do indeed wash up on the very beaches you swim at. #OBXswag
That’s right, whales do indeed wash up on the very beaches you swim at. #OBXswag


Not to forget all of the sportfishing you can do out here!