- Associated Press - Saturday, February 14, 2015

STUMPY POINT, N.C. (AP) - The dark canals on the roadside look like alligator heaven. The dense woods crowding the right-of-way appear to be a prime hangout for bears and wolves. Just when it seems the road and wilderness will never end, a sign offers hope: Stumpy Point.

A road winds about 2 miles through the community of modest and upscale homes and others badly worn by the elements. The pavement follows the shoreline of Stumpy Point Bay to a spot that is sort of blunt, or stumpy.

“I think it’s the most misunderstood place in Dare County,” said Sandy Semans Ross, a longtime journalist and editor who lives there.

Dozens of retired professionals, including Ross, live in the village of about 200, she said. But many outsiders, even among elected officials, see the place as home to the poor and uneducated, she said.

“It’s not that way at all,” Ross said. “They have no idea.”

Lean and white-haired at 67, Ross is the acting fire chief, president of the fire board, manager of long-term recovery from Hurricane Irene and president of the Civic Club - which is something like a mayor. She speaks at public meetings and files paperwork to help solve Stumpy Point’s problems.

Flooding is the biggest. Front yards look like lakes after rain storms. Reeds and cattails, not grass and hedges, grow from the mucky ground. Homes have to be built on pilings or risk inundation.

“We have a pond in front of our house, although we’d prefer not to have one,” she said.

A canal dug by slaves some 200 years ago runs behind properties. The canal and connecting drainage ditches kept the land dry for farming. Decades without maintenance have left it choked with logs, alligator weed, crab pots and even appliances, Ross said.

Metal culverts carrying stormwater under driveways have collapsed from years of use, particularly in front of the volunteer fire department. Two faded and cracked plastic cones mark holes where parking lot pavement has collapsed.

Large rocks called riprap along the shoreline have settled, and storm surges from the Pamlico Sound breach the banks and flood the road.

“Takes a while to drive out of here,” John Butler said as he painted a 1950s drive-in scene behind the counter of his small village store. His chickens clucked around the yard not far from the road.

A few commercial fishermen slowly motor through the canal near the Pamlico Sound, where they tie their boats at aging docks. Stacks of crab pots stand on the roadside between pavement and canal.

Robbie Midgett, 48, remembers running a skiff through the canal at high speed with no worries of striking anything.

“There was plenty of water,” he said.

Hurricane Irene in 2011 may have been the worst storm ever to hit Stumpy Point. Water rose higher than anyone can remember. Flooding seems to have worsened since then, Ross said.

Government agencies have helped in the past. A wastewater treatment plant went up in 2008. FEMA contributed to efforts to get homes raised on pilings after Irene. Dare County cleared canals, and the state replaced sections of damaged culverts years ago.

Hope remains that even faraway and misunderstood Stumpy Point will get more help.

“I’m just going to keep harassing them,” Ross said.

___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com


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