A 4-foot by 8-foot sign welcoming visitors to North Carolina’s Outer Banks has been stolen, prompting accusations the barrier islands are being “loved to death” by visitors.
The marker was on N.C. 12 and greeted motorists entering Cape Hatteras National Seashore from Nags Head.
Cape Hatteras park officials confirmed to McClatchy News the marker was taken and said it was affiliated with the “Outer Banks National Scenic Byway” program.
Photographer Wesley Snyder brought attention to the sign’s disappearance June 5, sharing a photo of the barren poles on his Facebook page, which has 52,000 followers. He offered no theories as to whether the culprit might be local or a tourist.
“I try to be very careful and not ever assume it could be a visitor, but we do suffer from being loved to death,” Snyder told McClatchy News. “Can’t believe someone swiped it, but then again I’m not that surprised either.”
The sign is valued at nearly $900 and was erected in 2016 to mark the northern end of the Outer Banks byway. The federally-celebrated roadway extends 138 driving miles south across three counties and includes two lengthy ferry rides.
Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy, chair of the byway committee, told McClatchy News the marker was well known as a spot where motorists stopped to pose for photos. It was stolen in the past few weeks, and it’s the second sign to go missing from the byway, she said. The other was stolen last year.
It will take months to replace, if not longer, Goodloe-Murphy said.
Snyder’s Facebook post appears to have touched a nerve on the barrier islands, prompting messages of frustration. Comments ranged from talk of a senior prank to accusations that enthusiastic tourists made off with the sign as a memento.
“It’s probably in some college kid’s room now,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.
“Wow I can’t imagine what they went through to get it. Crazy!” another person said.
A similar Facebook group dedicated to Ocracoke Island — with 33,000 members — reports they, too, are seeing odd thefts.
“Welcome visitor! ... Friendly reminder to not take stuff from people’s yards/business yards/the school,” one woman posted on the page. “This includes the pretty flowers you may see blooming that you want on your table for dinner, or a piece of wood you may think is a ‘scrap.’ Please ask.”
One of the oddest thefts reported on the islands in recent years came in 2019, when someone took the copper bust of Orville Wright from the Wright Brothers Monument near Kill Devil Hills. The bust was found days later on an Outer Banks beach, the National Park Service reported.