Off Season

On December 22, 2011 · 6 Comments

I read an interesting article the other day about Chincoteague, a tiny town on Virginia’s eastern shore that’s probably best known for its annual wild pony roundup. The ponies live on nearby Assateague Island. A local volunteer fire department and it’s "saltwater cowboys" swim the heard across the channel as a fundraiser. Their annual auction keeps the herd at a sustainable 150 head.

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That’s not what this article was about, though. Rather, it’s a plan proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that residents fear will cripple Chincoteague’s economy. Chincoteague doesn’t own its beach — the Federal government does — and the government wants to move the beach to deal with erosion and rising sea levels. Tourism-dependent residents fear that visitors will bypass Chincoteague if they have to take a shuttle bus to get to the water. It’s a fascinating set of issues and I wish I had more knowledge so I could form an opinion.

In the meantime my mind wandered down a completely different tangent. A single quote stuck with me more than anything else in the article: "The beach is the lifeblood of Chincoteague, swelling its 3,500 population about tenfold in summer."

That got me thinking about resort towns and whether I could find one with the greatest percentage difference between permanent and seasonal populations. I excluded places like the lodge featured in The Shining (book / movie) that completely shut-down during the off season except for a caretaker. Chincoteague’s tenfold difference is pretty significant. I also found a reference to nearby Ocean City, Maryland that claimed 7,173 permanent residents with a summer weekend population between 320,000 and 345,000. That would be amazing if it can be substantiated.

I think I’ve now completed my most tortured and drawn-out analogy ever. The circuitous point I’ll now make is that my website is very much like Chincoteague or Ocean City. The Twelve Mile Circle crowd (you!) are the permanent residents on my humble little Internet domain. 12MC enthusiasts follow the blog on newsreaders or return to the site regularly, and remain a constant presence. The big crowds however, who generate huge summertime traffic spikes, land on seasonal pages such as my inexplicably popular Ferries of the World conglomeration. They also click on lots of advertisements that help fund additional research and exploration of geo-oddities to the benefit of 12MC readers. I like 12MC readers better on a personal level but it’s the one-time seasonal visitors that pay the bills, just like one would find in any resort town.

Right now it’s deathly quiet on the rest of the site. Nobody wants to take a ferry ride in December. Come January they will start planning their vacations and return again in very predictable fashion, but for now it’s decidedly the off season on And what happens in the off season in a resort town? Well, someone puts a fresh coat of paint on the motel, scrapes barnacles from the charter boat, realigns holes on the miniature golf course and cleanses grime from the taffy puller. I’ll be doing something similar behind the scenes on the website. I’ll use the downtime as an opportunity to check and repair literally hundreds of links on the ferry pages. They need to be in good working order when the crowds return.

You won’t see much of me while I focus on maintenance. I may interrupt my mini-hiatus if a big news story breaks, say if Google Maps finally launches county lines, but absent that I’ll see you in a few days.

To you and yours, have a wonderful holiday season.

On December 22, 2011 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “Off Season”

  1. Matt says:

    Cockburn Island Township, Ontario has an official population of zero but more than 200 part-time residents.

  2. Christine says:

    When I visited Block Island, RI (pop. 1010), a local told me that they have 10,000+ people at any given time during the summer. I don’t know where they house them all! It’s not the metropolis OCMD is!

  3. John Deeth says:

    Greetings from the land of the caucuses. Regular readers may enjoy:

    It’s a point of bragging rights in Iowa politics, state or presidential, to visit all 99 counties. Rick Santorum has done it; Michele Bachmann is on a tour to complete what politicos call “the full Grassley” (after the Senator who visits all 99 each year).

    So when Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs asked: “How exactly can presidential candidates get through all 99 counties in Iowa in the quickest amount of time on the shortest path?” I thought immediately of 12MC. Here’s the answer:

    (disclaimer: I’m a VERY part time Register contributor, which should not lessen your enjoyment)

  4. wangi says:

    Well… forever hearing that Edinburgh’s population swells from 500k to over 1M during the Festival; but as for data to back that up!

  5. Peter says:

    If a non-US example may be used, I would suspect that Mecca has the largest numerical (if not necessarily percentage) population increase.

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