Judge Says ORV Traffic at Cape Hatteras is Illegal, But It Continues

A federal judge has said the National Park Service can't legally allow off-road vehicle traffic at Cape Hatteras National Seashore because it doesn't an ORV management plan in place. And yet, Cape Hatteras officials say they have to consult with the Interior Department before prohibiting the traffic.

What sort of message is the Park Service trying to send? I mean, when a judge declares that illegal behavior is occurring, should you stop that behavior, or merely think about stopping it?

This is what U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle said yesterday, in a ruling tied to a reckless driving case arising out of the Oregon Inlet area of the seashore: The national seashore "does not have regulations in place to govern ORV traffic" and so their operation on the seashore is illegal.

And, according to the news reports I've checked, Superintendent Mike Murray agrees with the judge.

"It's a clear statement that there's no authority to allow off-road vehicle driving on the beach," Murray said of the judge's ruling. "Under federal regulations and executive orders, the park service needs to develop an OVR management plan and regulations."

And yet....he's not shutting down ORVs on the seashore.

Seems to me that this sort of reaction is inviting a lawsuit. Over at Defenders of Wildlife, representatives say the judge's ruling should "serve as a wake-up call to the National Park Service."

Here's more, from an Associated Press story in the Fayetteville Observer:

The driver Boyle fined was cited on May 27, a day when the park service counted about 1,200 vehicles on the beach near Oregon Inlet. The volume of traffic caused deep ruts in the sand, creating dangerous conditions for sunbathers and others at the beach, according to testimony at the man's trial. He was ticketed for driving fast and erratically as he tried to leave the beach.

Boyle's ruling in that case does not order the park service to stop motorists from driving on the beach. It merely notes that under an executive order signed by President Nixon, the agency is required to define specific trails and areas for the use of off-road vehicles.