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Vandalism Leads to Closure of Ramp at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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The unauthorized removal of vehicle blockades at Cape Hatteras National Seashore has prompted officials there to shut down a public access ramp near Buxton, North Carolina.

This marks the second time this year that vandalism has forced the National Park Service to restrict access to the seashore in an effort to protect nesting piping plovers, a threatened species.

Ramp 45 had been closed to off-road vehicle access since May 21 due to the hatching of plover chicks in the area, although pedestrian access was being allowed.

According to seashore officials, sometime early Monday morning someone entered the area on foot "after tossing the vehicle barricades into the brush along the side of the sand route on the back side of the Cape Point Campground. The 202-campsite campground was full for the Memorial Day holiday weekend."

"Upon further investigation another vehicle barricade was found to be missing from the Inter-dunal Road and symbolic resource protection closure fencing was destroyed along the Ramp 45 route," the officials added. "Approximately 34 signs and sign posts were broken or pulled out. The remains of two beach fires were found near the shoreline. The two fires had been covered with sand but were still hot and smoldering. Evidence of the remains of sign posts and the vehicle barricade were found in the fire pits. There were numerous foot tracks found around the fire pits but no vehicle tire tracks were found in the area."

Access to the seashore has been particularly contentious ever since the Park Service was sued by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society for failing to have a formal ORV management plan. While seashore officials are trying to finalize such a plan now, they have been managing ORV access to the beaches under a court-ordered consent decree. That decree mandates "that if a confirmed deliberate act that disturbs or harasses wildlife or vandalizes fencing, nests, or plants occurs, the National Park Service (NPS) shall automatically expand the buffers."

As a result of that mandate, the Park Service had not alternative but to close Ramp 45.

"The expansion will remain in effect until shorebirds have finished using the respective areas for breeding activities," the agency said.

Comments

So the people get mad about the closures and retaliate by doing something that will expand the closure. Is it me or does their thinking not make sense?


RangerLady,

It depends on what the motivation is behind these acts. It makes abolutely no sense, unless closing more beach is what you're actually after. Ponder on that one...

Most folks who want the beaches open would never commit such an act, since the outcome is all too well known.

It has been speculated that the perp's are one or more of the following:

-Drunk

-Sporadic Tourists W/O knowledge of the consequences of their actions on others

-Eco-terrorists furthering an agenda

-Local teenagers with too much time/too little supervision

My questions and concerns surrounding this issue are these:

Why has there never, ever been one single perp caught and tried for these acts?

With the all 202 sites full in the campground, wouldn't it have been prudent for the NPS to conduct some night patrols in the area, especially on Memorial Day weekend? Beach fires would have been so very easy to spot if said were patrols in place, leading to possible arrests/convictions.

While vandalism like this should never occur in the first place, the NPS could be a bit more proactive in averting such, and additional patrols on the busiest of weekends would be a good place to start. The ORV user group is already cleaning the beaches, policing them is beyond our capabilities.

Something really stinks about this, but I doubt we'll ever get to the bottom of it.


Very good points dapster. I always forget that us tree-huggers can be a little naughty too (I must be biased)


Thanks for not asking me to tweak my tinfoil hat in relation to my conspiracy theory!

Not at all saying it isn't an overzealous ORV proponent either. Since there has yet to be a person(s) charged, it's all speculation at this point.

in defense of the NPS, it's also a nearly impossible area to police, due to the geography and mileage involved. But a high-use area like the beach near the Lighthouse Campground should be first tier for monitoring, IMO.

I sincerely hope the offenders are eventually caught, and dealt with publicly and severely. Perhaps then these acts will cease. Until that time, all user groups will suffer for the actions of these miscreants.

In the days before the CD-Ordered night-driving ban, these perp's might have been seen by fisherfolk, but...


dapster--

NPS doesn't have infinite personnel nor resources. Patrols might be very effective in preventing vandalism, and somewhat effective in apprehending vandals. But from what I see, CAHA has 19 total rangers, including 8 protection rangers and 4 law enforcement rangers, to cover everything from Wright Brothers to Ocracoke 24/7 (add in a couple of FWS folks at Pea Island). While resource protection is important, public safety issues are at least as important (even to us tree huggers). Figure traffic on the paved roads plus high-density beach areas and maybe one patrol down the entire beach during the day, plus at least 3 rangers at the 4 campgrounds at night (1 covering incidents at both Frisco & Cape Point), and there aren't rangers left to patrol closed & sensitive areas. Maybe natural resource and other folk could be eyes & ears patrols for the closures (as could ORV users), but they can't arrest or even detain anyone, and they tend to be called on to bolster interpretation & visitor services during peak visitation.

While normally managers can shift schedules and personnel to get more LE rangers working holiday weekends and sometimes even borrow folks from nearby units (I think I recall calls last summer for short-term details of LE rangers to CAHA for summer holiday weekends and the consent decree), things aren't normal right now. A substantial fraction of NPS natural resource and support folks are rotating through 2-4 week details to help with the gulf spill, even though NPS units haven't been hit hard yet.

I would bet that neither tree-huggers nor ORV activists did it, but rather some combination of drunk plus teens or out of area visitors. "Eco-terrorists" wouldn't have been a large group leaving numerous footprints around the beach fires, but a small group getting in and getting out. _Most_ ORV folks and folks who want the beaches open wouldn't do it even if the consequence wasn't enlarged closures, just like most ORV folks and hikers in the desert don't deliberately trash archeological sites. I would hope that anyone who regularly visits the beach wouldn't leave hot coals hidden under a thin layer of sand where folks can walk or drive over them (especially at night); that's a huge no-no on the west coast. And drunken belligerent "ORV terrorists" would likely have left vehicle tracks, not footprints.


doh--

Dapster is quicker on the reply than I am. My post was in response to his first post, not his followup.


Actually what stinks is the misinformation that the ORV side perpetuates. Walk into a local business and you will get a barrage of how the Park and environmentalist are in the process of closing all the beaches to everyone forever in the Park. Some of the ORV contingent helps fuels this kind of reaction (resource violation) with their inflammatory rhetoric.

There is a local element here would violate closures with the purpose of triggering more closures, their logic being if they can’t get to where they want to get to any additional people who can’t get to the beach will gain them more support.

In short this violation was most likely done with the assistance of an ORV with the express purpose of violating the closure. It is amazing the NPS could not catch them. As bold as it was they perpetrators must have know exactly where Park Rangers were and were not.

I don’t agree with the policy of expanding the closures because of vandalism, this unfairly punishes law-abiding citizens for the bad actions of vandals. It is not the way to gain support.

Credit goes to Dap for only assigning eco-terrorist as the number three culprit on his list.

To bad the ORVers can’t clean up the 1-foot deep ruts they continually create on the beach, I appreciate that many of them pick up litter.


Anon,

Some good points! Allow me to expand:

"Actually what stinks is the misinformation that the ORV side perpetuates. Walk into a local business and you will get a barrage of how the Park and environmentalist are in the process of closing all the beaches to everyone forever in the Park. Some of the ORV contingent helps fuels this kind of reaction (resource violation) with their inflammatory rhetoric."

-There is misinformation and hyperbole in use by BOTH sides, as you well know. Actually the SELC Cartel gets way more press than the pro-ACCESS groups, so I would call it lopsided toward them. To wit:
http://audubonmagazine.org/features0701/incite.html

"There is a local element here would violate closures with the purpose of triggering more closures, their logic being if they can’t get to where they want to get to any additional people who can’t get to the beach will gain them more support."

-I have heard/read as much threatened myself, but until someone is actually caught in the act, it's all speculation. Could be ORV users, could be Santa Claus.

"In short this violation was most likely done with the assistance of an ORV with the express purpose of violating the closure. It is amazing the NPS could not catch them. As bold as it was they perpetrators must have know exactly where Park Rangers were and were not."

-Your last sentence says it all....

"I don’t agree with the policy of expanding the closures because of vandalism, this unfairly punishes law-abiding citizens for the bad actions of vandals. It is not the way to gain support."

-Agreed in full.

"Credit goes to Dap for only assigning eco-terrorist as the number three culprit on his list."

-By design, but not necessarily in any order beyond not being first on said list.

"To bad the ORVers can’t clean up the 1-foot deep ruts they continually create on the beach, I appreciate that many of them pick up litter."

An overnight blow takes care of that, as do the daily tide cycles. Check out the DEIS on the subject and you will find the impacts of said ruts to be "Long term Negligable" across the board.

Thank you most sincerely for your appreciation concerning the trash removal, as most ORV users I know take only pictures, and leave only tire ruts.

****************************************************

Tomp,

Good points all! I fully realize that CHNSRA staff is severely limited, and as I stated before the simple geographic constraints of policing such a long shorefront is indeed daunting, if not downright impossible.

There USED to be nightly passes by NPS at the campgrounds, but with the increased size and scope of the resource protection, perhaps they are spread too thin to do so regularly any more.

As before, no one can say for sure who is behind these acts until someone is caught, but it is good to analyze all possibilities when trying to put a "Profile" on these perps.

May they all rot in jail if caught by the NPS. God help them if they are caught by law-abiding beach users.


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