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Budget Constraints Mean No Lifeguards At Cape Hatteras National Seashore In 2014


Swimmers at three beaches at Cape Hatteras National Seashore will not have lifeguards watching over them next year. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Budget constraints dictated by Congress mean you'll be swimming at your own risk next year at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where officials will not be hiring lifeguards for three beaches that in the past have had the guards.

Outer Banks Group Superintendent Barclay Trimble said that cut, and others, were made necessary by the parks' current budget. In October, to re-open the government, Congress provided funds at Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 levels through January 15, 2014. Final funding for FY 2014 may not be resolved before then.

"Given our current budget realities and the uncertainty for the future, the National Park Service is exercising extreme caution in spending to ensure that available funding is directed towards the highest priorities," Superintendent Trimble said in a prepared statement.

The following operational changes will occur this fiscal year:

* Cape Hatteras National Seashore Visitor Centers located on Ocracoke Island and the Fort Raleigh Visitor Center will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays from December 2, 2013, through mid-March to early April 2014.

* Lifeguard operations on all three lifeguarded beaches in the Seashore will be discontinued for FY 2014.

* Eight garbage dumpsters located adjacent to beach access ramps along NC Highway 12 will be replaced with smaller trash/recycling containers.

* Temporary structures at Wright Brothers National Memorial will be removed, providing substantial savings on utility and maintenance costs.

Other measures include reducing purchases of supplies and equipment, decreasing staff travel and training, and postponing vehicle procurement. There is also a likelihood of delaying the hiring of vacant positions.

"We wish we did not have to reduce our visitor services, and we know a lot of people will be disappointed, but we had to make some difficult decisions regarding park operations and priorities," said Superintendent Trimble. "The current budget situation does not allow us to have sufficient staff to keep the same number of hours and the degree of services as we have done in the past. We hope the situation changes and we will be able to return our visitor services to their former operating schedules in the future."


This is a by product of Director Jarvis's decision that sequester cuts will only effect the visiting public and the NPS's seasonal work force. So while permanent staff at the park headquarters in Manteo will not face any forced furlough days the public will be on their own if one of them gets in trouble on the beach.

I am sure that a few Deputy superintendents and division chiefs could take a couple of days off a month and the costs of having those guards on the beach could be covered.

This shows more clearly than anything that the primary loyalty of much of NPS leadership is to itself in all that they do. How many desk jockies at regional offices will be getting their hefty salaries and benefits while the visiting public goes unprotected?

Clearly another example of the Washington Monument Syndrome --they want to make any cuts as obvious and impactful to the public as possible. The last thing they want is for any reduction in funding to go unnoticed by the public by more efficient operation.

This is not to say that I think the parks are appropriately funded, I do not, but I also know that NPS leaders intentionally misorder priorities in an effort to act as an interest group on their own behalf.

The NPS is willing to play games with public safety so that they can do things like fund their own rap group that they send out on tour and help to make music videos?

Not surprising, just more of the anti-visitor mentality of the NPS. Visitors are and have been the lowest priority. That is the core problem of the NPS.

No reduction in the "resource protection" of the species of least concern. The NPS OBX Group wastes tons of money pretending to protect endangered birds, but someone forgot to tell them there are no endangered birds at the seashore.

Re "anti-visitor mentality," 2012 visitation to the seashore was 2.3 million, up about 658,000 from 2011, and the highest in eight years.

Of course, part of the problem with visitation is hurricanes that either close the seashore or cut it off by washing out roads.

And while the piping plover is not "endangered" on the seashore, it is listed as "threatened" under the ESA and requires NPS protection, as courts have ruled.

Kurt, 2011 had Hurricane Irene. But those NPS visitation numbers are HIGHLY suspect as their based on Route 12 traffic counters and calculated and massaged by the brain trust of the OBX Group NPS. So who knows what the real numbers are. Truth is visitation is down since the NPS started their anti-visitor mentality at the seashore.

Regurgitating the SELC or Audubon talking points gives you no credibility, sorry they have history of dishonesty.

While the ESA required protection, it does not dictate the method or level of protection. The methods implemented in the SELC/Audubon/DOW management plan are unnecessary and only used to decrease access/visitation. What did the courts recommend for closure sizes?

Kurt, how about a story how the Seashore is now only accessible by boat thanks to the SELC.

Beach, unless you can provide "better" numbers, the best there are to go on are those from the NPS. And yes, those are "soft" numbers. But unless you can show where they are off by a great magnitude or "massaged," your claims carry no weight.

Not sure where I regurgitated SELC or Audubon, but the USFWS deems the plover "threatened" on the Outer Banks.

As you surely know, the ORV plan came as the result of a consent decree to settle a lawsuit. I don't believe the court recommended any closure sizes for the plovers; those came out of the NPS's piping plover recovery plan that the consent decree produced. You can argue about the methods of protecting the birds, but until a court overturns the plan...

As for visitation, yesterday's closure of the Bonner Bridge by NCDOT will surely impact it negatively.

Beach, see the latest story.

Perpetual seasonal, I actually think the superintendent of this area put out a pretty sensitive statement. I am no expert, but I believe human resource regulations call for exploring other alternatives before perm. staff is furloughed or laid off. Seasonal staff is the first to go, right or wrong. The next cut will be furloughs for perm. staff. I have been in that situation myself as a perm. employee during the second term of President Nixon. We were told we would be furloughed one day a week and no overtime was authorized. Needless to say us buck rangers were pretty upset, but a really fine Supt. called us in and then proceeded to tell us if the budget cut actually happened, he would take the first furlough without pay. A really top flight person by the name of Wayne Cone. Needless to say, that cooled our jets a little. Mr. Cone set an outstanding example, you do have a point there, in my opinion. I do think you are directing your anger to the wrong people.

In any case, I think the Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, needs to rethink this austerity ideology they are locked into, it is not working here in our great country or anywhere else. Perhaps a ray of light, Congressman Ryan and Senator Patti Murray, with their committee members, are rumored to have a possible deal. Lets hope so, enough is enough.

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