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? http://www.nps.gov/nebe/forkids/yap.htm

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.

2012 numbers appeared to be up because people, mostly not staying on seashore, wanted to see the new temporary bridge and other rubber necking of the hurricane damage. Most of the businesses say people we're just driving through And that's what I observed. Reality is that visitation is way down, ask ANY business located within the park.

I realize the liberal enviro wackos are against economic prosperity but it does hurt real people. Oh yeah, people are bad too...

Wayne Cone was one of a kind.

Ron, he was Director at Albright when I attended Intro to Park Operations in 1968. Did he become superintendent at Yosemite after Larry Hadley?

Could it be that those liberal enviro wackos are just driving through because they don't want to spend money with businesses that think their customers are liberal enviro wackos?

Beach, economists and state and county records seem to disagree with your conclusions. Here's part of a report given to the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce in April 2012 by Dr. James Kleckley, of East Carolina University:

The Outer Banks was not immune to the 2008-2009 recession, but visitors continued to come to the area to enjoy its amenities. For example, a look at a major occupancy measure in Dare County (the Outer Bank jurisdiction that currently shoulders the bulk of the tourism hotels and restaurants) showed essentially flat visitation activity from the summer of 2008 to the beginning of 2010. However, the results showed that the year-to-year activity increased in the summer of 2010. Retail sales estimates support this upturn. So, while businesses in the area suffered like many in the rest of the nation, the regional downturn was not as severe. Tourists continued to come.

The largest negative impact to the Outer Banks economy was felt in real estate and construction. The region experienced a dramatic slowdown in the demand for second homes, retirement homes, and resort investment property – and this sector of the economy (which includes construction) is not expected to recover in the near future. However, the national economy improves, the demand for retirement homes and second homes should recover and buyers should once again begin taking advantage of the opportunities found in the local housing market.

Further, the state Commerce Department reports that in Dare County median family income grew 35 percent from 2000 to 2011, to $66,628, that July 2013 employment was up more than 5,000 from 2012, and unemployment was down from 11.3 percent to 6.9 percent.

Further, according to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, restaurant business in 2012 was up 9.3 percent over 2011, and through the first nine months of 2013 it was up 2.12 percent. The $208,655,656 gross in meal sales for 2012 was the highest going back to 2000 at least.

Gross occupancy income for the Outer Banks hit $385,182,596 in 2012, a 4 percent increase over 2011 (and seeming record high), and through September 2013 it was running nearly 3 percent ahead of 2012 levels, according to the Visitors Bureau.

Also, year-to-date occupancy on Hatteras Island lodgings was up 2.13 percent through September. Most interesting is that the highest bump in lodgings came at Buxton, up 7.4 percent through September. The only decrease was at Frisco, just half-a-percent.

So it would seem that restaurants and lodgings were seeing an increase in business in recent years.

Lee, most liberal enviro wackos judge and dictate without ever visiting in the first place, part of where the wacko component comes from and just fuels the frustration. Life on CHNSRA ain't the same as Chapel Hill...

In his April 2013 statement on the sequester Director Jarvis states:

"We excluded positions that are required to ensure the health and safety of visitors and employees or protect resources and assets"


So having lifeguards in the Graveyard of the Atlantic isn't required to ensure the safety of visitors?

Following Jarvis's own directive there should have been furloughs of non essential staff before cuts to visitor protection were made so how many office workers in the OBX group have been furloughed before the OBX group superintendent was forced to do this? None of course. And none of those HQ people will have be out on the beach next July face to face with a distraught family member after their loved one gets pulled out by a rip current --some field ranger who arrives twenty minutes after the event will be faced with that.

Meanwhile Eugene O'Neil NHS with its average of ten visitors a day and New Orleans Jazz NHP and all the other pork barrel parks will be open for business.

Lee, Wayne Cone was the Yosemite superintendent who succeeded Larry Hadley in late 1970. He had perhaps the shortest tenure in that position of any Yosemite park superintendent. Rumors have it that he opposed the contruction of a Wells Fargo Bank in Yosemite Village, which upset the park concessioner, and which inturn led to a rapid administrative re-assignment and a change of address. Perhaps there were other factors in the works as well? Wayne Cone was an inspiration to all of us who had the chance to work under his leadership.

Dumb, you mean sort of like the conservative econo wackos who judge and dictate without ever having experienced life outside their tight little comfort zones. It might be a fine idea if everyone had to first visit and experience before judging and dictating. Let the enviro wackos live for a year at Hatteras before they speak about plovers and the Tea Party wackos experience a poverty stricken life because of a physical or mental handicap or loss of a promised pension before they can cut food stamps to provide greater subsidies to giant agri-businesses.

An excellent idea.

How do you propose that we do it?

Thanks, Owen. That helped jog my memory and I do vaguely recall the Wells Fargo flap. Maybe I didn't know that Wayne was its victim.

Just one more example of outside political pressures running the NPS. I wonder which Congressman was dipping into a WF money bag?

The villages in CHNSRA are a small part of Dare County but you know that. Show me the numbers for Buxton over the past decade...

Lee, I rest my case.


About time.

but I believe human resource regulations call for exploring other alternatives before perm. staff is furloughed or laid off.

Lame excuse and another example of too many regulations.

Let the enviro wackos live for a year at Hatteras before they speak about plovers and the Tea Party wackos experience a poverty stricken life because of a physical or mental handicap or loss of a promised pension before they can cut food stamps to provide greater subsidies to giant agri-businesses.

Could you please document where a tea party candidate has called for taking food stamps away from someone with "poverty stricken life because of a physical or mental handicap"?

The news about the Bonner Bridge may well make this discussion about life guards on Hatteras and Ocracoke a moot point. If that bridge isn't open visitation will be much less. Also it means there will be a lot more people on the beach at Bodie Island. Maybe the park could redirect efforts to at least providing LGs there --there will certainly be a lot more folks in the water there if that bridge remains closed.

I recall at one point about ten years ago when divers inspecting the bridge were surprised to find that some of the pilings rested on nothing and were just hovering there above the bottom of Oregon Inlet.

This news about Bonner Bridge I think also gives insight into why the renovation of the Bodie Island light station and its opening for tours. I"m sure it was a consideration for NPS managers that if the bridge is out or the road cut by storms they wanted to still have that revenue stream from those who pay to climb the Bodie Lighthouse if getting to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse isn't possible.

Hatteras cut lifeguards from 2 of 3 beaches in 1993. That second link is for a July 4, 1993 NY Times article entitled "U.S. Parks Retrench After Budget Cuts" that details the service cuts at parks during the 1993 summer season.



Beach, perhaps you can show us the numbers for Buxton over the past decade. According to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, gross occupancy revenues are on a pace to roughly double since 2000, from $199.3 million to $370.6 million through the first nine months of 2013. It would seem logical that Buxton hotels/motels/B&Bs would enjoy some of that increase. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats...

Lee, it was an interesting time under superintendent Mr. Wayne Cone. Mr. Cone was sent in right after the Stoneman Meadow incident, I believe Mr. Hadley went onto Cape Cod. It was a time of turmoil, the politics of the riot incident, new company taking over from the old YP&C Company, etc., if my memory serves me correctly. There was much discussion of new development in the Yosemite Valley including the Wells Fargo Bank, now an art activities center. Mr. Cone was a very ethical and competent person, he got cross trails with the President Nixon administration by opposing the new development and Interior policy changes for the park. . His removal from the park was sudden, lacked any grace or respect for what he had accomplished and started us down on the slide of political appointees for the NPS Directors job along with the key Regional and Park managers. It was quite disconcerting to witness the events and Mr. Cone's removal from Yosemite. .

There is no logic in thinking that the Hatteras communities are not being negatively affected by the beach closures and excessive regulations. Hatteras businesses are reporting serious declines in the shoulder seasons and know this is directly related to the new NPS management policies. Tax increases, new McMansions and good weather during summer attribute to Dare's OVERALL revenue increases. The rising tide does not affect boats stuck in dry dock because of the NPS...

EC, interesting comment. I am not sure I understand your position on this issue. Our federal managers are bound by laws and policies mostly implemented in the 1930's under the F. Roosevelt administration. They include 8 hour days, overtime pay, child labor laws, well the list is quite lengthly. We may not be in agreement with all of them, fair enough, but a manager has both a legal duty and departmental ethical responsibility to adhere to them. The law can be changed, but I think it is disingenuous to suggest it is a "lame excuse". As Perpetual seasonal points out, there are those that do not follow the rules, I strongly agree with Perpetual seasonal that this should not be the case, but they are traveling down a dangerous slope. Many citizens sacrificed much to ensure common sense protections for employees, I do not think most of us would want a return to the days pre Fair Labor Standards Act.

Rmackie, i am the last to suggest one should disobey the law. But when someone quietly submits or even promotes a law, they can't use it as an excuse for bad behavior. Why aren't the NPS personel out aggressively fighting these restrictive regulations? I suspect they actually like them as it gives them good cover.

And I would love to eliminate the unemployment act.

Whereas others would like to eliminate unemployment. Your tea party no-nothing Congress is proud of no jobs bills.

Your tea party no-nothing Congress is proud of no jobs bills.

Really. Would you care to document that or just do another Lee like hit and run.

The entire Tea Party platform is positioned to stimulate jobs - by getting the government out of the way. You don't create jobs by burdensome regulations, healthcare mandates, minimum wages or other government intrusions.

Ok, we're starting to slide away from the subject at hand. Let's try to stay on topic, please.

Beach, Logic isn't involved in the restaurant and occupancy rates published by the Dare County Visitors Bureau....those are hard numbers. The numbers for the past 10 years are public information and are available through the Visitor's Bureau. From my look at them they list each village on Hatteras Island seperately. They sure seem to refute claims that the Hatteras Island economy has been destroyed and that there are no visitors to Hatteras Island.

Never said there was no visitors or economy destroyed. The reality is summer months are doing better, but the shoulder seasons, when fishermen like to come, are not so good. Lots of business did depend on the shoulder season to carry them through the off season. Now, we are seeing higher unemployment, more people collecting welfare, and businesses closing. And the bridge issue will likely exacerbate the problem.

As I pointed out before visitation is far lower than it was before the new NPS policies.

Do you think eliminating lifeguards is going to have a positive effect on visitation or the struggling economy of the island? As usual the NPS could care less about communities it's strangling with its mismanagement and over regulation.

Beach, I must have missed where you "pointed out" that visitation is far lower than it was before the new ORV policies took effect. The NPS numbers show last year's visitation was the highest in eight years, which covers a period of years before the regs took effect. While I would agree they are soft numbers, the overall increase in occupancy and dining revenues, and Dr. Kleckley's findings, combined certainly seem to refute your anecdotal claim.

And Buxton's 7.4 percent increase in lodging revenues in September 2012, when King mackerel fishing is heating up, would also seem to indicate that surf casters haven't abandoned Hatteras Island.



Surf fishermen don't fish for King Mackerel and the historical spots for Spanish Mackeral are now closed during the summer.

This drop in visitation really started when the NPS used it's swat team to close Cape Point in 2005.

Having swum at Cape Lookout and grappled with the long shore currents there, let's hope the national seashore can figure out a way to afford lifeguards next summer.

That pregnant lady went into the water in the evening around 6:45 pm after lifeguards went off-duty. The lack of funding for lifeguards had nothing to do with her drowning.

I find it very troubling that lifeguards provided by the NPS would be even considered to be cut. These lifegaurds do a lot more than just rescue, they provide guidance on some very unforgiving waters.

The hook area at Cape Point, which is now closed most of the spring and summer, provided calmer and safer waters. Closures on ramp 49, with its some what calmer waters, can get crowded because there is no else to go.

With less safer swimming options, no lifeguards, and crowded beaches the NPS is not improving the visitor experience.

Well Sara, this drowning incident is only one of the many.

Lifeguarding is actually 3% rescue and 97% prevention. Their job is to educate the public regarding hazards (rip currents, large surf, sting rays, etc.) throughout the normal duty day. Mostly all services do have a night duty response crew.

Cape Hatteras Drownings: http://islandfreepress.org/2013Archives/06.27.2013-VirginiaManDrownsOnSeashoreBeachInFrisco.html

I can continue…..

I agree ^

OBX Group NPS jeopardizes Ocracoke beach's Dr. Beach National Winner status by not hiring lifeguards for the lifeguard beach. "In 2007, when Ocracoke earned the designation “Best Beach in the U.S.” from Dr. Beach (a.k.a. Stephen Leatherman, Ph.D.), it was specifically the Lifeguard Beach that he recognized. While commending Ocracoke for its combination of unspoiled beaches with a village that provides services for visitors, he also mentioned its high marks for lifeguards, a “stringent requirement” for a #1 beach. Dr. Beach promotes beach safety and considers lifeguards a “hard standard” of quality. " "Instead of providing lifeguards, the Park is working with a consultant to the public health department, Trimble says, to help prevent drownings." Is this part of "creating" economic benefit? It is just wrong and absolutely Un-American. How much money will they spend wasting time to do this and have to pay to contract a consultant?!
Squeaky wheel gets the grease, NPS magically now finds funds to provide lifeguards for 5 days per week. I guess the LEs won't get new guns and tazers this year.
NPS taking well-deserved pounding over cutting lifeguards. [url]http://islandfreepress.org/PivotBlog/?e=286[/url] "But, at this particular time when the new off-road vehicle plan and the protection of nesting shorebirds and turtles is especially contentious, the argument to cut lifeguards seems especially insensitive or ill-conceived or just plain dumb." "According to Keene and others, Trimble claims that once visitors step into the water, they are no longer on NPS property and that others should be responsible for their safety. Come on, Trimble. Really? And, finally, he told IFP reporter Connie Leinbach yesterday that fewer than 10 percent of visitors use the lifeguarded beaches. Come on, again. So the 10 percent, many with children, who choose lifeguarded beaches, shouldn’t have that option? And 10 percent is quite a few folks in the summer months." [b]Just more evidence of the continued anti-visitor policies of the NPS.[/b]