Where can you drive, and even walk, on the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore this spring? You'll soon know, as Seashore crews will be identifying prenesting areas for piping plovers, Wilson's plover, American oystercatchers, and other colonial waterbirds.
Earlier this year National Park Service Resources Management staff conducted annual assessments of breeding habitat for the shorebirds. During these assessments, preferred habit was located and prenesting areas were identified. If the weather allows, these areas for the plovers and oystercatchers will be identified by March 15; prenesting areas for colonial waterbird sites sites will be installed by April 15.
The 2014 breeding habitat assessment and prenesting maps will be posted no later than March 15 and April 15, respectively, on the NPS PEPC website.
Park officials say the prenesting closure areas are based on the recent breeding history of the respective protected species at the Seashore and the actual habitat conditions observed during the annual assessment.
At most prenesting areas, pedestrian access is allowed along the shoreline below the ocean high tide line until such time that shorebird breeding activity is observed, then standard species-specific buffers will be implemented. Dogs are generally prohibited in the pedestrian shoreline access corridor below the high tide line adjacent to the prenesting closures and within any posted resource closure, but properly leashed dogs are otherwise allowed in open ORV routes and pedestrian areas. The site-specific restrictions are posted at each location with on-site signage and is the most accurate and up-to-date indication of access status.
In addition, on March 15 the Bodie Island Spit seasonal off-road vehicle route from 0.2 mile south of Ramp 4 to the inlet will be changed to a seasonal Vehicle Free Area, while the designated year-round ORV route from 0.5 of a mile south of Coquina Beach to 0.2 of a mile south of Ramp 4 remains open to vehicles with access via Ramp 4.
ORV permits are available online by visiting www.recreation.gov website or at the following park locations: Coquina Beach (8101 NC 12 Highway, Nags Head, NC), the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (46368 Lighthouse Road, Buxton), and the Ocracoke Visitor Center (40 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC). The permit offices are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., year-round, seven days a week, except Christmas Day, with expanded hours on weekends and holidays during the summer season.The cost of an annual permit (valid for the calendar year) is $120.A 7-day ORV permit (valid from the date issued) costs $50.
The Seashore's interactive Google Earth map has been updated to reflect these changes. The map is available on-line.
During the summer season, this map is subject to frequent changes and on-site signage provides current conditions.