Cape Lookout National Seashore ORV Plan Open For Comment Through Early September

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Public comment is being taken through September 4 on an ORV management plan for Cape Lookout National Seashore/Kurt Repanshek

Off-road vehicles would be able to travel most of Cape Lookout National Seashore under a draft management plan, which also would create three "pedestrian only" areas on the seashore.

Though not nearly as controversial as the off-road management plan at Cape Hatteras National Seashore just to the north on the North Carolina coast, the proposed Cape Lookout National Seashore Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement aims to put specific numbers to ORV traffic, specify where they can travel, formally set speed limits, and set seasons for when they can travel on the seashore.

Efforts to provide pedestrian only access during the summer months would cause the mileage open to ORVs to seesaw just a bit:

Under the seashore's preferred alternative in the draft plan, 44 of the seashore's 56 miles would be open to ORVs from March 16 "through the Thursday preceding Memorial Day and from the day after Labor Day through December 15." Forty-one of those miles "would be available for ORV use from the Friday proceeding Memorial Day through Labor Day. Routes within the Cape Lookout Village Historic District would be open to through vehicle traffic."

The pedestrian-only areas would include the entire length of the seashore from December 16 through March 15. From March 16 through December 15, pedestrian-only areas would include "Portsmouth Village, an expanded lighthouse beach, and Power Squadron Spit from approximately mile marker 46 to the end of the spit, and all of Shackleford Banks."

Pedestrian-only areas would be expanded during the summer (defined as from the Friday preceeding Memorial Day through Labor Day) would include the following:

* Long Point: On the ocean beach at the Long Point Cabin Camp for a day-use beach and a separate tent camping area for a total pedestrian-only area of about 0.50 miles, to be determined by beach profile.

* Great Island: On the ocean beach at the Great Island Cabin Camp for a day-use beach and a separate tent camping area for a total pedestrian-only area of 1.9 miles, to be determined by beach profile.

* Codds Creek: On the ocean beach near Codds Creek for a total closure of 0.8 miles between ramps 35a and 35b for pedestrians only. Camping would be allowed in this area, except for the north end turtle relocation site.

* Light Station: The pedestrian-only area at the lighthouse would be expanded approximately 0.7 miles to the south and would run from ramp 41a to ramp 42a (at the NOAA weather buoy) for a total closure of about 1.4 miles year-round, to provide visitors at the ferry hub a bigger stretch of vehicle-free beach.

Under the plan, which is open for public comment through September 4, ORV speed limits would be set at 25 mph along the beach and other designated routes, or as posted, and at 15 mph when within 100 feet of any "person, vehicle, campsite, other structure..." There also would be restrictions on night driving from May 1 through September 14 each year "to reduce potential impacts to turtles and bird chicks."

The plan also would allow up to four additional "ramps" that would provide access to the ocean-side of the national seashore from the "back route" on the sound side. And it would continue a prohibition "of all high-performance sport-model and two-stroke ATVs and UTVs (after a five-year grace period) and seasonal restrictions on all other ATVs and UTVs" due to their impacts on shorebirds. According to the draft plan, these vehicles likely flush birds more than other ORVs because of the noise they generate.

Proposed fees for ORV permits range from $80 for a ten-day permit to $150 for an annual permit.

The initial limit on the number of vehicle permits issued would be 2,500 permits annually for the North Core Banks and 3,000 permits annually for the South Core Banks, which is based on the average number of ORVs delivered to each island from 2005 through 2012. A limit on the number of vehicle permits issued per year would be established in year 4 of this ORV management plan/EIS, based on the average number of permits issued per island in years 1–3. Permits would be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. An annual lottery may be established to equitably allocate permits.

As with Cape Hatteras National Seashore, ORV use at Cape Lookout existed long before the national seashore was established. It also was not addressed in the seashore's enabling legislation.

"Beginning in the 1930s, vehicles were transported to the banks by shallow draft ferries and were used to provide access to productive commercial and recreation fishing spots, as well as for other recreational pursuits such as sightseeing and camping. Today, ORVs provide vehicular access to the Seashore beaches for recreational purposes, including activities such as surf-fishing, surfing, sunbathing, swimming, bird-watching, camping, visiting historic structures and site seeing, among other activities," the draft plan notes.

As with Cape Hatteras, sensitive species at Cape Look are driving the ORV guidelines. While some comments collected by the seashore during the planning stages suggested that the park staff move bird or turtle nests and eggs away from ORV corridors, staff said that wouldn't work as piping plovers and American oystercatchers more than likely would abandon their nests under such circumstances.

While turtle nests could be moved without concern for abandonment, "studies indicate that the determination of the hatchling sex ratio depends on the temperature at which the eggs incubate. Changes in these temperatures due to moving the eggs may result in changes to the sex ratio, having implications for the species as a whole. Handling eggs can result in increased hatch failure. When relocating nests, there is a risk of disrupting the membranes inside the egg, which can kill the embryo," the draft EIS notes.

Seashore staff also declined requests to allow for an off-leash area for dogs. While there were requests during the planning stages to include more restrooms, dump stations, and water pumps on the national seashore, park staff said those elements were not central to the off-road vehicle management plan, and so would not be considered at this time.

You can read the entire plan, and comment on it, at this site.

Comments

Thanks Kurt for posting this. I think it is important to add a little bit to what was the traditional use of ORVs on Hatteras Island.

Before Hatteras Island contained a NP and was a tourist destination it was a very isolated place with few people. The locals lived as far away from the ocean beach as possible all the villages were established near Pamilico sound. The mail boat had a regular schedule and brought most of the supplies to the island. Cars came before highways were established. To use vehicles local had a series of trails that connected the villages. The trails meandered from the villages to the beach. Sometimes the trail might be right next to the ocean at low tide sometimes it could be far inland. The trails changed to wherever the sand was the firmest and easiest to drive on at that time. Driving on the beach was not recreation. Eventually local fishermen started using vehicles to replace horses while commercial beach fishing. There were a handful of visitors that came to recreate (sport fish) on the ocean beach. Getting here was difficult. When state roads connected all the villages to the north end of Pea Island and the state ferry beach driving primarily became a recreational use.

Few visitors in the beginning came to the NP with an over sand vehicle. The traditional access to the beach for recreation by visitors to the NP was by foot. I know this because I regularly visited the National Park in the late 1950's and that is what we and everyone else did, we seldom saw vehicles on the beach and in some areas we never saw them. The ORV ramps were originally constructed for commercial haul seine beach fishermen to get their beach dories over the artificial dunes because the Enabling Legislation had guaranteed that the legal residents of the villages had the right to continue to commercial fish on the NP beach.

More government control and regulation, just never stops. I believe they do this just to justify there existence and grow the beauracracy. I haven't seen any evidence, like Hatteras, that these new regulations are neccesary. Fixing a problem that doesn't exist...

I been there a few times, but is a little far for me. I submitted comments but I know from experience public comments mean nothing, unless it supports the NPS's preferred plan. A lot folks I know started going there to escape the over regulation of Hatteras.

Beachdumb,

I think people are going there because Lookout use to look like Hatteras many years ago. Many many of us who live here and vacation here think the rules were long overdue and are an incredible compromise for a National Park to satisfy one special interest group, ORV users.

All I can say is Lookout needs to addresed so it's management is in line with the rest of the Seashores and Lakeshores. There will still be miles to drive on.

You always have Padre Island.

I fail to see anything remotely called a compromise at CHNSRA. Buxton, you are in minority with your position and you know it.

How long will it be before Padre Island gets in line with rest of the NPS's over regulation? I'll bet sooner than later.

"More government control and regulation, just never stops."

Right, government control likely will not stop on government-owned land, nor will the government likely stop regulating the use of land owned by the government in trust for all people.

That is a good thing.

The more the federal government regulates land that they call "theirs" the better the argument for local control of public lands. And I never thought I would be one to say that. Local control means that these bureaucrats are answerable to someone, unlike the NPS who answers to no one but themselves with no oversight. Please create an NPS oversight committee NOW. It is way overdue. How do we have any agency that can make sometimes arbitrary, unilateral and consequence free decisions? What other agencies can implement fees and taxes upon taxpayers without an act of congress or restrict which taxpayers can use these lands? No one but the NPS/Forest Service/BLM. Tell me there isn't something systemically wrong with that system?

Backpacker--You have to remember which branch government gave those agencies the authority to determine fee structures.

Rick

Beachdumb,

Just because one group (ORV users) can scream louder does not make them a majority. I might not be in a majority on HI but it doesn't mean I am not in the majority nationally. In any case you ought to see all the people down here right now. The ORV regs haven't slowed them down one bit. Padre Island has a much different EL than CAHA and Texas law establishes beaches as roads or some such nonsense.

In any case you ought to see all the people down here right now. The ORV regs haven't slowed them down one bit.

This just shows how dishonest some are about this issue. You know that ORV regs have slowed down the shoulder seasons, primarily the entire spring. Summer tourism generally has not slowed but certainly a different crowd. You can fool those that don't know, you sound like Audubon when you spout half truths like that.

Its not just ORV groups complaining, but you know that, and would not call those groups the majority either.

You can be certain the "getting in line" at CALO will result in more regulation, more fees, less visitors and hardships on the communities that depended on visitors.

No beachdumb I don't know that at all.They only thing that significantly slows busness down is access on and off the island. I don't like calling people liars but do think you are so caught up in the ORV hysteria that you have tunnel vision. If the road and OI bridge stay sound everything indicates the economy for Hatteras Island in 2014 is going to be excellent.

The majority of the americian people don't want their national seashores beaches turned into parking lots. I have peronally witnessed that transformation take place here because of past management. If you don't understand what I mean by that you are not being truthful.

I've never driven an ORV, and have enjoyed beaches for over 60 years now. I have a feeling that there are enough other people who could make a similar statement sufficient to populate the beaches many thousand times over.

"The more the federal government regulates land that they call "theirs" the better the argument for local control of public lands."

These parks are owned by the federal government. That means they are owned by ALL Americans, not just the small population that lives nearby to them. That population is obviously affected by what goes on in the parks, which is why they get a say in how they're managed. But the parks are not theirs. They are owned by and for the use of all Americans, and people travel from all over the country to make use of our parks there. Local control of these parks makes absolutely no sense.

"Local control means that these bureaucrats are answerable to someone, unlike the NPS who answers to no one but themselves with no oversight. Please create an NPS oversight committee NOW."

Local control might make the bureaucrats more answerable to someone, but it'd make them more answerable to the wrong someone. At any rate, there is oversight of the National Park Service in both the House and the Senate even if there is not a committee specifically named the National Park Service Oversight Committee. If you feel your congressional representatives are not doing a good enough job in providing their appropriate oversight, feel free to give them a call.

Thank you, Ethelred, for your reasoned comments.

But can I make a correction? Everyone has a say in how the park is managed. You don't have to live locally to give your input on a management plan. They are all posted on the web, deep within the bowels of the website that is mentioned in the article.

So please give your input.

Danny www.hikertohiker.com

Ethelred,

No one believes that their input has any sway with the NPS. Public comments are a prime example. There are several examples of times when the NPS has wholescale ignored public input at multiple NPS units. And that isn't just locals or folks who moved into NPS units and make a living off of them by guiding or providing concessions in that unit. The NPS gives more sway to consessionaires than stakeholders. That is the problem. The NPS forgot who their real stakeholders are. Dollar signs. Follow the dollar signs.

" The NPS gives more sway to consessionaires than stakeholders. That is the problem. The NPS forgot who their real stakeholders are. Dollar signs. Follow the dollar signs."

This from someone who habitually complains about the most miniscule of fees, like $2 for a roundtrip shuttle ride to see the fireflies. Sorry, but if your grand conspiracy theory is that the NPC is concerned with nothing but maximizing the profit potential of the National Parks, they sure are doing a terrible job at it.

everything indicates the economy for Hatteras Island in 2014 is going to be excellent

Buxton, can you cite the source of this claim?

These parks are owned by the federal government. That means they are owned by ALL Americans

Ethelred, I used to think that was true, until NPS showed us differently. I also agree, unfortunately, we now need an NPS oversight committee.

Local control of these parks makes absolutely no sense.

Ethelred, why? Don't State's control and successfully manage parks and recreation areas already? You can't deny that more and more States are considering this action, the NPS's reluctance do what is right for the people have forced this issue. The NPS better get prepared for this or change.

Beachdumb,

I live here (Hatteras Island, Buxton). I go to the grocery stores, pass the NPS beach parking access and go to the beach everyday. The parking lots are full everywhere and I see as many or more people on the beach as I ever had. Going out to lunch at my favorite resturaunt in Buxton in a minute, I'll be lucky to find a seat.

National Parks were not established for the whim of the current local generation to change management to suit their immediate desires. Most state parks are designated recreational parks, not so with National Parks.

beachdumb is right, of course, about the evil NPS folks really being NSA agents deployed by black helicopters and funded by the Trilateralists. Once you accept that, everything else makes sense.

"Don't State's control and successfully manage parks and recreation areas already?"

Yes, they control and successfully (some better than others) manage state parks and recreation areas. And that's great. But Hatteras National Seashore and Lookout National Seashore are not state parks or state recreation areas. They are national. They are on land owned by all Americans, supported by facilities built by all Americans, and staffed by personnel employed by all Americans. So I reiterate that it would make no sense for them to be controlled by local residents who are only concerned about parochial interests, particularly when that means they will be managed to the detriment of all the other people who are inheritors of these parks despite not living right next to them.

"You can't deny that more and more States are considering this action"

They can consider whatever they want, but states don't trump federal authority and they don't get to usurp federal land.

I've seen very few well managed state parks in my time. The whole idea that states can manage the parks better than the NPS is a bunch of hogwash, mostly put out there by tea party types that never spend time in either state or national parks. This is all just a big scheme to decentralize the federal government, and put this land back into local control so that they can wear down the standards placed on these areas.

There is also a lot of that parochial attitude in the Smokies region. Many think that the park should only be ran by a bunch of good ol' boys with the accent. Southern Forest Watch, and a few other petty organizations think if you ain't local, you ain't meant for "their park". Regardless, National Parks follow a set guideline of standards, whereas state parks are a hodgepodge of management, and almost always you will find few state parks that are ran better than a National Park. In fact, state parks are usually vastly undefunded, and in many cases teeter on being cut out all together during times of recession. The entire "states will do better at managing these lands" is all a big fantasy mindset that doesn't fit with reality. The national standards, and criteria used to create and maintain National Parks are very important. If anything, states should attempt to mimic the national level, or exceed it, but you rarely if ever see that occur.

Gary,

I know what you mean. State parks just don't do it for me. There is a totaly different mindset there. I feel like I'm in a KOA in the ones I've been in. I'm sure there are some excellent state parks somewhere.

The problem with CHNS was that the NPS was very late in dealing with ORV issues. The retirees that moved here to drive and fish and the visitors that came with ORVs on regular visits had ample time to organize themselves and decided that it was their park and should be run by their standards and interest. National Park management goals, the Organic Act and the Park's EL conflict with their recreational interest. They established themselves through several special interest local organizations and formed important political ties. They came close to getting exactly what they wanted.

Beachdumb would probably be happier if CHNS were a state park without the pesky constraints of a national park.

Some just don't have high standards, or just have low standards that think they should apply to all places. The psuedo-non-profit ambulance chasers, that use a blind-owl as their logo, called Southern Forest Whine does the same thing here in the Smokies. They want the Smokies watered down to their acceptable level where they can basically get to do whatever they want in the backcountry without any RULES or rangers out there to protect the valuable resources from the likes of them. Anarchists tend to be like that. Even with all the National Forest Land around them, they focus strictly on the much higher standards in a National Park and try to erode those standards and take it to a lesser tier, like what you find in a USFS, state park, or gah..local city park. I think they'd be happier if it was more a local county park that no one paid attention to, but that's not going to happen in a place as protected and as internationally recognized as the Smokies. Too many people want to see it protected and because it is protected like it is, that's why people want to immerse themselves in it.

So, expect nothing but this sort of thing from these parochial deadbeat types, and trust me just about every park has that small contingencey of "local screamers". All we can do, is place a comment when they ask. I did place a comment and I stated, i'd like to see this entire seashore turned into a wilderness similar to what you find in Olympic National Park. They have the opportunity to do that at Cape Lookout, so there is still hope, regardless of what the beachdumps, or pseudo organizations like that want.

Gary, you made your point well, I am in agreement with your position. California state parks a most recent example. In any case thank you.

I am hearing more and more about this Southern Forest Watch on this site from folks like Gary they are obviously making some impact judging by comments like these. Good to see outside groups at least trying to keep an eye on their government we could use more groups like that. The NPS definitely could use some better oversight IMO.

Well, if you like anarchists and posers, then that group is for you.

Southern Forest Watch definitely steps on some "political elite toes," including Gary's.

I'm not a political elite, mr. ambulance chaser. And SFWhine is not really anything but an impotent gnat in the grand scheme of things. Mere parochial buffoons...

Please, let's stick to the topic and not cast bricks...

I live here (Hatteras Island, Buxton). I go to the grocery stores, pass the NPS beach parking access and go to the beach everyday. The parking lots are full everywhere and I see as many or more people on the beach as I ever had. Going out to lunch at my favorite resturaunt in Buxton in a minute, I'll be lucky to find a seat.

If you actually knew the statistics for visitation, you would know this is the busiest time of year. Your anecdotal observations are as good as mine. One local business was recently quoted "notes that with difficulties getting on local beaches in the fall, they’ve seen a huge drop in annual visitors who chased blues and other fish that time of year". Its the shoulder seasons, when the fishermen used to come, that has been affected. You can dishonestly spin it your way though.

Most state parks are designated recreational parks, not so with National Parks.

This is not correct, perhaps you have forgotten the name of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. Remember this part from CHNSRA's EL, " said area shall be, and is, established, dedicated, and set apart as a national seashore recreational area for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and shall be known as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area"

As with CHNSRA and CLNS, recreation was supposed to be primary use, but now the NPS is changing that. I can't seem to find a difference between a "wildlife refuge" and "recreational area" in the new world of the NPS.

bdumb...

I get it. "Recreation Area" in your world means "I can trample and run over birds and turtles as I recreate area".

Just because a public area is dedicated to a specific purpose doesn't mean that you can go there expecting to be allowed to sell heroin, beat baby seals, or marry your sister. Other laws, including protecting other species, still apply.

OK, folks, we've had enough. We're moving on. Nothing more to see here...