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Seashore officials working on plan for beach driving

Posted July 19, 2007
Updated May 1, 2008

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— The superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore said Thursday that he has been working for months to finalize guidelines for vehicles driving on the shores of the barrier island.

In ruling on a case of a driver caught spinning out among the dunes during the Memorial Day weekend, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ordered Wednesday that all off-road driving be banned in the seashore. The National Park Service, the Department of Interior and towns along the seashore need to create a plan for driving on the beaches, the judge said.

The ruling, which affected beaches from Oregon Inlet to Ocracoke Island, set off panic among fishermen and beachgoers, and Park Service rangers decided not to enforce the ban until they could get all of their questions about it answered.

"There clearly is a minority of folks that don't appreciate the privilege that is given to us," said fisherman Bernie McCants, who has caught red drum and speckled trout off the Outer Banks most of his life.

McCants said the Park Service needed to have a formal traffic restriction plan in place decades ago, but he said Boyle failed to acknowledge Superintendent Mike Murray's comprehensive efforts to change that.

"It was puzzling that he implied that there was no plan," he said.

Some areas on the beach are closed because of wildlife sanctuaries, and regulations already prohibit motorists from driving on sand dunes, speeding and driving drunk, Murray said.

Raleigh attorney Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor, said he doesn't think Boyle is about to shut down the beach. He said the judge only wants to send a strong signal to clarify beach traffic rules.

"I think the judge used the occasion of one guy driving recklessly to make a point," Shanahan said. "(The ruling says) we have environmentally sensitive areas that need to be protected (and) there are things that they're supposed to be doing that they're not doing."

Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, who represents the Outer Banks, said that he trusts Boyle and the Park Service will eventually find a balance between access and environmental protection.

"There is room for both in my view. It's easy to accommodate the vehicles and the wildlife," said Basnight, D-Dare.


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  • papa jim Jul 20, 2007


  • wingnut61285 Jul 20, 2007

    I'm against driving on the beach. They do that in Daytona, FL and the cars get in the way.

  • luv2surffish Jul 20, 2007

    every one. best thing to remember about beach driving is the same rules apply that are on the road.. also.. seatbelts are required.. not enforced much, but you can get written up if not buckled up..
    and dont forget to air down BEFORE you get on the ramp...i drive all over the island at 20lbs with no problems. just watch speed
    cutting doughnuts do harm the beach...try driving thru some of the holes these idiots leave and the wash boards that idiots that dont air down leave

  • Joy4u2 Jul 20, 2007

    not only cutting circles but this guy was was driving to fast and drunk or so it said yesterday. and that makes it very dangers for ppl.

  • silverflash Jul 20, 2007

    I stand corrected; it is illegal:

    straight from the cape hatteras national seashore site:
    "Use only designated beach access ramps and sound-side access roads to enter designated ORV routes. Reckless driving, i.e. cutting circles or defacing the beach, is prohibited."

    well, i guess what i sometimes do isn't defacing or cutting circles. I merely just do a 180 quickly.. that's enough adrenaline for me... what with my advanced age (37)..


  • silverflash Jul 20, 2007

    as far as cutting circles or doing doughnuts:

    i can't see the harm to the beach. people say it tears up the beach, how? sand moves with the wind/tide etc. I say, as long as nobody is near enough to be interfered with, and you don't exceed the speed limit, which only is a problem for OTHERS when they are near you, who really cares? I drive the OBX alot, never do doughnuts, but maybe would like to if I was feeling froggie. Also, driving on the beach isn't the same as driving on pavement and there are risks present and you must be ever aware of those risks. As far as damage from people doing doughnuts, I am sure I have come across said damage with all the miles I put on the beach, but it's never worse than humpy parts of the beach which is caused by excessive speed or short wheel base..... it's part of the experience!!!! lighten out on the doughnut makers...

    is it legal???? not sure, if it isn't, then you shouldn't do it, but I don't recall a sign indicating it is,i'll check.

  • luv2surffish Jul 20, 2007

    this judge has an agenda.. it ain't to make the park service get an orv plan. they got one they are going by til the new one is approved.. he is in the back pockets of the eko whackos(ie; DOW,etc) who want all humans out of all national parks..
    remember hatteras is a RECRETIONAL NATIONAL SEASHORE

  • bigbr0ther Jul 20, 2007

    Cutting circles is wrong because when you do that, your tires will dig deep in the soft sand. Then you will bog down and likely be buried in sand up to the frame and have a expensive tow bill only if the tide dont take your truck first. You must have never driven on the beach befor or else you would know that. And yes, you really dont want to be driving out on the beach at night and come accross a spot where someone has been cutting circles. Needless to say, if your smart about it and take care of the beach, then you should be allowed to drive out on it, but if you act a fool and go tearing up the beach, then you should be banned from it. Thats why I like Freemans Park(Island) on Carolina Beach. They people there use common sense (which is quite amazing being UNCW is right down the road) and the police patrol the beach often.

  • Wildturkey Jul 20, 2007

    Dear Dismald if you ever drive down the beach at night and run across a place where someone has done donuts you will know what is wrong with it. If you want to do donuts try your front lawn.

  • Dismald Jul 20, 2007

    Whats wrong with "cutting circles" if: (a) your not in the dunes, nor in restricted areas, and if (b) nobody is around you? The circles are no worse than sand castles.