Local News

Judge drives beach-access lawsuit away from ban

Posted April 4, 2008
Updated May 1, 2008

— Dozens crowded a federal courtroom Friday afternoon to hear the two sides in a lawsuit over driving on Outer Banks beaches say they have come to settlement.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle could have issued an injunction that would have banned beach driving until the settlement was finalized. Instead, he continued the case until next Friday, when he will hear the settlement, formally known as a consent decree.

Neither officials with the National Park Service or two environmental groups would release details of the settlement.

A representative for the National Audubon Society – which jointly filed the lawsuit with Defenders of Wildlife in October – said it would impose more restrictions but would be fair.

"We're not about eliminating driving on the beach. We are, in fact, about finding a very good balance," Chris Canfield, with the Audobon Society, said.

Boyle granted requests from the attorneys for Dare and Hyde counties to attend the consent decree hearing. But some locals expressed skepticism that the settlement will reflect the voices of the communities that it affects economically and culturally.

"I don't think it'll be much relief," Frank Folb, owner of a bait shop in Avon, said. "I think it'll put a bigger burden than what we have. It's very hard to live with what limitations they have already in place."

Supporters of beach driving demonstrated across the islands Friday. They held two protests in March, including one that drew 1,500 people, according to media reports.

Attorneys argued that the park service's interim plan provided inadequate protection to nesting piping clovers and sea turtles along North Carolina's federally protected coastline, including Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Bodie and Ocracoke islands.

The park service had formed the plan after Boyle ruled in July 2007 that the lack of a long-term management plan technically made beach driving illegal.

"It was too much in favor of the recreational access, and the last season that was under that interim plan showed dramatic declines in birds' nesting there," said.

Supporters, though, argued that a ban or major restrictions on beach driving could severely damage the area's economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism.

"It probably would have prompted a cascade that would have resulted in an economic disaster for the local economy in Dare County," Raymond Sturza, mayor of Kill Devil Hills, said.

Driving on beaches along the Outer Banks has been popular for decades, and the number of vehicles sometimes tops more than 2,000 a day.

"I'd probably make it a year, and I'd be out of business," Folb said about his bait shop.

Supporters also argued that that beach driving reflects an earlier way of life on the Outer Banks, which should not be erased.

"My dad was the first man to drive to Cape Point," Folb said.


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  • LvsNgsHd Apr 10, 2008

    This is a delicate and difficult situation that needs compromise, not name-calling and UNINFORMED ranting. IF, and that’s a big IF, the area is closed to driving it will be TEMPORARY only. Paranoia and exaggeration do nothing to help this discussion.
    For accuracy's sake: the official name of this park is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Does NOT include: "Recreation Area" as stated previously. National Parks, Seashores, Lakesides are not (legally) defacto Recreation Areas, there IS another designation for that....

  • LvsNgsHd Apr 10, 2008

    Here is the "enabling legislation" written in 1937 ( not the '50's) , that’s 70 years ago, for the establishment of this National Seashore:
    "Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area . . "

  • trebissky Apr 9, 2008

    Off roaders have been driving on the outer banks beaches for decades at least. Why are they suddenly a danger to anything NOW? Making those beaches off limits will hurt something all right... a lot of people who depend on those drivers/fishermen for their livelihoods. And those who come there to enjoy the ocean.

    And the birds? They'll still likely be there hoping to catch some of what the drivers leave after they have lunch.

    Don't do this. It is a BAD IDEA several different ways.

  • rocket Apr 4, 2008

    MSN93, you need visit sometime. The image that has been created in your head is far from reality.

  • MSN93 Apr 4, 2008

    2,000 cars on the beach in one day? Horrible! And I don't believe for a second that many people will stop coming to the beach if they can't drive on it. What will they do? Drive down to Daytona instead? Let them. And what about the thousands who don't come now because they hate the cars? They would quickly replace any who stopped coming. I sit in traffic every day. Who wants to do it on the beach?

  • rocket Apr 4, 2008

    first off, I appreciate your response and your honesty. Now let me attempt to give you what you have asked for.
    1) 4 wheelers are not allowed on the beach. I think there may be some exceptions for those who are handicapped if they have a street legal vehicle. I have never seen one on the beach at Hatteras.
    2) I cannot give you a hard percentage on current closures. If anyone has ever come up with an exact number, I would love to see it also. That being said, if you would take some time to watch the following video, you will get a very good idea of just how much protected area there is compared to open access area. Keep in mind that further closures are put in place when eggs, nests, etc are discovered.
    3) There is a reason for the protected areas. I have no problem with Reasonable closures but they grow each year with no evidence that the wildlife benefits from it.

  • darkness Apr 4, 2008

    ok clearly lady blue we must thank you for showing your ignorance and for showing us .....well.. your ignorance.
    You have above all shown that you have no FIRSTHAND knowledge of the situation at all you are a porch sitter. You have heard a modicum of poorly thought out information and have jumped on the band wagon full force.....have YOU ever been to hatteras? your dictum says no...animals do not surpass humans. nor do they have rights... and yes it was GODS plan that animals be subserviant. nowhere in the bible does it say stop, stop dont hit the stupid piping plover while hes gettin a lil.

  • ladyblue Apr 4, 2008

    Rocket--From reading from the posters previously on this subject ( I think it was last year this top was hot on here) it was said that 4 wheelers, and any object with wheels that could drive on the sand. That is where I read this from golo posters saying the seen it. AS far as the greed side, then I am open to listen because no I don't know the percentage that is there for the animals breeding grounds. I have not had access to a map and will be happy to have you tell you what percentage is set aside for the animals breeding section. It must be a protection of some kind for these species or this problem would not be here would it. If you will kindly reread my blog I also acts for facts showing me that there isn't a problem involving the animals or you folks wouldn't be in this pickle...........

  • rocket Apr 4, 2008

    no species is in danger of being wiped out due to ORVs on the Cape Hatteras beaches. If you can find Facts, not claims or propoganda, to dispute that please post them so we can all be enlightened.
    I'd like to see what it looks like when someone does a "wheelie" on a beach in a truck because I've never seen such a thing. Where do you come up with this stuff? No one is in favor of wheelies on the beach.
    You want to talk greed? You have obviously not seen the maps of what is closed under the current plan. To call the pro-access side greedy for wanting to maintain the sliver that is left shows your complete ignorance on the issue.
    I'm so glad we have people like you to tell us how to run the planet. I can't imagine what would become of it otherwise.

  • darkness Apr 4, 2008

    The direction of this discourse is disturbing to say the least...to recognize ANY animal over LAW abiding, TAX paying citizens is criminal. AND any enviro who dislikes or disagrees with this message feel free to let me know... ill be there johnny on the spot quicker than greased lightnin and ill help you load up all these piping plovers and turtles and we'll take them to your house....how bout that?