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Talks in Beach-Driving Lawsuit Stall

Posted April 11, 2008

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— The two sides in a lawsuit over beach driving along Cape Hatteras beaches have failed to reach an agreement after a week of negotiations.

Lawyers for the defendants – the National Park Service and Dare County – and the plaintiffs – the National Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife – talked into Wednesday evening.

They considered standards for buffer zones around nesting birds that would allow opportunities for beach driving, according to the Dare's public-relations department.

The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs insisted on different conditions at Thursday morning meetings to finalize the agreement. Dare officials said the environmental groups wanted to expand the size of the buffers and eliminate five of six areas from consideration.

Attorneys for Dare and the NPS said they could not agree to those terms, and the settlement negotiations were officially terminated.

A date for a new court hearing has not been set.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of the two environmental groups in October 2007. The lawsuit claimed the NPS' interim management plan did not provide adequate to nesting piping plovers and sea turtles along the federally protected coastline, including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Bodie and Ocracoke islands.

At a federal court hearing in Raleigh last Friday, the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to ban beach driving while the lawsuit procedes. Instead, lawyers said they were close to an agreement, and U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle continued the case.

Locals argued that a ban or major restrictions on beach driving could severely damage the area's economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. They also said it could cripple a part of local culture that has been popular since the 1930s.

Up to 2,000 vehicles a day can traverse the Outer Banks beaches.

In July 2007, Boyle ruled that the NPS' lack of a long-term management plan technically made beach driving illegal. In response, the NPS formed an interim plan, against which the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife filed the lawsuit.

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  • hiislander Apr 11, 2008

    Take all emotions away, where do these groups wanting to close the beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke to park? I know here on Hatteras Island there aren't very many. And the ones that are here are pretty small. You aren't allowed to park on the side of the road. We don't want people to cross over our already sensitive sand dunes. If they did start allowing people to park on the side of the road, there isn't much of a shoulder, so you would either get stuck or get hit; maybe both! I don't think anyone really gets that there isn't much access other than driving here on Hatteras. And I know people and business don't want them parking in front of their houses or in their parking lots. I have already noticed recently the houses by the pier have put up signs stating no parking. So where would these groups like us to park? hmmmm. maybe they don't care! I think they know they will keep people away and that is exactly what they want. They want to keep the beach all to themselves!

  • Centurian Apr 11, 2008

    The "beach drivers" are fishermen, surfers, kite-flyers, frisbee throwers, families, and yes- even bird watchers. They all recognize that reasonable closures and restrictions are necessary to protect nesting birds, turtles, etc. (Driving on dunes is prohibited entirely, and the ORVs are all properly licensed road legal vehicles, NOT dune buggies.) In fact, the "beach drivers" are generally the ones that keep the beaches clean and are very disciplined stewards of the natural resources at the OBX.

    The remote outer banks locations can not reasonably be accessed by walking there. There is room for compromise that will protect birds AND allow limted beach access to permit recreation and not kill the economy for the OBX residents.

    The environmentalist seem to expect almost a complete shut down of the National Park, and it is built for recreation and never was intended to be a complete wildlife refuge without people.

  • Slip Kid Apr 11, 2008

    There are many areas protected, these groups want to restrict too much. We mere humans have rights to access the beach, too.

  • foetine Apr 11, 2008

    we drove on the beach last weekend and it wasn't nearly as destructive as these "Sand before Humans" crowd demand. The Ocean is going to claim the Outer Banks anyway. Just enjoy them. I don't see all these people complaining about the hotels on stilts that are being built all over the Outer Banks. When the next big hurricane nails Nagshead, we're going to watch the Insurance industry go nuts.

  • rocket Apr 11, 2008

    Driving is not allowed on the dunes. The injunction would close access to humans, not just ORVs. The wildlife has more beach all to themselves here than any other beach I have ever visited.

  • ncteacher22 Apr 11, 2008

    Dear Beach Drivers....Get your stinking cars off the beaches and back on the road where they belong! The beach is no place for vehicles (except emergency ones). Leave the beautiful beaches for the people, wildlife, and dunes.

  • sweetsea Apr 11, 2008

    Angora, why don't you visit and talk to the people that live on the island and smell the coffee. You can't hear yourself because of where your head is inserted. But there again, being from the northeast originally there is no need for you to get firsthand information because you know everything already. You say "it is disgusting to see all the tourists and Junk", well sister the tourists are citizens and they work and pay taxes and deserve hard earned vacations to our shores, riding or walking. It would improve the environment in NC if you and your fellow know it all northeastern whack jobs would return to your northern homes before you ruin ours. Delta is ready when you are!!! Now git!!!

  • rocket Apr 11, 2008

    By george7096 - "There's enough beach to share. It's right to have some sections closed for bird protection; people can walk in. That would leave plenty open to driving. I'd like to see more spirit of compromise from the vehicle groups."

    comments like this prove that you have no knowledge of the area. There are already significant closures and the defendents were even willing to expand upon that. You need to get the facts before you comment.

  • angora2 Apr 11, 2008

    sweetsea, you are part of what is wrong with NC's beaches today. That type of mentality ruined beaches in the northeast, and is now ruining our beaches as well. It is disgusting to see all the tourists and JUNK that now populate our formerly beautiful, pristine beaches. "Human consequences" as a result of protecting the environment? Can you hear yourself?

  • george7096 Apr 11, 2008

    There's enough beach to share. It's right to have some sections closed for bird protection; people can walk in. That would leave plenty open to driving. I'd like to see more spirit of compromise from the vehicle groups.

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