banner
Travel

Public meeting scheduled in Raleigh on beach driving plan

Posted April 27, 2010 12:20 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2010 7:09 p.m. EDT

— Triangle residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on a draft plan for beach driving along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The public meeting will be held Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm. at North Carolina State University's McKimmon Conference & Training Center, 1101 Gorman St. in Raleigh.

The plan outlines access for off-road vehicles at the seashore over the next 10 to 15 years. It is the latest attempt to balance environmental concerns and recreational access along the federally protected coastline, including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Bodie and Ocracoke islands.

The draft plan would permanently close parts of the beach to off-road vehicles. It would temporarily close other parts of the beach during nesting seasons and set limits on the number of off-road vehicles allowed on the sand.

Public meetings were held in Ocracoke and Buxton on Monday.

“It’s about restricting access not only to off-road vehicles but to pedestrians,” Lee Browning commented during one of Monday’s meetings. Browning was among the people opposing the plan.

Environmentalists said they hope the new rules will protect sensitive nesting areas.

"I like to drive on the beach. I like to fish. But in the long run, if it comes down to ORVs versus birds, I've got to go with the birds," Dennis Pohl said.

Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening in Kill Devil Hills at the Wright Brothers National Memorial First Flight Centennial Pavilion, 1000 Croatan Highway, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The final meeting will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center, 1815 W. Mercury Blvd. in Hampton, Va.

Public comments on the plan are also being accepted online until May 11.

Beginning Saturday, all Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches will be closed to off-road vehicles between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., as part of a court-ordered consent decree. The restriction continues until Nov. 15.

The decree is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife in October 2007, claiming that the National Park Service's interim management plan did not adequately protect nesting piping plovers and sea turtles. Dare County agreed to the order rather than risk the court closing the beach to vehicles altogether.

As part of the decree, the NPS may issue permits to authorize night driving on Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches within the restricted hours between Sept. 16 and Nov. 15.

Prior to Sept. 16, officials will announce the availability of the night driving permits and how to obtain them.