Fort Fisher State Park
Local anglers have long enjoyed cruising along four miles of shoreline at the state park, located south of Kure Beach. Before February, they never had to keep an eye on the clock.
That is when the state Division of Parks and Recreation
, including added fees for four-wheel access and closing gates at sunset.
Officials say the changes were made over concerns for visitor safety at night and for the well being of the environment and natural habitats.
"Some habitat areas were vandalized. We had some sea turtle nests that were vandalized," said Charlie Peek of the state Division of Park sand Recreation.
With almost 4 million visitors last year, there were only three reports of damage.
Mike Robertson, who owns a bait and tackle store, says the restrictions are already turning some tourists away.
"A lot of them are saying they're coming this time. They'll pay the fee, but they will not be back again," he said.
the state announced it is extending four-wheel-drive access hours
and will leave gates open 24 hours-a-day during the busy fall season.
For some, the changes are still not enough.
"Seven days a week, 24 hours a day and no fees. There's no reason to compromise, because they [haven't given any] good reason to close everything," said Red Lewis, a bait and tackle shop owner.
Opponents plan to make their point through elected leaders and through a protest held Saturday at Fort Fisher's gates.
"And I'm sorry that we're having to do what we're doing, but we are not going to stop until that's back 24/7,"Robertson said.
Fort Fisher is the only state-owned property where year-round four-wheel-drive access is allowed.