Local News

Rally planned as public comments on beach driving plan close

Posted May 7, 2010 3:22 p.m. EDT

— Outer Banks residents plan to rally in Buxton Saturday as the public comment period on an environmental report that will affect beach access comes to a close.

The rally will start with a march from the Buxton Fire Department to the Fessenden Center, where members of the Outer Banks Preservation Association will speak. Volunteers will also help people fill out comments about the draft environmental impact statement.

"Let everyone who sees us know that we are peaceful but united in our stand against" the draft plan, OBPA Secretary Anne Bowers said in a news release.

The National Park Service is developing the environmental report to form rules regarding off-road vehicle access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and other parks. The plan, which is expected to completed next spring, will be in effect for 10 to 15 years.

The public comment period ends at midnight May 11. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to Mike Murray, Superintendent, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, 1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, N.C. 27954.

The draft plan 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.

It 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.

Efforts to come up with a permanent plan have struggled to find a balance to between recreational use of the seashore and protection of its wildlife.

The Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit in October 2007, claiming that the National Park Service was not adequately protecting nesting piping plovers and sea turtles. Dare County agreed to an interim consent decree rather than risk courts completely closing the beach.

Since May 1, under the consent decree, all beaches in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore have been closed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to protect breeding shorebirds and sea turtle nests. That closure will remain in effect until Nov. 15.