Beach Access Issues
March 19, 2008


Another celebration of beach access planned for Cape Point

By IRENE NOLAN


Rob Alderman, the indefatigable “general” of the Fish Militia Web site and the “Outer Banks Angler” program on Charter Cable television, is engineering another celebration of beach access at Cape Point on Saturday morning, March 22.

And he’s working on a meeting for islanders and off-island property owners on beach access issues on Thursday, March 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the Fessenden Center in Buxton.

Alderman invited everyone to gather at Cape Point on Saturday, March 8, to make a statement about the importance of ORV access to the heritage and economy of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. The event was not publicized, but spread by word of mouth – or word of e-mail.

Despite the nasty conditions on the beach – gale force winds and intermittent downpours -- about 200 folks showed up. They came to support continued access to areas of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore that are in danger of being closed year-round.

The Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, have asked U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle to close Cape Point and other popular areas of the seashore to off-road-vehicles until the National Park Service addresses its lack of a plan for regulating ORVs on the beach.

The groups claim that the Park Service’s interim plan, designed to manage ORV use on the beaches until a long-term plan is devised by a negotiated rulemaking process along with an environmental impact statement, does not go far enough to protect nesting shorebirds, including the threatened piping plovers and others, such as black skimmers, American oystercatchers, and least terns.

 Alderman had planned to line up the vehicles to spell “PLEASE HELP US” and to have the message photographed from an airplane on March 8.  The weather made those plans impossible. But he plans to try again on Saturday.

He asks that anyone who wants to participate plan to arrive at Cape Point between 9 and 10 a.m.

After Saturday, he will go on to planning the March 27 meeting at the Fessenden Center.

“This will be a public meeting to describe in detail all of the current access issues, including the request by environmental groups for a temporary injunction to close portions of the beaches to off-road vehicles, the lawsuit over the Park Service’s Interim Plan for managing the beaches, and the negotiated rulemaking process to devise a long-term plan,” Alderman says in a letter to the Hatteras and Ocracoke communities about the meeting.

Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, and other public officials, he says, will speak about the issues and outline what could happen to beach access.

“We will be bringing all the current issues to the table and discussing what you might expect could happen to our beach access,” Alderman says in the letter.
 
“Over the past several months,” he continues, “I have heard numerous islanders and homeowners say that they have no idea about what is transpiring or that they believe it is not possible for any form of government to close our beaches. Unfortunately, the severity of the situation is greater than you know or believe.”
 
The request for a temporary injunction will be heard on April 4 in U.S. District Court in Raleigh. If it is granted, Bodie Island spit, Cape Point and South Beach, Hatteras Inlet and the north and south points of Ocracoke will be closed to ORVs.

“You could be looking at full closures of these areas until the federal courts have heard the lawsuit against the Interim ORV Plan,” he says. “If a judge decides in favor of the groups that have brought this lawsuit, there would be a full closure of all ORV access.
 
“The time has come to learn about this situation or to become a believer that this could happen…If you are not a believer, just show up and we will make you one.”

(More information is available on the Web site, http://www.fishmilitia.com)



   


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