|Beach Access Issues
| March 20, 2008
Islanders have lots to say to negotiated rulemaking committee members
By IRENE NOLAN
a dozen islanders spoke during the public comment sessions of the
negotiated rulemaking committee meeting in Avon on Tuesday and
Wednesday, March 18 and 19.
They were straight talking, sometimes emotional, and minced no words as
they addressed the 30 members of the group that will develop a
long-term plan to regulate off-road vehicles on the Cape Hatteras
National Seashore. Several spoke at the sessions both days.
Most of the comments were about the recent request for a temporary
injunction on driving on the most popular parts of the beach by
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, which are
represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. All three
groups have representatives on the committee.
“We won’t be able to live here anymore,” said John
Benson of Salvo about the threat of closing beaches to ORVs and the
effect on the economy of the Outer Banks. He also addressed the
“I used to consider, myself a conservationist and an
environmentalist. After seeing you in action, I now find those terms to
“Closing the beaches would do irreparable damage to our
communities,” said Willo Kelly, government affairs director for
the Outer Beaches Association of Realtors and the Outer Beaches
“I find it reprehensible that certain groups have made an end run
around this negotiated rulemaking process,” said Stewart Couch of
Hatteras Realty. “They are going to steal the soul of this
community….Accessing the beach is what we are all about.”
Couch also spoke to the “anguish and loss of business” that beach closures would cause.
“I would urge people in this room to reach consensus,” said
Bob Oakes of Nags Head, who is an owner of Village Realty and Ocracoke
Island Realty and who also talked about the economic consequences of
closing beaches to ORVs.
“If this ridiculous lawsuit goes through…you will collapse
this economy on the Outer Banks,” commented Trafton Reynolds of
Buxton, who has a real estate appraisal company.
“Times are tough already,” he said. “I ask you to withdraw this ridiculous lawsuit.”
Carol Garris, owner of the Fishin’ Hole tackle shop in Kill Devil
Hills, barely made the public comment period on Wednesday because of
the ocean overwash that kept Highway 12 closed until mid-morning.
However, when she arrived, she unleashed an emotional barrage on the environmental groups sitting at the negotiating table.
“We know what you want,” she said. “You want our
island, but we are going to fight with every breath we have.”
Garris went on to charge that once the environmental groups get ORVs
off the beach, they will turn to pedestrians and maybe then to
“Next will there be too many people trampling the dunes to get to the beach?” she asked.
She vowed that islanders would not give up the fight.
“Just because we live on an island, we’re not a bunch of
drunk rednecks,” Garris said. “We get it.”
Another speaker, Ron Parenti, talked about his opposition to seasonal
closures. He said that beaches in front of all the villages,
including the beach in front of his oceanfront house in Avon, should be
open to ORVs “365 days a year.”
Ted Hamilton of Salvo wanted to know why the representative of the
Hatteras Island Homeowners Coalition, a proponent of seasonal closure
of village beaches, had missed what Hamilton said were half of the
negotiated rulemaking sessions. (Steven Kayota was not present Tuesday
to answer the question, but he was at the meeting on Wednesday.)
The speakers got hearty applause from other members of the public who
attended the meetings and did not speak. On Wednesday, there was
standing room only at the Avon Fire Hall.
The heartiest applause went to sixth-grader Sumner Mattingly.
“Dear environmentalists,” he started, reading from his
written remarks. “I am a sixth grade student from Cape Hatteras
Secondary School of Coastal Studies in North Carolina. I am very
concerned with your idea about shutting down the beach to four-
wheel-drive vehicles. As you know, this will ruin our economy. If you
do, it will make it so most people will not be able to survive here
financially anymore. This idea of closing the beach to drivers should
be taken to the people who make the vote on this issue. We are a
democracy here in these beautiful United States of America. Our beach
problems should be our National Park Service’s problems to deal
“Another point I want to make, in case you don’t already
know this,” Sumner continued “is that our
government’s motto is, “no child left behind.” If you
shut down the beach almost every student will be left behind! That
means that my family, along with many others, will not be able to
afford to send me to college because we (as well as 3/4 of our island
residents) rely solely on tourists. If the beach access is closed down,
these tourists will find somewhere else to go spend their vacation and
their money. Please react to this matter prior to April third.”
After he finished reading, Sumner added a few more comments.
“I’m also an environmentalist,” he said.
Then he added, “I want to go to college, and if you try to mess with me going to college, there will be trouble.”