| April 7, 2008
Commentary…One more gathering to celebrate beach access
. . .WITH SLIDESHOW
By ANNE C. BOWERS
eerie sensation descended upon the island like the fog that hid our
lighthouse from view. One by one, islanders and some visitors
headed out to the beaches of Cape Hatteras.
It was April 4, the day the request by environmental groups for a
temporary injunction to close popular areas on the Cape Hatteras
National Seashore was scheduled to be heard in U.S. District Court in
Raleigh. Two days earlier, a call had gone out for the folks to
show up on the Hatteras beaches at noon to demonstrate support for free
and open access for everyone. There was talk that the court
hearing might be continued, but no one knew for sure. Some felt
it could be their last legal trip driving across the sands to Cape
Adding to the island’s feeling of doom was the fact that all
communications were lost around mid-morning. The Internet was
down, as were most cell phones, and only a few land lines were working
to let the people know the latest news. At high noon, dozens of
people congregated on the beach at the Point, completely in the dark.
Side by side, the vehicles parked under the overcast skies. Kids
and dogs ran around playfully, adding a lighter mood to their
surroundings. Seagulls poked around the gathering, looking for
their usual handouts. Several U.S. and state flags flew proudly
in the backs of trucks. Three children marched between parked
vehicles with a red, white, and blue retail flag that said, “We
are Open.” Some women rode around on horseback.
Bright signs were taped to sides of vehicles and windshields were
written on with window paint, all the messages relaying an angry
sentiment of what these people wanted from our government.
“Don’t Deny Access.”
“Buckeyes for ORV Access.”
“The Land of No.”
“Save our Beaches.”
A news reporter and cameraman from Channel 3 in Norfolk mingled
in the crowd, asking people for their opinion about the possibility of
closing the beach access. No one was afraid to voice their
thoughts for the 5 o’clock news.
“Tell me how much the tickets will be so I can budget how
many times I can go to the beach a year,” one local businessman
“That $600 stimulus check the government is sending in May
won’t do much to help us if this goes through,” said
Although the gathering was calm and orderly, the fire that burned
in the hearts of the attendees was fierce. In every group of
people was a person taking a turn on the soapbox, citing the many
falsehoods and injustices they perceived. Everyone was well read
and well educated on the facts. These people were part of the
army that had written, e-mailed, and called congressmen, the governor,
and every possible news agency. They had gathered thousands of
names on the petition that circulated. They wanted and needed to
With no news and no connection with the outside world, the crowd slowly
broke up after a couple of hours. Some were reluctant to leave
because there was a chance that it may be a long time before they could
“This is the way the beach used to look, big and wide,” my driver said.
We drove quickly across the sand made firm by the tide. There were bumps that ran towards the dunes.
“Camel humps are what we called these,” the driver
reminisced. “Used to jump them with our motorcycles when we were
Let’s hope that the children of tomorrow can see the beach the way we saw it today.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDESHOW