Beach Access Issues
April 21, 2008

Judge in ORV lawsuit orders more information from Park Service…UPDATED


U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle has ordered the National Park Service to provide more information before he approves the settlement of the legal action over off-road vehicle use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The parties to the lawsuit – plaintiffs, defendants, and intervenors – filed a settlement, known as a consent decree, with the court on Wednesday, April 16.

The lawsuit in this case was filed in October by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, against the National Park Service and other federal defendants.  Dare and Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance were allowed by Boyle to enter the legal action as defendant/intervenors.

Details of the settlement are available in the Shooting the Breeze column by editor Irene Nolan on the front page of The Island Free Press Web site.

The settlement, which has been approved by the parties to the lawsuit must now be approved by Boyle.

Boyle had not responded to the settlement until Friday afternoon, April 18.

In two orders filed on Friday afternoon, he asked the Park Service to respond in writing within seven days to seven questions and to appear in his court on Monday, April 21, to provide the court with an examination of the maps that are part of the consent decree. 

The questions he posed include:

•    Whether the consent decree established any control over access to beach driving at existing seashore ramps.

•    The description and location of the ramps from Highway 12 to the beach as they now exist on the seashore.

•    Whether there will be under the consent decree a numerical count of the number of vehicles that enter or have access to the beach.

•    Restrictions or limitations on the type, size, weight, and characteristics of vehicles that will have access to the beach under the consent decree.

•    Whether the consent decree requires separate permitting and qualification of a driver and vehicle, including a processing fee before either driver or vehicle are eligible for beach driving.

•    Whether the consent decree requires safety screening or qualification of beach drivers.

•    Whether the consent decree takes into account the safety of bathers and pedestrians.

In addition to answering the questions by next Friday, Boyle had ordered a suitable representative, or representatives, not to exceed three people, from the National Park Service to appear at the U.S. Courthouse in Elizabeth City at 2:30 p.m. Monday for an “in camera ex parte” proceeding to examine maps of pre-nesting areas and closure data.

However, Boyle cancelled that meeting in an annotation filed on Saturday by a court clerk.

An “in camera” proceeding refers to a hearing or inspection of documents that takes place in private, often the judge’s chambers.  “Ex parte” means that it will happen without the other parties in the case.

Boyle’s order noted the court would make a record of the proceeding, but that record would not be made public or provided to counsel.

To read Judge Boyle’s two-page order in this case:

To read Judge’s Boyle’s Order for In Camera Review:

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