Beach Access Issues
May 24, 2008

More of the beach at Hatteras Inlet is closed


The National Park Service has closed down more of the seashore beach to off-road vehicles and people at the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, which kicks off the summer season and traditionally brings crowds of visitors to the islands.

The new resource management closure is about 1.3 miles south of Ramp 55 at the Hatteras Inlet spit near the overwash fan from Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

According to a Park Service media release, on Friday afternoon, May 23, park resource management staff discovered a two-egg American oystercatcher nest in the middle of the spit between the ocean shoreline and the Pole Road along the soundside of spit.

Under the terms of a consent decree that was signed on April 30 and settled a lawsuit over ORV use on the seashore, the park is required to implement a 150-meter (492 feet) buffer around the nest. The buffer was put in place this morning.

The buffer results in the closure of the ocean shoreline and the Pole Road adjacent to the nest site and blocks “functional” access to approximately 1.1 miles of open beach south of the closure. It also blocks two soundside access sites.

The area around the nest is closed to both ORVs and pedestrians.  

It’s another case of the beach is open, but you can’t get there.  The Park Service has said that people are allowed to walk in the water below the mean low tide line, but that can be both unsafe, depending on tides and currents.  It can also be risky.  If you aren’t familiar with the closed areas and you come onshore in a closure, you can be charged with a violation.

“The closure comes at a time on a busy holiday weekend when the national seashore beach access is already limited due to other resource protection closures implemented under the consent decree,” the Park Service media release notes. 

Just two days ago, in another media release, park officials warned islanders and visitors to expect “unprecedented” beach closures this weekend.  And, they said, some ramps might be closed is they get too crowded with ORVs or there are other problems managing beachgoers.  The two ramps at most risk to be closed are Ramp 4 at Bodie Island and Ramp 44 to Cape Point, where only .2 miles of beach is open.

The new closure also means that from Buxton to Hatteras Inlet, only about three miles of the beach are open to ORVs.

Today’s rain showers and cool temperatures will keep the crowds down on the beach, but that will change when the sun comes back out.

Steve Hissey of Pelican’s Roost tackle shop at Teach’s Lair Marina, near Ramp 55, said he spent most of this morning answering questions from visitors, who are both surprised and unhappy to find their favorite beaches are closed.

“We were blessed down here until yesterday,” Hissey said of the southern point of Hatteras Island. “We had about 2 1/4 miles of beach open and two soundside accesses. Now we have about a mile.

“I’m so furious I can’t see straight,” he added. “We can’t live with this.  This is hurting everyone.” 

“At this stage of the bird breeding season,” the Park Service release says, “it is expected that resource protection and beach access status will continue to fluctuate.  NPS will continue to monitor all bird breeding sites and make adjustments to allow for improved beach access, when permitted in accordance with the consent decree.”

(For a related story on Memorial Day beach access, please see "Memorial Day visitors will face unprecedented beach closures," also on this Beach Access Issues Page.)

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