Beach Access Issues
June 26, 2008

Vandalism and trespassing brings another buffer expansion

A new act of vandalism and trespassing to posted shorebird protection areas has resulted in an expansion of a buffer around the birds at Bodie Island spit.

On Sunday, June 22, Cape Hatteras National Seashore staff discovered damaged fencing and off-road vehicle tire tracks that violated three resource protection areas that were in place south of Ramp 4 towards Oregon Inlet.

The violation apparently occurred between 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, and 6 a.m. on Sunday.  The park ranger who investigated the violation observed one sign destroyed and numerous, obvious tire spin-out tracks in the sand, including zigzagging across the beach, “doughnut” tire marks, and evidence of sand thrown considerable distances from the tire tracks, which suggest the vehicle was traveling at an excessive speed for conditions.  At this time, there are no leads to the identity of the vehicle or operator.

The April 30, 2008, court-ordered consent decree, which resolved a lawsuit related to shorebird and sea turtle protection at the seashore, requires the National Park Service to automatically expand the closure area by 50 meters if a first confirmed deliberate act disturbs or harasses wildlife or vandalizes fencing, nests, or plants.  In this case, seashore staff documented the incident and expanded the closures by 50 meters each as ordered by the decree.  The consent decree also requires that if a second such act occurs, the buffer shall automatically be expanded by 100 meters.  And if a third act occurs, the buffer shall be expanded by 500 meters if NPS determines it is necessary to minimize the extent of further disturbance.

“This was an egregious violation, plain and simple,” said Superintendent Mike Murray.  “Irresponsible behavior such as this not only puts nesting birds at risk, which under the consent decree, leads to more stringent protection, it also reduces access for the many park visitors who do comply with the rules.”

Last weekend’s incident was the third act of vandalism since the consent decree was put in place.

Last month, vandalism of symbolic fencing marking a shorebird closure in the South Beach area of Cape Hatteras National Seashore was discovered about 1.7 miles east of Ramp 49 in Frisco. In that case, a park ranger patrolling the area discovered and documented 12 posts with “Area Closed” signs broken off at the sand line and several Carsonite closure markers pulled out at the shoreline. 

Also last month, a resource protection area for an American oystercatcher nest was vandalized on the oceanside just north of Buxton.  Park staff found more than 1,500 feet of fence protecting the nest had been damaged. Twenty fence posts had been broken, five signs pulled out of the sand, and three Carsonite closure signs are missing. 

Each of those incidents resulted in a 50-meter increase in the buffer.

Destruction of government property and entering a resource closure are federal criminal violations, each subject to up to a $5,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment.

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