Beach Access Issues
August 13, 2008

Negotiated rulemaking resumes on Sept. 8
and ORV access route proposals are on the table


The next meeting of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, which is working on a long-range plan for ORV access at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, will be on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 8 and 9, at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department.

The committee has not met since June.  The summer has been spent with committee members meeting in subcommittees to work out such issues as ORV routes and areas; vehicle characteristics and operations; permits, fees, and areas; village closures, and natural resources.

The subcommittee on ORV routes and areas has made two proposals for ORV access routes – one by environmental and pedestrian access groups and one by open beach access groups, advocates of ORV access. The two proposals could not be further apart.

The subcommittee members include David Goodwin, representing the Cape Hatteras Business Allies; Frank Folb representing Avon Property Owners Association; Jim Keene with the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association; Burnie Gould of the Cape Hatteras Recreational Alliance; Destry Jarvis, representing Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society, and Sidney Maddock of North Carolina Audubon.

The beach access groups have emphasized keeping as much of the beach as possible open to ORVs by making increased use of interdunal roads that can take ORVs behind areas that are closed for nesting and more ramps for beach access during the nesting season.  The latter will help with areas that have been open this summer but inaccessible because of full beach closures between the ramps and the open beach areas.

The environmental groups have put a proposal on the table that includes more closures to ORVs year round – including Bodie Island spit, Ramp 27 to Ramp 30 between Salvo and Avon, Ramp 34 to the Avon Pier, all of the South Beach from Ramp 45 to 49, and the Hatteras Inlet spit.  Closures to ORVs on Ocracoke would include the entire South Point from Ramp 72 to Ocracoke Inlet, which would become a “wilderness study area,” open only to pedestrians.  Other proposals include year-round closures in front of some villages, such as Frisco and Hatteras, that are now open to ORVs in the off-season.

The proposal by the environmental groups would include leaving Cape Point open to ORVs, subject, of course, to natural resources closures in the nesting season.  This summer Cape Point was inaccessible from early May until the end of July. In addition, all other areas open to ORVs would be subject to natural resource closures during the nesting season.

Both proposals include increased parking areas, and such additions as more public bath house facilities, and pedestrian boardwalks.

You can read all of each proposal by clicking on the files at the end of this article.

Negotiated rulemaking has become increasingly contentious and polarized as the two major stakeholder groups have put their requirements on the table.  Also playing into the process is the consent decree that became effective April 30 to settle a lawsuit against the National Park Service over ORV regulation.  The groups that sued have a seat at the table, and beach access groups feel increasingly that the “victory” of the environmental groups with the consent decree gives them little motivation to compromise.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray has asked the Department of the Interior to evaluate whether, considering the increased polarization, negotiated rulemaking process should be pursued for seashore ORV rulemaking.

Stakeholders have been contacted, but Murray said on Aug. 6 that he did have have the results of the interviews.  He hoped to have a report of whether negotiated rulemaking should continue by the Sept. 8 meeting.

If the process continues, the meetings for the rest of this year will include some intense negotiating on the most important – and divisive – issues of ORV rulemaking.

The negotiated rulemaking meetings are open to the public and include a public comment period, usually about noon of each day of the two-day meetings. The public may submit brief oral or written comments.  Meetings on the first day usually begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 5:30 p.m. On the second day, the meetings end earlier at about 4 p.m.

In addition to the Sep. 8-9 meetings in Avon, the rest of this year’s schedule is:

•    Oct. 22-23 at the Hatteras Village Civic Center.

•    Nov. 14-15 at the Clarion Hotel in Kill Devil Hills.

•    Dec. 11-12 at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department.

Other subcommittees that are working on issues include:

•    Vehicle Characteristics and Operations, including night driving. Renee Cahoon, Jim Keene, Patrick Paquette, Derb Carter, and Neal Moore

•    Permits, Fees, and Passes. Renee Cahoon, Michael Peele,  Patrick Paquette, Dwight Rettie, Destry Jarvis, and  Derb Carter.

•    Village Closures. Jeff Wells,  Roy Kingery, Sonny Duke, John Alley, Jim Lyons, Steve Kayota or Vincenzo Sanguinetti, and Wayne Mathis.

•    Natural Resources. Issues/desired future conditions, buffer zones, closures, resource management.  Judy Swartwood, Larry Hardham, Bob Eakes, Walker Golder, Rob Milne, Jason Rylander, David Allen, and David Rabon.

A complete list of the negotiated rulemaking committee members and their affiliations is available by clicking on the file at the end of this article.

Environmental and Pedestrian Access Routes and Areas Proposal

Beach Access Groups Proposal

Members of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee

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