Beach Access and Park Issues
April 14, 2009

Park Service closes Cape Point to ORVs to protect oystercatchers

Acting Park Superintendent Paul Stevens announced the temporary off-road vehicle access closure of the popular Cape Point area in accordance with the requirements of the consent decree that settled a lawsuit against the park by environmental groups.

On April 14, approximately 0.2 of a mile south of Ramp 44 along the ocean shoreline, National Park Service staff observed American oystercatcher breeding behavior, which resulted in the closure.  The width of the beach is very narrow in the area commonly known as “the bypass” and the required consent decree buffer of 150 meters to the north and south resulted in a full beach closure.  There currently is not an alternative ORV access route to Cape Point.

“Obviously, we are not happy about this,” said John Couch, president of the Outer Banks Preservation Association, which advocates for open beach access for all.

“This is for a pair of oystercatchers, which are non-endangered and non-threatened birds – only a species of concern -- and not even nesting yet,” he said.  

However, the birds are exhibiting breeding behavior, which is reason to close the beach under the terms of the consent decree.

Cyndy Holda, assistant to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray and the seashore’s community liaison, said that Cape Point is still open and accessible to pedestrians.

However, she said, pedestrians will have to walk below the mean low tide line to get to the Point, which could mean walking in water up to their knees.  Under certain wind and tide conditions, walking in the surf could be a difficult.  Park Service enforcement rangers, Holda said, will be watching the area and will not tolerate pedestrians who come ashore accidentally or under rough conditions in closed areas.

Walking below the mean low tide line, Holda said, is not “for the average park visitor” and is not being encouraged for safety reasons, although it is legal.

The Cape Point area is also accessible by boat, but the Park Service is not recommending that anyone but those boaters who are very experienced in navigating the treacherous currents around the Point attempt to get there by water.

The consent decree, which regulates ORV access until the Park Service has a long-range plan, became effective on April 30 of last year.

By the first week in May, Cape Point, Bodie Island spit, and South Point on Ocracoke were closed to ORVs.

Most people expected the closures to come earlier this year, and they have – almost a full three weeks earlier.

Last year, ORV and pedestrian access to Cape Point was restored by early August.

For more information on beach access, see: or call 252-473-2111 ext. 148

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