Access and Park Issues
Park Service’s DEIS for off-road vehicle management is now public
By IRENE NOLAN
The National Park Service preferred alternative for managing off-road
vehicle access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was released to
the public today.
The preferred alternative is part of a Draft Environmental Impact
Statement that the Park Service is required to prepare under the
National Environmental Policy Act.
According to the Park Service, “The DEIS evaluates the impacts of
several alternatives for regulations and procedures that would manage
ORV use and access in the national seashore to protect and preserve
natural and cultural resources and natural processes, to provide a
variety of visitor use experiences while minimizing conflicts among
various users, and to promote the safety of all visitors. “
Electronic copies of the DEIS are available for public review on the
NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) Web site for the
project at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkId=358&projectId=10641&documentID=32596
The document is 810 pages, including a 50-page executive summary,
graphics, tables, maps, preparers, consultants, and
Frank Folb of Frank and Fran’s in Avon said it weighs 8.3 pounds
when printed out.
In the DEIS, the Park Service examines in detail six different options
for managing ORVs in the seashore. Tables (available in the
executive summary) compare and contrast Alternatives A through F.
The first five, A through E, were released by the Park Service last
fall during the failed negotiated rulemaking process.
Alternatives A and B are known as “no-action”
alternatives. In this case, the two are continuation of
management under the interim protected species plan and continuation of
management under the consent decree, under which beaches have been
managed since 2008.
The other four are “action” alternatives.
New in the document released today is Alternative F, which is the Park
Service’s preferred alternative.
The environmentally preferable option is Alternative D, which provides
the least access of the six.
Elements that are common to all action alternatives include the
• ORV routes and areas would be officially designated in accordance
with the executive orders.
• Year-round ORV routes and areas would be designated only in locations
without sensitive resources or high pedestrian use.
• Year-round non-ORV areas would be designated.
• A new standard set of species management and monitoring measures
would include “species management areas” (SMAs) and two
levels of species management effort. SMAs include areas at the spits
and points in addition to other sensitive resource areas.
• “Desired Future Conditions” would be established, as
well as a system for periodic review and adaptive management
• Night-driving restrictions would be in effect from May 1 through
November 15, which
corresponds with turtle nesting season.
• ORV permits would be required and would involve a fee and education
• Overcrowding would be addressed using various methods for
establishing carrying capacity.
• New vehicular access points and/or new or expanded parking areas
would be identified.
• Commercial fishing vehicles would be exempted from some ORV
restrictions, when not in conflict with resource protection.
Here is a brief description of Alternative D, described as “increased
predictability and simplified management:”
D is the
Environmentally Preferable Alternative. Under alternative D, visitors
to the seashore would have the maximum amount of predictability
regarding areas available for ORV use and vehicle-free areas for
pedestrian use. Restrictions would be applied to larger areas over
longer periods of time to minimize changes in designated ORV and
non-ORV areas over the course of the year. To provide predictability
under this alternative, only year-round ORV routes would be designated.
Year-round non-ORV areas would include all of the SMAs and village
beaches. SMAs would be closed to pedestrian use under Management Level
1 (ML1) measures during the breeding season. Seasonal night-driving
restrictions would be established between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7
a.m. from May 1 to November 15. An ORV carrying capacity would be
addressed solely by the use of vehicle stacking limits (one vehicle
According to the Park Service, 40.8 miles of beach would be closed to
ORVs year-round, no miles would be designated for seasonal ORV use, and
27.2 miles would be designated as ORV routes, year round.
Here are the details of Alternative F, described as “management based
on Advisory Committee input.”
F is the
National Park Service Preferred Alternative. The NPS used the
Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee’s input to create this
action alternative, which is designed to provide visitors to the
seashore with a wide variety of access opportunities for both ORV and
pedestrian users. After shorebird breeding activity is
would re-open some SMAs to ORV use earlier and for a longer time than
the other action alternatives. This alternative would involve the
construction of two pedestrian access trails and improvements and
additions to the interdunal road system. Under alternative F, Hatteras
Inlet Spit and North Ocracoke Spit would be non-ORV areas year-round,
with interdunal roads that allow access to the general area, but not
the shoreline. SMAs would be closed to ORV use from March 15 through
July 31, except South Point and Cape Point would have initial ORV
access corridors and Bodie Island Spit would have an initial pedestrian
access corridor at the start of the breeding season, with increased
species monitoring in these areas. These access corridor(s) would close
when breeding activity is observed. Village beach closures would vary
under alternative F with the northern beaches closed to ORV use from
May 15 through September 15 and southern beaches closed from March 1
through November 30. Seasonal night-driving restrictions would be
established from one hour after sunset until after turtle patrol has
checked the beaches in the morning, which is usually approximately
one-half hour after sunrise.
Under Alternative F, according to the Park Service, 16 miles of beach
would be closed to ORVs year-round, 23 miles would be designated for
seasonal ORV use, and 29 miles would be designed as ORV routes
Other details of Alternative F:
The DEIS Service says it will provide visitors “with a degree of
predictability regarding areas available for ORV use, as well as
Two popular areas will be closed year-round to ORVs—Hatteras
Inlet and the North Point of Ocracoke with interdunal roads that would
allow access to the “general area” but not the shoreline.
At Hatteras Inlet, 2.2 miles of village beach (from the east boundary
to Ramp 55) would be open seasonally to ORVs. Another 1.8
of shoreline would be open year-round to ORVs. One mile of ocean
shoreline would be closed to ORVs year-round, though a new interdunal
road will provide access to False Point and the inlet.
North Point of Ocracoke will be closed year-round to ORVs with a new
interdunal road from Ramp 59 for three-tenths of a mile with parking at
the end of the road and access to the beach.
The shoreline between Ramp 27 and Ramp 30 will be closed to ORVs
At Bodie Island, 1.7 miles will be closed to ORVs year-round from Ramp
1 to one-half mile south of Coquina Beach. There will be 2.1 miles open
to ORVs year-round, and 1.9 miles closed to ORVs March 15 through July
At Cape Point, one mile from Ramp 44 to the point and for two-tenths of
a mile west of the hook will be a year-round ORV route with expected
limited access from March 15 to July 31.
The interdunal road will be extended behind south beach all the way to
Ramp 49. Two news ramps, 47 and 48, will be added as
“spurs” off the interdunal road.
The beaches in the northern villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo and Avon
will be closed to ORVs from May 15 until Sept. 15. The
Frisco and Hatteras village will be closed from March 1 until Nov. 30.
No night driving from one hour after sunset until the turtle patrol has
checked the beach in the early morning. Beach fires are prohibited from
May 1 until Nov. 16 except in front of the villages, Coquina Beach, and
the Ocracoke Day Use Area.
Permits will be required to drive on the beach. No cost has
established. Permits will be available for a week or a year
date purchased. There will be no limit on permits.
education course will be part of getting the permit.
Eight new ramps will be created and one will be relocated.
pedestrian trails will be established. Current parking areas
be expanded and new ones will be built.
Buffers around nesting birds will remain unchanged from the consent
Small business could see “negligible to moderate” economic
impacts under Alternative F, as opposed to “long-term moderate to
major adverse impacts” under the more environmentally friendly,
Reaction to the public release of the DEIS was muted today.
A few comments started coming out on fishing and community boards in
the afternoon. Most of the beach access advocates we
today hadn’t had time to read even the executive summary today.
The two groups whose lawsuit against the National Park Service resulted
in the consent decree of April 2008 – National Audubon Society
and Defenders of Wildlife – along with Southern Environmental Law
Center, which represents them, issued a media release on their Web
sites this afternoon.
“The preferred alternative announced today falls short of the
U.S. Department of Interior’s own scientists’
recommendations regarding the measures needed to protect wildlife
within the national park,” the release said.
The public will have 60 days to comment which will begin when copies of
DEIS are mailed out and the Environmental Protection Agency files its
Notice of Availability of the document in the Federal Register.
The Park Service also plans public meetings for comment and information
on the Outer Banks and other locations in North Carolina and
Virginia. The dates will be announced later.
You can read the entire DEIS at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkId=358&projectId=10641&documentID=32596.
Details about making public comments are available on the same Web site
under the Notice of Availability
You can click HERE to read the 50-page
You can read the entire media release from SELC, National Audubon, and
Defenders of Wildlife at:
To read a statement by OBPA, issued before the DEIS was released, go