There were no smiles in sight,
but first day of permit sales at Hatteras was uneventful
By ANNE C. BOWERS
were sparks but no flames at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Wednesday
morning when the National Park Service began selling mandatory permits
to drive on the beach.
There is a new trailer set up by the bathrooms at the historical
landmark solely for the purpose of selling annual stickers to beach
drivers. It is the only place on Hatteras Island to get one.
“It’s not a permit fee, it’s a tax,” says Tony Kotecki who resides in
Dundalk, Md., but his family has a non-rental house in Avon.
By 7:30 a.m., folks were gathering in the parking lot at the
lighthouse. There was a cross-section of people -- some local
some not. Some were there to buy permits and others just to
There wasn’t a smile in sight as folks grumbled about the permit that
will cost them $120 annually or $50 weekly for something that has
always been free.
“It is so wrong what has been done here on so many levels,” says
John Mortensen, aka JAM on Internet blogs. “But, I believe
that right will persevere.”
To John Tiller, a regular vacationer from Deltaville, Va., this is just
another way for the government to get money.
“Ain’t crazy about it,” says Tiller. “But there isn’t a lot
we can do about it.”
He is also concerned about the local economy and worries that a lot of
local people will lose their jobs as a result of this new federal
“I come here to fish, relax, to just enjoy the beach,” Tiller
continues. “I don’t ever see anybody doing anything wrong to
Among the couple of dozen people who showed up Wednesday morning, most
seemed resigned that they will have to pay in order to drive on the
beach. Many cited the fact that most beaches up and down the
Coast already require a fee in order to drive on them.
It was the permanent loss of access that enraged most of the people
“I’m not mad about the permit,” said Lee Heller of Frisco. “I
just wish the whole process was more science-based. There was
“The buffer zones are extreme,” Kotecki added. “They are way
of line. I wrote my comments but it didn’t work – just didn’t
seem to matter.”
John Ochs, also from Frisco yelled from his truck, “This is
against the law! This has gone too far. I have one
left, and that is the freedom of speech!”
Ochs' outbursts later led to a confrontation with a park ranger but no
Tony Kotecki acknowledged that yes, you have to pay to drive on other
beaches “but it’s not the same thing. Those are just
beaches. This is a community. This community will
At 8 a.m., NPS employees opened the doors to the trailer for business,
and new chapter began in the local history of beach access.
The structure is divided into three rooms. Applicants enter
first room where the paperwork is completed. You will need a vehicle
registration and driver’s license to apply. Then they proceed
into a middle room where the video is shown. Next, they go
third room where they pay and get the yellow windshield sticker then
exit out a different door. It is small but a good floor plan
moving small groups of people through.
Kevin McCabe of Buxton was the first person to obtain the yellow
sticker on Hatteras Island.
District Ranger David Carter was on hand at the permit
He explained that the next month will be a transition period.
will take situations as they come. We hope people will follow
letter of the law and will get all the information they need.”
William Brigman from Wilmington, N.C., was one of the early applicants
inside the trailer. His wife, who is handicapped from a hip
replacement, was sad to learn from the NPS attendant that his favorite
fishing spot was now off-limits to vehicles.
“Charging is not a bad idea,” Brigman said. “I’m upset about
loss of access, too much care for the plover.” He also
that all the new infrastructure of parking lots and ramps to support
the new law should have been in place before the NPS implemented the
Joe Owellette, 67, from New Hampshire, was resigned to paying to drive
on the beach and said that he was not giving away 23 years of his life
to give up fishing on the beach. Owellette served 23 years in
Special Forces and with the U.S. Army Rangers in Vietnam.
“I am thoroughly disgusted by the federal government,” Owellette
said candidly. “Saw it happen in Cape Cod in 1984.”
Heller had concerns that the family vacation component would be
compromised on Hatteras by the fees and inconvenience of obtaining the
Many worry how permit sales will play out when the visitors increase
for the summer, and they predict lines and traffic jams.
are concerned that too many disgruntled people standing in line to
watch the mandatory video and to purchase the permit will ruin the
lighthouse experience for visitors clamoring to see the island’s famous
Not one person was in favor of the new rule. Not one little
There was another type of sadness that lay heavy on the crowd. Some
areas that were once regular hangouts, including much of the area known
as the Hook at west of Cape Point, will no longer be accessible by
vehicle. Pedestrians can walk in the vehicle-free areas when they are
not closed for nesting birds and turtles, but many who can’t make the
walk won’t be visiting there again.
One by one, the people left – some with permits, others
People have until March 15, 2012 to obtain the permit, which is when
the rangers will start issuing tickets for beach driving without the
According to the Chief Park Ranger Paul Stevens, there had been 21
permits and 4 commercial licenses purchased by noon at the Hatteras
location. In Ocracoke, there were 20 permits and two
licenses sold and 17 permits at Coquina Beach during the same time
frame. These are the only places to purchase the beach
“So far, this has gone real smooth,” said Stevens. “Don’t
what to expect during the summer. Right now, we are in the
of our slow season.