August 8, 2013

Cape Point will remain closed to
ORVs for several more weeks


Although the federally threatened piping plovers have finished nesting on Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches, Cape Point will probably remain closed to off-road vehicles for several more weeks.

The reason, according to Park Service public affairs specialist Cyndy Holda, is that there are two American oystercatcher chicks that are foraging along the ocean shoreline approximately seven-tenths of a mile south of Ramp 44 in Buxton.

Holda said the chicks are taking short flights, but that they are not strong enough yet to fly any distance.  She noted that oystercatcher chicks are heavy and “awkward flyers,” so it takes them more time to fledge.

Cape Point itself is not closed, so some pedestrians are wading in the water around the closed area.

Holda said that the beach between Ramp 44 and the Point where the chicks are located will probably open to pedestrians shortly.

However, according to the Park Service’s final rule and ORV plan, the ban on ORVs must remain in place for two weeks after pedestrian access is opened.  This, she said, is to allow the chicks to get used to people in the area and flying from them before there are vehicles they must deal with.

The ban on ORVs until two weeks after the area opens to pedestrians apparently applies only to American oystercatchers because, as Holda noted, the birds are heavy, awkward flyers that take more time to learn to fly distances.

American oystercatchers are not federally protected, but are state-listed species of special concern, and as such are protected by rules and buffers by the Park Service’s ORV plan and final rule.

Cape Point closed to vehicles this year on April 9. It also closed on April 9 last year, but opened on Aug. 3. It looks as if this year, the ORV route to the Point may well not be open until the third or fourth week of August.

The number of miles open to ORVs on Hatteras Island was reduced this week in the Park Service weekly report on miles and ramps open.

According to this week report, 7.13 miles of Hatteras Island’s 40 miles of beach were open to ORVs.  Another 6.44 were closed for resource protection, and almost 27 miles were open to pedestrians.

Last week – and for most of July – there have been about 8 miles of Hatteras beach open to ORVs. 

The difference is caused by more beaches being closed because turtle nests about to hatch are being expanded down to the ocean and there is no room for ORVs to pass behind them.  This is happening at Ramp 49 in Frisco and several other areas.  These closures are shorter than the bird-nesting closures.

Holda also said today that, after a late start to the nesting season, the number of turtle nests in the seashore may surpass last year’s record 222.  As of today, there were 218 turtle nests.

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