October 16, 2013

Rules of seashore shutdown ease this week as
Congress appears ready to end the standoff


Some changes to the rules of the 16-day-old government shutdown on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore have helped to ease the situation this week for visitors and business owners.

And today, there is finally some hope that Congress will pass legislation to end the standoff, keeping the government operating and raising the debt ceiling.

The Senate is expected to take up the legislation late today or this evening, with the House voting, late tonight or tomorrow morning.

Though it’s not a done deal yet, local businesses and groups that have upcoming special events on the seashore are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief.

On Saturday night, the National Park Service in Washington reversed itself and decided that some concessions in some parks could reopen.

Avon Pier and Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reopened on Sunday.

These businesses have concession agreements with the seashore, and the first guidelines from Washington required that they close for the duration of the shutdown.

Some have asked why the state-owned Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village, which is located on seashore property, did not have to close.  The answer is that the museum has a memorandum of agreement with the Park Service and not a concession contract.

Also, this week, the Park Service announced that commercial fishermen, including those who fish for bait for tackle shops, will be allowed back on the beach under a special arrangement.

Anyone who is interested should contact chief law enforcement ranger Paul Stevens at [email protected].

Earlier this week, some of the barricades that were keeping the parking areas at the Canadian Hole/Haulover area closed were removed by the Park Service after consultation with the Dare County Sheriff’s Office.

The north/northeast winds have been blowing all week, and kiteboarders and windsurfers have been flocking to the area and parking in the Highway 12 right-of-way. The vehicles were a safety hazard along the highway, where the speed limit is 55 mph.

In the rest of the seashore, ORVs are still banned from the beaches, but a skeleton staff of park rangers is not hassling beachgoers and fishermen who are using the parking areas and hiking across the dunes to the beach.

Local officials and groups have also been exploring other ways of getting the seashore open – even without legislation in Congress.

The National Park Service announced it would work with governors to reopen some parks if the states agreed to pick up the bill.

Several states have chosen this route, and North Carolina and Tennessee joined them today when it was announced that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would reopen today through Sunday with the two states sharing the bill.

According to press reports, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said he is interested in opening more parks in this manner, but is hindered by the Park Service’s insistence that all of a park must be opened and not just certain areas or services.

Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, sent a letter to McCrory last week, asking him to consider funding Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  As of last evening, Judge said he had heard “not a peep” from Raleigh.

Meanwhile, the Outer Banks Preservation Association’s attorneys were dealing directly with the Interior Department to get its solicitors to review to seashore’s enabling legislation to see if that would allow the park to reopen.

According to the attorneys for VanNessFeldman in Washington, the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park was opened over a week ago after NPS solicitors determined that the enabling legislation says that nothing in the act “shall be construed as authorizing any limitation on customary uses of or access to the (park) for bathing and fishing (including setting out fishpots and landing boats).”

The seashore’s enabling legislation has some similar language about the use of the beach to earn a livelihood by fishing.

David Scarborough of OBPA said the attorneys have not had a response from DOI.

Meanwhile today as members of Congress hustled to come up with a resolution to the shutdown/debt ceiling standoff, two House of Representatives committees grilled National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis for more than five hours about exactly what was shut down and why and who ordered it.

In what can be described only as a partisan media spectacle, House member after House member made speeches to his or her base audience.  Before it was over, it seemed as if Jarvis has been asked the finer details of every closed parking area, overlook, turnout, monument, road, and facility in all of the country’s 401 parks.


Even as the signs were looking more promising on Capitol Hill, organizers of some upcoming events were sweating bullets as the days of the shutdown dragged on.

Bodie Island Light Keepers’ Direct Descendants Homecoming

For more than a year, the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society has been planning the gathering this weekend of the extended families of the keepers of the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Highlights of the event included climbing to the top of the black-and-white banded tower, which opened this year for public climbing for the first time.

But the federal government shutdown that resulted in closure of all the national parks may make it impossible to even visit the grounds of the beloved lighthouse.

If the site is still closed, however, the homecoming will go on at the Comfort Inn South at Whalebone Junction in Nags Head, a few miles north of the Bodie Island Light Station, said Bett Padgett, president of the non-profit group.

Padgett said that about 300 descendents have registered for the event.

“The program is going to be the same, even if it is closed,” she said.

Registration will be held on Friday from 3 p.m – 7 p.m. with light food and beverage offerings and a cash bar. Genealogist Sandy Clunies will be on hand with family group charts and to share her insight about the families.

On Saturday, the event kicks off at 10 a.m. with the U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard, followed by special guest speakers and musical performances emceed by Outer Banks broadcast personality Ken Mann. Lunch is included, and a photographer will be onsite for group pictures.

If the government is reopened by Thursday, Padgett is optimistic that the homecoming will be able to be held as planned under a tent on the grounds of the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Otherwise, the Sunday program for children that was to be open to the public, she said, will be rescheduled for another time. The main program on Saturday will be held either way, with the focus on the thrill of connecting with blood relatives who share a unique history.

“They are really excited to come and meet all their cousins and cousins once or twice removed, and all of their family,” Padgett said. “We hope to learn from them as well.” 

For updated information, visit www.outerbankslighthousesociety.org

Capital City Four Wheelers Surf Fishing Tournament

This annual event usually draws 500 to 600 anglers to Hatteras Island for around-the-clock fishing.  The turnout this year is anybody’s guess, though the organizers are forging ahead.

The tournament is Saturday into Sunday and headquarters will be at the Fessenden Center in Buxton.  More information is available at

NCBBA Red Drum Tournament

Organizers of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association Red Drum Tournament have refused to give up on this annual event, which is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 24-26, with headquarters at Frank and Fran’s tackle shop in Avon.

If legislation to reopen the government does really get done this week, it looks as if they will make it.

For more information, go to


Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament

This tournament is one of the biggest of the fall fishing season, and looks right now to be in the clear for Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 6-9.

About 120 teams of six persons each usually participate in the tournament, which started in 1958.

You can get more information at the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club website, www.capehatterasanglersclub.org.

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