Service offers five days of lifeguards,
but wants $10,000 from locals for seven
days -- at each of three beaches
By CONNIE LEINBACH
residents and business owners are concerned that the National Park
Service’s policy manual says: “the protection of human life is the
highest priority,” and are asking them to live up to that value and to
continue full funding of lifeguards at the public beach.
Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Barclay Trimble confirmed
today that while he is exploring contracting with an outside service to
have lifeguards on duty for five days a week, “no funding is in place
for any lifeguards.”
“It’s all subject to negotiations,” he said.
addition, Trimble has told Dare and Hyde counties, that the park will
provide lifeguards for seven days, if local governments or other
interested group pony up an extra $10,000 per beach.
Ocracoke to join in such a partnership, Occupancy Tax Board (OTB) funds
would have to be approved by the Hyde County commissioners. The OTB is
scheduled to ask for this at the April 7 meeting in Swan Quarter
starting at 6 p.m., Wayne Clark, chairman of the OTB,
Ocracoke residents may attend the meetings via satellite hookup in the
Commons Room of the Ocracoke School.
Hyde County manager Bill
Rich said representatives from the offices of Rep. Walter Jones and
Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan will attend this commissioners’
Dare County manager Bobby Outten said the county had
received the same offer from the Park Service – that it would provide
only five days of lifeguards in the seashore, but others could partner
with the park to get seven days by contributing $10,000. He said he had
just received the information, and the Dare commissioners have not yet
In recent years, there have been only three lifeguarded beaches – at
Coquina Beach, Buxton, and Ocracoke.
lifeguard debate began after Trimble announced in November that owing
to reduced budgets, lifeguards would be eliminated on the three beaches
in the seashore.
In his January letter to the Ocracoke
Civic and Business Association (OCBA), he said the seashore has lost $1
million in annual operating funds since 2010.
seasonal hires has declined by two thirds,” he said. “This includes
interpretive rangers, law-enforcement rangers, seasonal maintenance
workers and lifeguards.”
Income from off-road vehicle
permits to drive on the beach is for “beach access” and cannot be used
for lifeguards because of “legal requirements on how those funds can be
spent,” Trimble said in a January letter to the
cost of having lifeguards at Ocracoke, Bodie and Hatteras Islands is
“over $200,000,” his letter said.
Trimble further clarified on
March 27 that of the two million visitors who come to the seashore,
“less than 10 percent use the lifeguard beaches,” he said. “Over 90
percent don’t use the lifeguard beaches.”
Jim Keene of Nags
Head, who is president of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association
that has worked with the NPS for 50 years, has been in letter-writing
and personal talks with Trimble about this.
“It’s a difficult
situation,” Keene said about his quest to obtain the CHNS accounting
for the ORV permit program and the elimination of lifeguard funding.
“The whole process is disturbing. We have a recreational area and then
tell people they’re on their own.”
While this issue is up in the air, Ocracoke business owners are vocal
that they do not want the beach to be unguarded.
owners and residents are definitely concerned,” said Kari Styron,
rental manager at Ocracoke Island Realty. “It be a good
relations thing for the Park Service to (use the ORV permit money to
hire lifeguards) and tell people that.”
“Beach access is beach safety, which should mean lifeguards,”
noted Rudy Austin, OCBA president.
County commissioner John Fletcher of Ocracoke says Ocracoke should not
cave in to the Park Service and that the idea of Ocracoke donating
$10,000 is “ridiculous.”
“We don’t have to capitulate,” he said
in an interview. “They won’t take the risk. If something happens (on
the days when there are no lifeguards), the fallout from publicity
would be devastating to the Park Service.”
Everyone he runs into at the Ocracoke Post Office tells him not to give
in, he said.
have the money,” Fletcher said. “If we ever start down that road, it’s
hard to get off it,” he said about giving money to the Park Service.
“I’ve always been willing to take a risk with government because they
always come through in the end.”
The OCBA began a
petition to restore lifeguards. To sign it, Google “Ocracoke petition
to save lifeguards” and go to the Facebook page.