Service issues occupy Hyde
commissioners at recent meeting
Hyde County commissioners on Monday night passed a resolution asking
the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to implement day passes for driving
on the beach, open an area on the north and south end of Ocracoke
Island for 24-hour vehicle access, and remit 20 percent of the beach
pass revenue back to the county to offset emergency services.
John Fletcher presented the resolution, and it will be sent to state
and federal representatives and senators and to the Atlanta and
Washington NPS offices.
Among the points made in the
resolution is that Hyde is the only North Carolina county with
beachfront property that is wholly owned by the federal
government. Eighty percent of the soundfront property is
the NPS. Therefore, Hyde does not receive the tax revenues other
beachfront counties in the state enjoy, making Hyde one of the poorest
counties in the state.
“Sixty percent of our tax revenue comes
from Ocracoke giving the county a vital interest in how the NPS manages
its portion of the island,” the resolution says. “The NPS
the past several years has implemented rules and regulations which
negatively impact the tourist business on the island and
tourist-friendly access to the beaches of vehicles and persons.”
Fletcher noted that anything the federal government does
would be devastating to the Ocracoke economy.
NPS rules fall heavy on Ocracoke Island because there is no privately
owned oceanfront as on other Outer Banks islands,” the resolution says.
resolution also asked for free beach access for handicapped persons who
cannot get to the ocean waters without buying a beach pass.
the NPS does not provide emergency medical rescue or fire protection on
the beaches, the resolution asks for the NPS to remit 20 percent of its
ORV revenues to help defray the county’s costs for providing emergency
and fire protection services to the beaches.
It asks for the NPS
to create a daily rate for beach driving and to designate an area on
the beach where handicapped people can go in a vehicle without
purchasing a pass. The resolution also asks for the NPS to
soundside beaches as a safe place for young children to go swimming.
“The NPS can starve this county to death,” Fletcher said in an
interview Wednesday. “We have to keep the pressure on them.”
islanders spoke at the commissioners meeting Monday against the
National Park Service’s decision to eliminate lifeguards in the Cape
Hatteras National Seashore.
This was in response to
Superintendent Barclay Trimble’s suggestion that while he is seeking
bids for an outside contractor to provide lifeguards on Ocracoke and
Hatteras islands, a price for seven days of coverage has not been
determined and the possibility exists that the Park Service would pay
for only five days of lifeguards with local communities having to
contract for the other two days.
Bob Chestnut, owner of Ride the
Wind Surf Shop, told the commissioners that the park’s own usage
surveys show that 78 percent of the visitors say swimming is their top
activity choice with only six percent saying interpretive programs are
their top choice.
“The park decisions consistently make
decisions contrary to what their customers want,” Chestnut said. “For
over 16 years I’ve watched the NPS make decisions for wildlife that
have affected my business and personal use of the park. I am adamantly
opposed to the NPS asking us to fund something they should be doing.”
Several of the 24 islanders who attended in the Ocracoke School Commons
Room echoed his concerns.
said they had no money for lifeguards, and now they say they have money
for five days of lifeguards,” said Lida Jones. “The riptides don’t stop
on the two days there wouldn’t be lifeguards.”
pointed out that in a phone conference the Ocracoke Civic and Business
Association had March 12 with Trimble, he noted that his justification
for eliminating lifeguards is that the actual water is not the Park
Service’s jurisdiction but the state’s.
Darlene Styron noted that the towns on Hatteras Island have beach
rescue squads, but Ocracoke does not.
don’t understand how something so important as lifeguards was
(eliminated) by one person without any (community) input whatsoever,”
County Manager Bill Rich explained that the Ocracoke
Occupancy Tax Board was willing to set aside $10,000 to help fund
“Don’t give them a penny,” Fletcher said. “Don’t go down that road.”
No proposal was made and no action was taken on this.
those attending the meeting on the Swan Quarter side were Catherine
Jordan, director of outreach for U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, Betty Jo
Shepheard, congressional staffer for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, and Lee
Slade, constituent services representative for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.