April 16, 2015

CHAPA weighs in on ORV plan's new infrastructure

By IRENE NOLAN

The Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA)  has made recommendations to the National Park Service on the new public access infrastructure projects that seashore officials compiled as part of the Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan that became effective in February 2012.

The 29  projects, which include new ramps, parking areas, pedestrian boardwalks, and an unpaved interdunal road, were listed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the seashore's ORV plan that was released in the fall of 2011.

In 2012, the Park Service opened a public scoping period for comments on the proposed construction projects that included new ramps, parking areas, pedestrian boardwalks, and an unpaved interdunal road. That was followed in 2013 by an Environmental Assessment.

The projects are to be funded with ORV permit fees and were not ranked by priority. So far, only one -- Ramp 25.5 between Salvo and Avon -- has been completed, though the parking area there is still under construction.

Legislation passed in December by Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act instructs the Secretary of Interior to consider some changes in the ORV plan.  The law also requires the Secretary to construct new vehicle access points and roads at the seashore "as expeditiously as practicable."

Seashore Superintendent Dave Hallac said after he arrived on the job in late December that seashore staff members were prioritizing the remaining 28 projects and determining what will be required to get them completed.

He said in late February that the newly prioritized list would be made public soon, possibly in a week's time. However, it has still not been released.

CHAPA is an umbrella organization comprised of groups that support more reasonable access to seashore beaches than is allowed under the ORV plan. The alliance includes the Outer Banks Preservation Association, The North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, and Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, and members of the Hatteras Island business community.

The group commented on the projects during public scoping in July 2013. And on March 5, in response to the new legislation, CHAPA wrote to Hallac with additional comments and priorities for the construction projects.

In the letter, CHAPA endorsed eight ORV-focused projects and listed them in order oF priority.  They are:
  • An unpaved interdunal road between Ramps 45 and 49 with a new Ramp 48 to the beach.
  • ORV Ramp 32.5 between Salvo and Avon with a 10-car parking area and foot trail to the beach.
  • ORV Ramp 59.5 on north Ocracoke.
  • An elevated section of Lighthouse Road at Ramps 43 and 44.  On this one, CHAPA urges the Park Service to reconsider opening a drainage system that was successfully used for decades to reduced roadway flooding from the wetlands.
  • ORV Ramp 63 across from Scrag Cedar Road on Ocracoke.
  • A 10-car parking area at Ramp 4 on Bodie Island to allow groups arriving in multiple vehicles to consolidate.
  • Ramp 25.5 parking area.  (Construction has started since the letter to Hallac was written.)
  • An unimproved 20-vehicle parking area near the Pole Road/Shell Road at Hatteras Inlet.  CHAPA actually recommends that the area be expanded for 40 vehicles.
  • CHAPA recommends that the Park Service add several new projects -- with ORV permit fee funding -- to the list. They are:
  • Reopen Ramp 2 on Bodie Island, which would negate the construction of a new Ramp 2.5.
  • Reopen Ramp 1 on Bodie Island, if not totally, then seasonally.
  • Construct a bypass behind the dunes from Ramp 44 to Cape Point.
  • Construct an ADA ramp north of Ramp 2 to eliminate perceived conflicts there when pedestrians use the ramp to get to the beach.
  • Institute a parking fee to pay for improvements to Coquina Beach showers, bathrooms, and parking, add ADA access, and pay for additional lifeguards.
CHAPA endorsed 18 pedestrian-focused projects as "admirable" but said they should not be paid for with ORV fee permit funds. These include boardwalks, handicapped accessible boardwalks, and some parking areas.

Finally, CHAPA declined to endorse all or part of five more projects.  They are:
  • A 10-car parking area at the former U.S. Coast Guard Station on Bodie Island.  Too close to Coquina Beach parking area and would add to traffic congestion.
  • Additional access road at Coquina Beach. Would cause congestion.
  • ORV Ramp and 10-car parking area a half-mile south of Coquina Beach. Wouldn't be needed if Ramp 2 reopened.
  • Foot trail to the beach at Ramp 4.  ORV funds should not pay for foot trails to vehicle-free areas.
  • A 50-car parking area at former Buxton Coast Guard Station. Access to this area should be via the Park Service's Lighthouse Road and not through the residential area off Old Lighthouse Road.

Click here to read the entire CHAPA document on infrastructure projects with comments.


 

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