a unseasonable cold but sunny Monday morning, the National Park Service
made it official -- the new off-road vehicle ramp 48 and one mile of
the new Inside Road on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore are open.
National Park Service staff members, representatives from beach access
groups, and staff members from the North Carolina offices of the
state's senators traveled from the parking lot near Billy Mitchell
Airport in a convoy of NPS trucks and SUVs to the first red ribbon,
which was strung across the beginning of the new Inside Road, which
runs between the dunes and the Park Service's Frisco Campground.
Seashore superintendent Dave Hallac, NPS staff members who worked on
the road construction, the access group folks, Betty Jo Shepheard from
the Rocky Mount office of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Brian Brown from
the Greenville office of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis lined up to cut the ribbon
that was stretched across the road.
A handful of beachgoers in their ORVs were parked nearby to watch the festivities.
With that job done, the vehicles traveled a mile or so along the sand
road -- wide enough for two vehicles to pass -- through a panorama of
beach vegetation, dune grasses, and salt marsh with the maritime forest
as a backdrop.
In the area of the campground, several new walkways have been built for
campers to cross above the marsh and over the sand road on boardwalks
on their way to the beach.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was straight ahead during the trip down
the Inside Road, which will eventually takes ORV drivers to Buxton.
The remaining three miles of road from the new Ramp 48 back to Ramp 45
at the Cape Point Campground should be finished by late January or
early February. There is already an inside road between Ramp 45
and Ramp 44 in Buxton.
When the entire road is finished, drivers will be able to travel from
the Cape Point area behind the dunes all the way to Frisco.
Currently, ORVs must return to Highway 12 and drive to Frisco to
re-enter the beach at Ramp 49 because of a vehicle-free area in the
Hook south of the Point that is closed to driving year-round.
In addition, the new stretch of Inside Road and the new Ramp 48 will
allow drivers to bypass areas of the beach that are seasonally closed
for bird and sea turtle nesting.
At Monday's ceremonies, the convoy of vehicles stopped again at Ramp 48
to cut another bright red ribbon that stretched across it, as a few
surprised fishermen watched curiously from trucks parked on the beach.
Then the convoy headed back along the beach to Ramp 49, past several
dozen trucks of anglers, hoping for the best, even on a cold, windy
Hallac gave special recognition at the ribbon-cutting to the Park
Service maintenance staff, who were involved in planning and building
the road, the ramp, and the new walkways.
They include John Kowlok, chief of maintenance for the Outer Banks
Group; Shelley Rollinson, Hatteras Island maintenance chief;
heavy-equipment operator Doug Blackmon; maintenance staff member Jack
Clapp, and carpenters Randy Loupe and Gentry White.