Hatteras National Seashore officials established an off-road vehicle
corridor near Cape Point at 7 a.m. this morning to allow drivers to
bypass a handful of American oystercatchers that are engaged in nesting
is the first time that the seashore has used the new buffer regulations
for bird-nesting activity. The regulations were enacted last summer in
mid-June as a part of changes in the ORV plan that were required by
legislation passed by Congress in December 2014.
the old buffer rules, the area would have been closed to both ORVs and
pedestrians when the birds began exhibiting their "courting" behavior
-- effectively shutting down access to Cape Point.
new rules allow the park to establish a corridor to allow ORVs to pass
by the birds during breeding and nesting, provided that the corridor is
a minimum of 25 meters away from the specific nesting area.
to Hatteras Island District Ranger Joe Darling, the corridor is .26
miles long and is open to ORVs only. It is closed to pedestrians,
due to the 150 meter restriction for on-foot visitors.
corridor is essentially a straight-shot along the beach, in between the
tide line and the enclosure signs, and several visitors to The Point on
early Tuesday afternoon didn’t realize that a change had been made.
saw the signs and thought something might be going on,” said one
visitor from North Carolina, “but we just drove to the Point, like
visitor who said that he goes to the Point “every chance I get” did
notice the corridor – or at least the increased access to his favorite
usually have to walk this time of year, or it’s closed,” he said in
between casting. “This is the first time we’ve seen it open [during
this time in the season.]
“We come here all the time, and I’m never going to stop coming -- but this makes it a little easier,” he added.
the closure was so quickly established -- and because this is the
season when nesting activity effectively cuts off Point access, Darling
touched base with all the tackle shops from Avon through Hatteras on
Tuesday morning to make sure people knew that the Point was open.
of the responses have been positive,” he said. “This is the time of
year when the Point would have been closed, and it’s nice to let people
know that they can still access it. The people I talked to are very
positive about it, and they’re relieved.”
a relief to us as well,” added Michelle Havens, the seashore's chief of
resource management. “We know how special this beach is, and we want
people to be able to come [to the Point.]”
closure could give OVRs up to 45 more days of access to the Point,
based on oystercatcher nesting and breeding activity. It takes 30-45
days from initial nesting to hatching, and once the chicks have
hatched, the closure will be extended to 150 meters and the corridor
are still required to stay 150 meters away from the nesting activity,
but Darling said that visitors who were accessing the Point by foot
were getting creative about the fact they aren't allowed to use the
corridor. He said he talked to a couple of people who were hiking
to the Point and were stopped at the corridor’s entrance.
Undeterred, they hitched a ride in a vehicle for the 1/4 mile and then
simply walked the rest of the way.
bad news is that unexpected factors could affect the corridor.
Nests that are within 25 meters, which is not likely, or tides, winds
and weather -- which are much more likely -- could cause a closure at
any undetermined time.
love to be able to say that ‘this is the date that the corridor will
end – get your fishing in now,’” said Darling. “But there could be a
big storm that erodes the beach and results in a safety closure.
There’s no way to know.”
the meantime, however, the corridor is wide open – and because of its
hurried 7 a.m. establishment, visitors had uninterrupted access to The
Point all week.
recent years, Cape Point has been closed to vehicles -- and sometimes
pedestrians -- in early April. Last year, access to the Point was
closed on April 7.
new buffer rules are intended to allow more public access to the
seashore's beaches during the bird and turtle nesting season, while
still protecting the wildlife.
Swilling, the seashore's natural resources program manager, said park
rangers will be in the area, explaining the buffer rules to visitors
and sharing with them how the park works to protect wildlife. The
rangers will occasionally bring spotting scopes, so the visitors can
get a better look at the birds.
"We want to have a presence, to get the word out," Swilling said.
Visitors to the Point while the corridor is operational should note the following before heading to the beach:
- Please do not stop, park, or get out of your vehicle within the corridor. The corridor is for driving through the area only.
- Weather, winds and tides may cause an unexpected safety closure.
- There may be a carrying capacity restriction, depending on how many vehicles are at the point.
are not allowed through the corridor (but hitching a ride is apparently
just fine, and a viable option if today’s activity is any indication.)
an unexpected end of the corridor is not outside the realm of
possibility, long-time visitors, business owners, locals, and NPS staff
are nevertheless glad that, for now, access to The Point continues