National Parks Traveler, a magazine-style website that covers the National Park system and the National Park Service on a daily basis, had to backtrack today and issue a statement on an April Fools’ Day story about the beach access situation at Cape Hatteras that was yanked from the site this morning after just a few hours online.
Complaints that it was not very funny were sent to the website, to the National Park Service, and to Cornell (University) Lab of Ornithology.
Message boards and blogs were brimming by mid-morning with comments from advocates for reasonable beach access who were outraged and insulted by the article that was posted in the early morning hours
The headline on the article was “At Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a Startling Revelation Forces a Rethinking of Piper Plover Protection.”
It was written by National Parks Traveler contributor Robert Janiskee, a retired professor at the University of South Carolina.
The premise of the attempt at humor was that the birders had banded together to come to Cape Hatteras to enlist support for the Park Service’s management of the piping plover, a shorebird that is federally listed as threatened. Leading the charge to Cape Hatteras was Tim Gallivanter, editor-in-chief of “Birdlife” at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Gallivanter was described as a “man on a mission.”
“In recent months National Park Service officials,” the author wrote, “had been steadily losing public support for their battle to prevent hordes of beach-driving ORVers from wantonly destroying vital nesting habitat for endangered piping plovers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Alarmed by this turn of events, the international birding community decided to launch its own high-profile campaign to protect the Outer Banks shorebirds and their precious nesting habitat.”
You get the picture. After a trip to the beach with a buffoonish NPS biologist, Gallivanter demands to meet with seashore superintendent Mike Murray, who says such things as:
"I trust you've enjoyed observing our endangered piping plovers? Cute little buggers, aren't they? The bean counters tell us that each egg produced in those nests costs a million dollars or so in related expenditures and lost tourism. Wonder what that figures out to per pounce (sic)?"
At the end of the article, Gallivanter breaks the bad news to Murray that the park biologists are protecting sandpipers, not piping plovers.
However, the sandpipers are displacing the piping plovers and are eventually blown away by park rangers.
If you don’t think this is a very funny story, you aren’t alone.
Protests on the Internet were loud and swift.
The access situation at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is not humorous but endangers an economy and a way of life on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
To say that the process of formulating an ORV management plan has been contentious is an understatement.
It has just about torn this community apart.
Feelings have been running high among supporters and opponents of the park’s planning thus far.
After e-mails from angry islanders and visitors to the seashore, National Park Traveler editor Kurt Repanshek took the article off the website about mid-morning.
Outraged folks continued to press their point with Mike Murray and got this response from Cyndy Holda, the park’s public affairs specialist:
“Mike and I agree that the article is not funny and unnecessarily aggravates an already difficult situation for all involved. Mike has spoken with Kurt Repanshek this morning and by that time Kurt had already removed the article.”
Other people called and e-mailed the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
One of those people posted a response online from Anne Hobbs, a public information specialist at the lab:
“Thanks very much for letting me see the text. Someone put a lot of energy into this! We are, of course, disappointed that whoever did this hoax used the Lab’s name and that of our Living Bird editor, Tim Gallagher, and we’re very glad to know that it has been removed from the website and, apparently from Google as well. Except for those of you who are affected by the actual situation, this hoax appears to have been allowed to die rather than spread on the web. I have passed along a copy of the text to our director of communications. Thanks for alerting us to this misuse of the Lab.”
Shortly after noon, National Park Travel editor Repanshek posted an article online about the unhappiness over what he apparently saw as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to poke fun at the situation.
This is his statement that ran under the headline “April Fool’s Story on Cape Hatteras Not Funny to All Readers:”
“The issue of access on Cape Hatteras National Seashore is among the most contentious in the National Park System. The presence of species that are recognized as threatened by both the federal government as well as the state of North Carolina requires the National Park Service to manage the seashore in such a way that protects and benefits these species.
“Unfortunately, that management approach has not been welcomed or supported by all. There have been reports of harassment of seashore personnel, vandalism on the seashore, economic hardship, and long-time beach-goers who are finding it more and more difficult to reach long-treasured spots on the cape.
“Traveler's attempt on April Fool's Day to take a pause from the heated atmosphere that has swirled about the seashore fell flat with some readers, including those at the Park Service. Recognizing those concerns and objections, the story has been taken down.
“While the intent was not to further aggravate the situation, it regrettably appears to have done just that in some corners.
“Traveler has long served as an open forum for the exchange of information and opinions about this controversy, and will continue to do so.”
That is not exactly an apology, but at least the website’s editor acknowledges that the attempt at humor “fell flat with some readers.”
On the other hand, the blog I posted yesterday about the National Park Service Director’s Awards for Natural Resource Protection is not an April Fools’ Day joke. Check it out.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read the National Park Traveler story that caused all the outrage and was removed from the website.
Click here to read the conversation and comments on the Outer Banks Connection message board.
Click here to read the National Park Traveler explanation of why the article was removed and see comments.