Last Tuesday, I posted a blog, entitled ?The Last Beach Fire??
Quite a few comments about this were posted at the end of the blog, but the next day I had an e-mail from an Island Free Press reader who was confused by the new regulations proposed in the National Park Service?s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
I answered his question the same day, and immediately got a response with even more questions.
That?s when I decided that maybe this issue needed to be explained better. And I thought the best way to do it was to share the reader?s questions and my responses.
I e-mailed Al Castano to tell him I wanted to use his name and questions in another blog on beach fires.
?You can absolutely use my name and my correspondence,? Al wrote back.
He and his wife live in North Babylon on Long Island, New York.
?My wife and I have owned a property two lots back in Waves since 2006,? Al wrote.
?We consider ourselves to be intelligent people. However every time we read The Island Free Press we hear about more and more confusing regulations and restrictions. How are the rental management companies supposed to advise property owners and their guests when things seem to change monthly?
?We would like once again to thank the Island Free Press for keeping everyone informed, especially out-of-state owners such as ourselves.?
Thank you, Al, for those nice words about this publication, and I am going to try again to explain the issue of beach fires and answer your questions.
Nov. 24, 2010 e-mail to me:
As owners of a rental property in Waves, my wife and I enjoy reading your newspaper. Please clarify something for me regarding the new regulations on beach fires. My home is two lots back from the ocean. Is it still permissible for us to have a beach fire? Your article repeatedly refers to “oceanfront” property owners maintaining the right to have a beach fire. What about we “unfortunate” ones who are two lots back?
My response on Nov. 24:
Hope I didn’t mislead folks with the way I worded that blog.
Anyone can have a bonfire on the village beaches — if you can get there and carry all of your wood with you.
My point is that there are no public accesses/parking to speak of in the villages, so even if you wanted to carry everything out to the beach, how would you get there if you did not own or rent a house on the oceanfront?
In your case, I assume you have some sort of property owners’ access to a walkway or something over to the beach. And you, of course, can go out there and have a beach fire. But I couldn’t come up there and park at your house and walk out also if there is no public access.
Al?s e-mail response back to me on Nov. 24:
Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. However I’m still a little confused. Can someone park or drive onto the beach at, say, the public beach access lot in Salvo, spend the day on the beach, have a bonfire and leave before 10 p.m.? Is that stretch of beach prohibited? What would prevent someone from entering there and driving down to a
stretch of beach behind the oceanfront homes to have their fire? Are renters going to have to obtain a fire permit to have a little night-time fun with their kids?
This whole thing seems rather ambiguous and how do they expect to enforce this nonsense? Please forgive the questions. However, you’re really one of the few sources of info that my wife and I can rely on.
My response to Al today in this blog:
I can see I need to further clarify this night driving/beach fire issue ? if I can.
According to the National Park Service?s Final Environmental Statement, these are the restrictions on hours of off-road vehicle operation:
- Nov. 16 ? April 30: Designated ORV routes would be open to ORV use 24 hours a day.
- May 1 to Nov. 15: Designated ORV routes in potential sea turtle nesting habitat (ocean intertidal zone, ocean backshore, and dunes) would be closed to non-essential ORV use from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m.
- Sept. 16 to Nov. 15 ? ORV routes with no turtle nests remaining would reopen for night driving, subject to terms and conditions of the standard ORV permit.
Therefore, you can see that ORVs must be off the beach in designated ORV areas by 9 p.m.
Also, here is what the FEIS says about driving in front of the island?s seven villages under the heading of ?VFAs (vehicle-free areas) and ORV routes around village beaches, campgrounds, and day use areas?:
- Rodanthe (south of the pier), Waves, Salvo, Avon, Frisco and Hatteras village beaches and Ocracoke campground beach from 0.5 miles northeast to Ramp 68 are closed to ORVs from April 1 to Oct. 31.
And, finally, here is what the FEIS says about beach fires:
Beach fires are authorized year-round, with the following exceptions:
- A non-fee education fire permit is required for any beach fire.
- Fires are prohibited from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. year-round.
- Fires are prohibited within resource closures and within 100 meters of any turtle nest closure.
- May 1 to Nov. 15: Beach fires would be permitted only in front of Coquina Beach, Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras village, and Ocracoke Day Use Area during the sea turtle nesting season.
So, Al, now that you have gone over these rules, I will answer your questions, based on the Park Service?s FEIS.
You asked: Can someone park or drive onto the beach at, say, the public beach access lot in Salvo (Ramp 23), spend the day on the beach, have a bonfire and leave before 10 p.m.?
Answer: No. ORVs must be off the beach at 9 p.m. between May 1 and Nov. 16 ? except for those beaches with no turtle nests remaining that are open to ORV access Sept. 16-Nov. 15, subject to terms of the ORV permit, which everyone will be required to have to drive on the beach.
Also ?no? because from May 1 through Nov. 16, fires are allowed only in front of the villages, Coquina Beach, and Ocracoke Day Use Area.
So the bottom line is that you cannot drive out to the beach at Ramp 23 ? or any other ramp ? and have a bonfire during turtle nesting season from May 1 through Nov. 15.
From Nov. 16 through April 30, you could drive out to the beaches identified as open to ORVs and have a beach fire until 10 p.m.
You asked: Is that stretch of beach prohibited?
Answer: See above. Except that I forgot to mention that Ramp 23 and for 1.5 miles south of the ramp will be closed to ORVs year round. This area will become a VFA ? vehicle-free area.
There will be a new ramp with parking at the new Ramp 25.5. About 1.5 miles of beach from new Ramp 25.5 to Ramp 27 is an ORV route year-round, except for when birds are nesting there, which kept that beach closed a good part of last summer.
So at new Ramp 25.5, you could have a beach fire from Nov. 16 until April 30. However, no fires are allowed after 10 p.m. any time of the year.
You asked: What would prevent someone from entering there and driving down to a stretch of beach behind the oceanfront homes to have their fire?
Answer: Presumably, Park Service law enforcement rangers would take a dim view of that and issue a ticket for a violation. When we all have to have permits to drive on the beach sometime in the future, such things as violations could get your permit yanked.
Also, the neighbors would presumably take a dim view of vehicles on the closed village beaches and call the Park Service.
You asked: Are renters going to have to obtain a fire permit to have a little night-time fun with their kids?
Answer: Yes, according to the FEIS.
You asked: This whole thing seems rather ambiguous and how do they expect to enforce this nonsense?
Answer: The Park Service will enforce it ? presumably with more law enforcement rangers.
And is it ?nonsense??
I guess it depends on whom you ask.
So, Al, I hope you got all that, and I hope that the new regs in the FEIS are just crystal clear now.