The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce wants you to contact them if you were one of the 72 businesses on the Outer Banks that responded to a National Park Service survey on the economic impacts of beach closures in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The economic study was conducted by RTI International of Research Triangle Park in North Carolina from June 1, 2009 until Aug. 31, 2009. In addition to the business survey, the report includes traffic counts at the seashore?s ORV ramps and an intercept survey with visitors on the beaches, not necessarily in ORV areas.
It was part of an environmental study by the Park Service to choose an alternative for off-road vehicle rulemaking on the seashore.
?As part of its continuing effort to obtain a fair resolution to the beach access issue, particularly as it relates to the economies of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, the chamber is seeking information from businesses that were surveyed by the company hired by the National Park Service,? the chamber said in a media release this week. ?The report issued by the company claims minimal impact to area businesses. The chamber strongly disagrees. It is important for us to know the locations of those businesses that received surveys and responded.?
The business survey conducted 72 phone interviews on the Outer Banks. Fifty-six of them were businesses in the eight villages in the seashore, and 16 were with businesses north of the seashore.
The survey breaks down the businesses by recreational supply, realty, lodging, and commercial fishermen, but does not give the name of the business. Participants in the survey were guaranteed that their identities would remain confidential.
But now, the chamber wants to know exactly which ones were surveyed.
?We cannot find businesses that replied,? said Robin Mann, chairman of the board of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. ?We want to know if they were contacted and who they are.?
The chamber and many other beach access advocates disagree with the survey?s conclusion that the alternative selected by the Park Service for ORV rulemaking will result in ?long-term negligible to minor impacts?
The chamber notes that Dare County?s sales, occupancy, and meal tax statistics are not even discussed in the reports for the years following the 2008 court-sanctioned consent decree that settled a lawsuit by environmental groups against the park for its lack of an ORV rule.
Overall, the statistics show that even when the taxes were steady or even ahead of the previous year in Dare County, Hatteras Island took a disproportionately bigger hit, especially in areas most impacted by the closures, such as Buxton. In 2008 and 2009, tax collections were down on the island, especially for motels, campgrounds, and tackle shops.
The rental cottage market basically held its own, though folks who make reservations are pretty well locked into them, whether there are widespread resource closures or not.
The chamber is not willing to accept RTI?s analysis of the business impact of more resource closures in the future.
Furthermore, one of the most troubling aspects of the RTI economic analysis was that it was not made public until after the public comment period on the park?s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released.
The DEIS was made public in early March of last year. The public comment period was open from March 11-May 11.
The economic reports were not made public until Dec. 23, three days after the Park Service issued its record of decision on the Final Environmental Impact Statement.
So the public never had a chance to comment on the meat of the reports.
There was a section in the DEIS on socioeconomic impacts, but it noted that the results of the visitor intercept survey would not be available until the summer of 2010. In addition the business survey was discussed only in general with no results.
?The results of the survey are currently being analyzed and will be addressed in the final plan/EIS,? according to the DEIS.
The problem is that there was no public comment period after the final plan was released in mid-November.
So the first glimpse the public had of the economic reports was three days after park officials signed off on the final study that will guide management to the seashore for years to come ? both pedestrian and ORV access.
Another perplexing issue is that the business survey reports that the majority of businesses thought the alternative described would result in decreased revenue, compared to 2008.
Yet, the overall socio-economic analysis in both the DEIS and FEIS predicted long-term negligible to minor impacts to the chosen alternative.
It?s also worth noting that all but eight of the businesses that responded to the survey were classified as ?small businesses,? which the report acknowledged were likely to be affected more than their larger counterparts.
?Revenue declines of 10 percent are large for small businesses,? one survey respondent noted.
The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce?s legislative committee is now going over the economic reports and composing a response to them, though it remains unclear exactly what can be done to address shortcomings, if there are any, in the socio-economic part of the FEIS and chosen alternative.
Robin Mann noted that ?the chamber is committed to helping our businesses and having a strong voice?We are trying to protect our members.?
If you were interviewed by RTI for the business survey, the chamber asks that you contact it as soon as possible. You can e-mail the chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name and location of your business.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Click below to view the business survey, the ramp counts, and the visitor intercept survey.