After I posted my May 26 report on the Memorial Day weekend, I got comments ? online and in conversations — that are worth noting.
Several of the folks who commented agreed that the weather was beautiful and the beaches were not overly crowded. However, they think the beaches aren?t crowded because there are not as many visitors on the islands.
That could be correct, but it?s hard to tell now.
A check of the Web sites of the major rental companies on the island shows that all are offering hundreds of ?specials? right through the summer season when the companies have had bookings of close to 100 percent in the past.
One rental company executive told me 10 or 15 years ago that ?you could rent a rock on Hatteras Island? in July.
Well, this year, you apparently will not have to settle for a ?rock.? There are discounts on many cottages, and most of them seem to be the larger, pricier places. Some of the discounts are $1,000 a week or more in the prime, mid-summer season. Occupancy tax rates will tell the story when the season ends. All renters of overnight accommodations ? in cottages, motels, hotels, and campgrounds ? pay an occupancy tax to the county. It?s a reliable indicator of the health of the rental economy.
Last year, gross occupancy tax receipts in Dare County showed a 2.92 percent increase over 2007.
However, the gross receipts on Hatteras Island were down considerably, especially in Buxton. There is more on this in my May 1 blog, ?Buxton takes a beating from beach closures.?
Last year, it was difficult to tell how much of the beating was because of beach closures and how much was because of high gas prices. This year it will be difficult again. Will summer occupancy be down? And will it be because of beach closures or the generally terrible economy?
For the first two months of this year, occupancy taxes are up by just over 3 percent for the county. However, it will be months from now before that picture is complete. How did the county fare through the prime season and how did Hatteras Island compare?
It seems obvious to me if the county does decently, as it did last year, but Hatteras Island is down as much as it was last year, then we can say that beach closures in the seashore played a significant role in keeping visitors away.
I have heard that rental companies, as well as motels and campgrounds, are looking at a better fall season. That?s when bird closures will be lifted and night driving will be allowed with a permit.
For more thoughts on the Memorial Day weekend, you should look at ?Dr. Mike Berry?s To the Point Blog.?
Berry is a frequent contributor to The Island Free Press, who has written often on beach access issues. He attended most meetings of the negotiated rulemaking committee, keeps up with park and access issues, and has researched the science that is driving the conflict over ORV access to the park.
Berry is not a gadfly when it comes to access issues. He has the experience to speak authoritatively on both science and government process and transparency.
After serving as an Army officer in Vietnam in the 1960s, Berry returned to civilian life. He earned a doctorate in public health and worked in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where, as a senior manager and scientist, he served as the Deputy Director of the National Center for Environmental Assessment at Research Triangle Park, N.C. During his 28-year career with EPA, he had extensive interactions with environmental organizations, local governments, the federal courts, U.S. Congress, universities worldwide, and institutions, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He is currently a writer and research adviser, specializing in the evaluation of environmental quality and human health effects, environmental management strategies, and policy for small communities.
Berry started his blog earlier this month to write more about beach access, government process, and environmentalism.
About the Memorial Day weekend, he wrote:
?Memorial Day weekend at the national seashore was blessed with perfect weather. Unfortunately, over 70 percent of the seashore was inaccessible to the public. Those who made it to the beach, this second year of the consent decree, made the most of a less than desirable situation. Nevertheless, there were many complaints and much unhappiness on the part of local residents, business people, and long time visitors.?
Berry then proceeds to detail nine specific actions that the public can take to regain and preserve access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
While you are on his site, check out his blog on ?Getting to the Point ? It?s About Justice.?