Spring of 2017 is shaping up to be an early shorebird nesting season, and a corridor was established at Cape Point on Tuesday morning, March 28, due to American oystercatcher nesting activity.
Cape Point will be open for as long as possible using the wildlife buffers that were modified during the summer of 2015.
A pair of American oystercatchers is in the process of setting up a nest near the point, and the buffer for oystercatcher nesting activity is 150 meters. When the buffers were modified in 2015, it included an ability to place a driving corridor in front of the nesting areas so that vehicles could pass through and access open areas. Consequently, a vehicle corridor has been implemented in front of the nesting oystercatchers.
As of Tuesday, March 28, ramps 43 and 44 and the entire bypass road were open to ORVs and pedestrians. Once vehicles drive south of where the new bypass road exits onto the beachfront, the beach will still be open for several hundred meters to the south. The no-stopping vehicle corridor leads to the tip of Cape Point, where there is room for several dozen vehicles to spread out in the open area, depending on the tide. (I.e., it will be a smaller area at high tides and when there are high seas, such as those expected today and building on Friday and Saturday.)
The National Park Service (NPS) is evaluating the implementation of a second vehicle corridor that would go to the west, and keep the end of the south beach portion of the ORV route open. The NPS is checking on the status of a second pair of oystercatchers and will implement the westward corridor if the nesting activity for the second pair stays far enough to the west.
“Access to Cape Point is very important to everyone,” said Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent David Hallac in an email released Monday evening. “…I can assure you that our staff will do everything they can, consistent with the modified wildlife buffers, to maximize access.”
Currently, there are over 40 miles of drive-able beaches open for ORV access through April 14. Visitors can view Beach Access Ramp Status for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore at https://www.facebook.com/CapeHatterasNS/