By JOY CRIST
During the early morning on Saturday, Aug. 13, staff members from the National Park Service removed three pick-up trucks full of unattended items from the beaches in the villages of Frisco and Hatteras.
During the sweep, the team removed 13 canopies, more than a dozen chairs, and a number of other discarded items including carts, umbrellas, sandbags, and even a stray dog, which was later returned to the owner.
The enhanced efforts to clean the beach of left behind and abandoned items is simply in response to the growing problem, according to Hatteras Island District Ranger Joseph M. Darling. “We have less resources this year [to do mass clean-ups], however the problem is getting worse,” he says. “And for that reason, I’ve asked my staff to step up their efforts.”
Cape Hatteras National Seashore regulations prohibit leaving items on the beaches overnight when they are closed from 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., though many visitors, especially in front of the villages, set up their gear and leave it for the duration of their vacation.
And while on the surface it may seem like there’s nothing wrong with “camping out” for a week, leaving beach gear behind can potentially cause a world of problems for wildlife, other visitors, emergency vehicles, and the equipment owners themselves.
“For us it’s a lot of work, taking these canopies down – they don’t fold up so easily, and some of the canopies that we eventually had to cut down with a sawzall have been up for a month,” he says. “If we can give them back, however, we will, and in as good as condition as they left them.”
Two family groups went to the NPS office to retrieve their items that were picked up during the sweep. Both parties got their gear back, but were also issued with violations for abandoning property, which comes with a $155 fine.
“One group was quite angry and not happy at all. They felt like there should have been notice from the rental company, or better signs [about leaving items on the beach],” says Darling. “The other group was initially upset, but [the person I talked to] calmed down pretty quickly. He shook my hand at the end and thanked me for giving him his property back, and taking care of the property… He wasn’t happy about the ticket, but he said ‘Hey, I’ve been violating the law all week.’”
The team disposed of one full pickup truck of items in the trash as they were clearly damaged and abandoned for multiple days and/or weeks at a time. The other two pickup loads were hauled back to Buxton and stored. They will be stored for 60 days before being disposed of, per NPS policies and procedures.
The overall response to the removal of items on social media has been mixed, but a number of local residents have been grateful for the removal of items that had been left standing for days or even weeks.
“The local people are glad to see us deal with this, because they are tired of the trash on the beach,” says Darling. “Certainly, the locals that saw us on the beach and the rental companies seemed quite happy about the effort.”