A crowd that Park Service Hatteras District Ranger David Carter put at 100 to 150 people marched peacefully down Lighthouse Road, past barricades, and out to the closed beach at the site of the old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse about mid-day on Saturday, Oct. 5.
There were no incidents, Carter said, and after milling around on the beach a while, the crowd marched back up the road.
They assembled at property in northern Buxton all morning and got their signs and American flags ready – there were lots of American flags.
Vehicles were not allowed, but all the marchers walked around the Park Service blockade of the road. The three or so rangers in two vehicles parked there let the crowd move on by without trying to stop anyone.
A few folks yelled obscenities at the rangers, said Paul Stevens, the Park Service’s chief of law enforcement, but he added that 99 percent were cooperative and understanding – as they have been since the government shutdown forced seashore facilities and beaches to close last Tuesday.
In fact, in the photographs taken by Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers, many marchers stopped at the barricade to chat with the rangers, ask questions, or offer their support.
The marchers, both residents and visitors, were a mixed lot – babies in strollers to seniors in wheelchairs. Some biked, but most walked under another day of sunny skies with warm temperatures and light winds.
With only nine law enforcement rangers on duty for the entire seashore, park officials had determined to let the march go on – which has, more or less, been their approach to the beach shutdown since Tuesday.
As long as you don’t try to drive a vehicle to the beach around the chained ramps or cause other problems, you can get to the beach. Most are parking in technically closed oceanside access areas and walking over the dune or getting access to the technically closed beach from private land.
So far, the arrangement seems to be working well for beachgoers and for park rangers.
By far the most disappointed visitors are the anglers who want to load up their off-road vehicles with gear and fish in some of the more remote locations.
However, on Saturday afternoon, Frank Folk of Frank and Fran’s tackle shop in Avon said there were 10 folks in his store and “they are happy.” Folb said they are fishing anywhere and everywhere they can and have noted that the rangers have been “nice” to them.
Many business owners report that sales are down, but that they are managing for the time being.
One business forced to close by the shutdown opened briefly over the weekend and closed again today.
The Avon Fishing Pier operates as a Park Service concession, and the managers were told last Tuesday to close down the establishment. It’s the first time that anyone can remember park concessions being forced to close during a shutdown.
It’s prime fall fishing season and anglers and management were unhappy.
Management decided to go ahead and open the pier despite the Park Service edict on Saturday morning and it remained open until this morning.
Several other attractions are also open. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village near the ferry docks is a state-owned facility, and Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station & Historic Site in Rodanthe is a private, non-profit.
Chicamacomico is one of America’s premier maritime museums, showcasing the little-known, yet fascinating history of the United States Life-Saving Service. They were America’s first “Rescue Heroes,” and were the predecessors of today’s U.S. Coast Guard. Chicamacomico is the largest, most complete oceanfront U.S. Life-Saving Service complex left in America.
The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site & Museum is one of the many sites on the Historic Albemarle Tour and the National Outer Banks Scenic Byway. It is located in Rodanthe, the northernmost village of Hatteras Island, oceanside at 23645 NC Highway 12, or Mile Post 39.5. It is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. from mid-April until the end of November. There is an admission fee. To learn more about Chicamacomico, visit www.chicamacomico.net.
All of the shops and restaurants in the villages of Hatteras and Ocracoke are also open, and the state-owned ferries are running.
The Park Service’s Stevens said today that only five tickets have been issued since the shutdown began – three on Ocracoke for going around barricades and through vegetation in vehicles to get to the beach, one on Bodie Island, one at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and one at Canadian Hole.
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