Representatives from the National Park Service conducted a thorough examination of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) after the end of the 35-day government shutdown to identify cases of vandalism, violations, and other instances of misuse of the National Seashore’s facilities.
During the government shutdown, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) had 7-10 staff members of their 90 total employees working intermittently, while all other personnel were furloughed.
Though multiple violations occurred during the lapse in operations, the violations were not extreme or numerous, and were counterbalanced by efforts from community organizations and community members who worked to preserve the seashore.
Per Michael Barber, CHNS Public Affairs Specialist, there were 32 different incidences of beach driving violations, which included donuts on the beach, using vehicles on non-vehicle routes, and drivers on the beach who did not have an ORV beach driving permit.
There were 12 incidents of vandalism reported, which included damage to bathrooms or showers, and broken sinks
Seven cases of illegal camping were also reported, which included camping along the beaches, but not in the National Seashore-managed campgrounds.
Finally, there were six incidences of human waste outside of CHNS bathrooms, which included four incidents at the Salvo Day Use Area, one incident at Coquina Beach, and one incident at Whalebone Junction.
Park service personnel also responded to 21 calls during the shutdown, despite the furloughs, which included calls to assist EMS, motor vehicle accidents, issues with park-managed buildings, and public drunkenness.
On the bright side, the shutdown also prompted a number of Good Samaritan efforts to keep the beaches clean and pristine, such as a January 12 cleanup that was orchestrated by the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association (NCBBA) to empty trash cans, and clean public areas and beaches.
“One thing that should be pointed out is that despite these instances, most of our visitors were very respectful of park resources,” said Barber. “Moreover, we were impressed by community organizations and members who went out of their way to remove debris – like NCBBA’s Operation Beach Respect.”
“We did not close any recreational areas of the seashore – we did close visitors’ centers, but actual recreational areas remained open throughout the shutdown,” he added. “January is historically one of the slowest months of the seashore in terms of visitation, so we were able to handle that.”
The federal government shutdown was suspended on January 25 for three weeks. It is not known if the shutdown will resume if a resolution for government funding is not reached by February 14.