April 26, 2012

Senators Burr and Hagan Introduce Senate Bill S.2372 to Restore Access to the CHNSRA

North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan introduced  Senate Bill S.2372 to preserve pedestrian and ORV access at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area on April 26,2012.

“Restricting ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a negative impact on local communities and the local economy,” Senator Burr said.  “We must ensure that our state’s residents have access to North Carolina’s scenic treasures, and I am confident we can come to a compromise that allows people to have access while at the same time addressing any potential environmental concerns.”

Senators Burr and Hagan have been vocal supporters of access to CHNSRA as the situation has evolved over the past several years.  The timing of the introduction of their bill coincided with the House's  Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4094 and Oversight Hearing on "Access Denied: Turning Away Visitors to National Parks"
which was held on Friday April 27.

OBPA President John Couch, who spoke at the hearing in Washington said, "We thank Senator Burr and Senator Hagan for their continued support of the visitors and residents of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.  They understand what the Outer Banks are all about -- access by the public to some of the nation's best beaches for family recreation.  We are confident that our Senators will be able to lead this legislation through the Senate so that we may once again enjoy this Seashore for the treasure it is."

Today, the OBPA reacted to the recently released National Park Service Off-Road Driving brochure through the following letter to Jonathan Jarvis, Director, National Park Service.  The brochure paints an extremely negative view of off-road vehicle users.  It is our understanding that the brochure is being distributed at all parks and recreation areas under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.  Recent comments from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore headquarters in Manteo indicate the inflammatory brochure is not being distributed locally.  Those familar with the Seashore may recall that several years ago the OBPA, the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association and the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club worked jointly with the local NPS office to develop and publish "Beach Driving at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore" brochure which has been distributed locally.  It is unfortunate that the NPS did not seek a more balanced and respectful view of off-road vehicle users within the lands it manages.   

John Couch
President, Outer Banks Preservation Association
P.O. Box 1355
Buxton, N.C. 27920

May 3, 2011

Mr. Jonathan Jarvis
Director, National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

 Dear Director Jarvis:

My name is John B. Couch and I am President of the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA).  I write you today to voice my concerns on the recent National Park Service brochure entitled “Off- Road Driving.”  A copy of this brochure is provided with this letter. 

 This offensive brochure unfairly depicts off-road vehicle users as lawless thrill seekers that have contempt for the laws, rules and regulations that provide a framework for safe and responsible ORV access on our beaches. 

 The back page of this brochure contains a photo of a female Loggerhead turtle that was crushed by a vehicle while it was attempting to nest. This unfortunate tragedy occurred on Ocracoke Island beach in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area in the early morning hours, during the summer of 2010. 

The individual responsible for this crime was never apprehended, though the groups advocating responsible access, including OBPA, offered a substantial reward for the arrest and conviction of this individual. We will therefore never know the reasoning or affiliation of this individual, whether a visitor illegally driving on the Seashore during hours restricted by the court sanctioned Consent Decree or even a Park Service employee on a night drive.

This photo is disgusting, infuriating, and reflects a deliberate effort to provide extreme environmental groups the ability to further their agenda in banning motorized access to all National Parks.

 When we received a copy of this brochure, we raised our concerns to the CHNSRA headquarters in Manteo, North Carolina.  They reported that the staff of the NPS in Washington, D.C. developed the brochure as a result of a lawsuit settlement with an environmental group known as “Friends of the Earth.”  They advised that NPS Washington headquarters called to specifically request the photo of the turtle that was run over for this brochure.

 OBPA, along with North Carolina Beach Buggy Association (NCBBA) and the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club (CHAC), are organizations that have always advocated safe and responsible access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area for both pedestrians and off-road vehicles.  Our motto that has stood for almost 40 years is Preserve, Protect, Not Prohibit regarding responsible access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area for all.

 As you are aware the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area just went through a Negotiated Rulemaking Conflict Resolution Process. OBPA, NCBBA, CHAC and 26 other groups joined with a common purpose to write a reasonable and acceptable ORV Plan.  To show commitment to responsible access, OBPA, NCBBA and CHAC developed and financed an ORV brochure under the direction and approval of local NPS staff, a copy of which is also provided with this letter.

A partnership approach by all affected organizations could have made for a more beneficial educational publication.  I ask you today to immediately remove these offensive brochures from the Seashore as well as from other NPS locations across the country, and replace them with documents incorporating local knowledge and experience which will more effectively serve to inform the public and protect these valuable resources. 

 To continue to distribute this deplorable and contemptible brochure serves no beneficial purpose except to unfairly condemn and incite the law abiding public who comprise, by far, the majority of visitors who choose to recreate at our Seashore.  Both sides of the access issues currently extant at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area should work diligently for responsible access for all!


 John Couch
President, Outer Banks Preservation Association


The Honorable Richard Burr
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Kay R. Hagan
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Walter B. Jones, Jr.
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Mr. David Vela, Regional Director
National Park Service
100 Alabama Street, SW
1924 Building
Atlanta, GA 30303

Mr. Mike Murray, Superintendent
Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area
1401 National Park Road
Manteo, NC 27954

Twice a year, OBPA is asked to help pick up trash along N.C. Highway 12 from Buxton Village, north to Ramp 38 in Avon and along the ocean beach from Ramp 38 south towards Buxton Village. This cleanup is an effort by the N.C. Outer Banks Scenic Byways Committee to cleanup the beaches and highways on the Outer Banks. OBPA is asking for volunteers to help is this cleanup effort on Saturday, April 16, 2011. Volunteers will assemble at the Haulover (Canadian Hole) parking lot at 9:00 AM. OBPA, NCBBA and CHAC and other access organizations have participated in this event since 2003.  Help us continue to lead the way in helping our island community’s environment look it’s best! Please email or call John Couch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  252-995-4955 to join in this worthwhile endeavor.

The attached document was submitted on behalf of the OBPA to Superintendent Mike Murray on March 1 in response to the pre-nesting closure proposal which had been submitted by the NPS on February 18th.

Read more.....


On NPS Pre-nesting Closure Recommendations

February 28, 2011

The Consent Decree requires piping plover (PIPL) pre-nesting closures beyond that which is required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the NPS Organic Act, and NPS Management Policies 2006.  After reviewing the 2011 pre-nesting closures proposed by the National Park Service for Bodie Island, Cape Point, South Beach, Hatteras Spit, Ocracoke, and South Ocracoke, the NCBBA, OBPA, and CHAPA recommend the following changes.

American Oyster Catcher (AMOY) nest sites should not be considered a relevant factor, nor shown on any maps of proposed closures for PIPL since the species was not specifically addressed in the Consent Decree.

 Bodie Island – Map #1                                      

  • The pre-nesting pedestrian and ORV closure at the southern tip of Bodie Island Spit continues to encompass almost the entire land mass.  No (0) PIPL nests occurred in that area during either the 2009 or 2010 nesting seasons.  With the dredging, erosion and uncertain accretion on this ever changing spit, this extended closure is unwarranted.  Should nesting occur outside of a reasonable pre-nesting closure, it can be enlarged.  However, if erosion occurs, there is no provision to relocate these overzealous boundaries.  The chance of total closure to the safest youth recreation area north of ramp 23 is too great for the NPS to not allow this minimal request.  A minimum 100 ft. corridor should be maintained around the entire spit. 
  • With no (0) nesting of PIPL near the northwestern border of the pre-nesting closure, NPS should reopen the access corridor from the ocean beach to the “Bait Pond.”  This corridor could act as a potential barrier between the predators in these dunes and the potential nesting areas on the spit.  This corridor will also help keep this area free of vegetation.  This entire area is routinely subject to ocean over wash, as it has for the last three (3) years.
  • While it appears that the accompanying maps show some increase in the accessible area to the SW of Bodie Spit, the closure for “Pedestrians Only” from the “Bait Pond” southward is unjustified and unreasonable.  As evidenced by the NPS aerial photographs, this family beach continues to accrete from the south to the north.  The waters adjoining this beach are shallow and warm early in the spring, allowing families with children (and the untold materials they bring for a day’s enjoyment) to utilize this beach from the “Bait Pond” to the southern tip of the Spit.  This genteelly sloped beach with minimal wave action loved by our young visitors should be opened to the maximum for the families that flock there every year in pursuit of a safe beach on which their children may play.  If NPS enforcement personnel believe that the beach is currently unsafe for vehicles, it should have a safety closure, not “Pedestrian Only,” until it has grown to an acceptable width.
  • GPS readings from 2010 vs. 2011 proposals need to be reviewed.  A physical check of the exiting carsonite stake placements almost totally close off access to the southernmost portion of the spit in spite of considerable accretion that has occurred in recent weeks.

Cape Point Map #2 

  • Cape Point closure should not eliminate the bypass road.  The uncertainty of erosion and high water events make the bypass road critically important to access.  The bypass should either continue west of the 2009/2010 nests sites to rejoin the access corridor further south, or the bypass should be shortened to join the access corridor further north.
  • Relocate the most northern / east pre-nesting closure line, to the southern most point of the bypass trail. This can be allowed because of the natural dune barriers that provide protection of the various bird species from ORVs and pedestrians. These provisions are allowed under the Piping Plover Recovery Plan.
  • Move east facing pre-nesting closure line 50m to the west to accommodate reasonable closure expansion.  Maintain access to Cape Point to the greatest extent possible.
  • Should restore plover habitat on the south and west side of the Salt Pond to encourage plover nesting to safer interior areas, keeping natural dune barriers to protect species.

South Beach Map #3

  • Should restore plover habitat on the south and west side of the Salt Pond to encourage plover nesting to safer interior areas, keeping natural dune barriers to protect species.

Over-Wash Fans Map #4

  • The availability in 2011 of Pole road as an ORV route to Hatteras Spit is a welcomed improvement to accessibility to the Hatteras Spit area.
  • Eliminate Hatteras Spit Over-Wash Fans area pre-nesting closures.  This area has no (0) history as plover breeding /nesting areas.  

Hatteras Spit Map #5

  • The availability in 2011 of beach and sound access at the terminus of Pole road is a welcomed improvement to accessibility to the Hatteras Spit area.
  • Eliminate Hatteras Spit pre-nesting closures. Hatteras Spit has no plover habitat.  NO areas of PCEs (Primary constituent elements.)  Erosion has all but eliminated plover habitat, back interior dune area.  No plover nesting activity has occurred at this location in years due to the lack of suitable habitat.
  • A 100 ft. access corridor should be maintained around Hatteras Spit.

 Ocracoke – Map #6

  • Maintain flexible 100 ft. corridor around spit.

South Ocracoke – Map #7

  • Maintain flexible 100 ft. corridor around spit.