Beach Driving to be Terminated at Fort Matanzas National Monument
The National Park Service (NPS) has announced that driving on the beach at Fort Matanzas National Monument will no longer be allowed, effective January 1, 2010. Fort Matanzas Superintendent Gordie Wilson said, “We understand this announcement will be disappointing to many people in the community who are used to being able to drive on the beach. This change, however, is in keeping with Executive Order 11644, as amended, and National Park Service regulations. These Federal requirements do not permit vehicles to travel outside designated roads or parking lots in a National Monument.
“Although the park has permitted beach driving since this property was donated to the NPS in the 1960s, Executive Order 11644 and associated regulations later restricted our authority to do so,” Wilson said. Executive Order 11644, issued by President Nixon on February 8, 1972 directly governs the use of off-road vehicles (ORVs), including vehicles driven on beaches, in units of the National Park System. This Executive Order and the NPS regulations established under it, prohibit the use of ORVs in National Park System units, except those areas specifically designated for such use in national recreation areas, national seashores, national lakeshores, and national preserves. Fort Matanzas, a National Monument, does not fall into one of those categories.
“In the past, we have closed environmentally sensitive areas to driving on a seasonal basis to fulfill our resource protection obligations,” Wilson said. “After consulting with legal counsel and many stakeholders about this important issue we determined that, to be in conformance with the law, we can no longer permit driving on the beach. The Fort Matanzas ramp, however, will remain open, since it is a designated road.
The NPS was given a dual mission by Congress when the agency was established in 1916; to conserve resources and to provide for enjoyment of those resources by such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. NPS management decisions seek to balance use and preservation.
“If at some point in the future the National Monument receives legislative or regulatory authority to permit vehicle access that does not impair resources, vehicles could return to the beach,” Wilson said. “That process could take several years, as it would require a formal rulemaking and analysis of environmental impacts.”
The NPS plans to ensure that the public is notified well in advance of the closure by posting signs, putting notices in newspapers, and posting information on its web site. Details about the public notice plan will be forthcoming,” Wilson said.
For more information contact Superintendent Gordie Wilson at 904-829-6506 ext 221 or Matanzas District Ranger Andrew Rich at 904-471-0116.
Fort Matanzas Developing General Management Plan (updated June 2009)
All parks in the National Park System (NPS) are required to periodically review their General Management Plans (GMP). These plans, which address resource protection, recreation, and interpretation, describe the general path the park intends to follow over the next 15 to 20 years and are made with input from NPS program managers, interested parties, and the general public.
In fall 2007 Fort Matanzas National Monument hosted two Public Open House Meetings as well as a meeting with state and county representatives. Comments from these meetings were used to guide the park management team in developing four alternatives for managing the park.
With the NPS Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta approving the four alternatives, the public was once again invited to make comments. This public comment period ended June 1, 2008, and the team reduced the number of alternatives from four (including the “No-Action” or “No-Change” alternative) to three by combining features and eliminating features that the public did not support.
The planning team is currently writing the draft GMP/EIS document which includes substantial environmental analysis and cost estimates for each alternative. After NPS management reviews and approves publication of the document, it will be posted on the NPS planning website:
Watch the St. Augustine Record newspaper and this web site for further updates.
For additional information, contact Fort Matanzas at 904-471-0116 or
Did You Know?
Black, or gun, powder is a mix of potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal used as a propellant charge in cannons. Burning rapidly when ignited, it expands 600 times its volume creating pressures that can hurl a cannonball up to 3.5 miles! Ft Matanzas National Monument, Florida