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Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Memorial Day Weekend 2008 marked the first major holiday weekend of implementation of the court-ordered consent decree to protect nesting birds and sea turtles at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The consent decree, in general, has thus far resulted in larger temporary resource protection closures being implemented during the shorebird and sea turtle breeding season than has occurred in the past, which has coincidently reduced the miles of beaches open to pedestrian and off-road vehicle (ORV) access as we head into the summer season. The National Park Service (NPS) provides the following summary of resource protection and ORV management activities for the 2008 Memorial Day weekend.
With fewer miles of beaches open to access, the Seashore’s park ranger staff were prepared to deal with potential vehicle congestion and safety concerns at ORV access ramps and on beaches open to ORV use. NPS used aircraft and park rangers on the ground to monitor vehicle levels on Seashore beaches throughout the holiday weekend. At about 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, during an overflight NPS observed approximately 641 vehicles on the beaches north of Oregon Inlet; approximately 1,135 vehicles on the beaches of Hatteras Island; and approximately 292 vehicles on the beaches of Ocracoke Island. Only one area of beach became sufficiently crowded to trigger a temporary restriction on beach access. On Sunday afternoon, park rangers implemented a one-on, one-off restriction at Ramp 4 north of Oregon Inlet for about an hour when vehicle congestion reached the point that there was no longer room for additional vehicles to park on the beach while maintaining a safe width for two-way traffic. This occurred with approximately 700 vehicles on the beach. The level of congestion soon eased and unrestricted access to the open beach accessible from Ramp 4 was fully restored.
Overall, compliance by the majority of park visitors with park regulations and with measures implemented under the consent decree was very good. Park rangers dealt with the normal range of law enforcement incidents that occur on a busy holiday weekend, including a number of alcohol violations, unsafe operations, out of bounds camping and several driving under the influence arrests, but the total number of violation notices issued were less than in 2007. Five violation notices were issued for resource protection area violations (1 on Bodie Island, 1 of Hatteras Island, and 3 on Ocracoke Island).
"The beaches were busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded," stated Superintendent Mike Murray. "We greatly appreciated the high level of compliance and cooperation from the vast majority of park visitors."