I’ve been out on the Outer Banks a number of times on weekend trips from Hampton, Va. It’s a damn shame that motorheads can’t leave this landscape alone. A damn shame. I pulled this item off an e-mail from Wildlands CPR.
Animosity over beach-driving rules on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has become so intense that National Park Service officials decided to move Friday’s and Saturday’s meetings on the issue to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, where – an agency spokesman said – “a calmer atmosphere” may prevail.
For the past year, a 29-member committee composed of sport fishermen, business owners, environmentalists and others has been gathering to draft proposed rules designed to allow off-road vehicles at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in a way that doesn’t threaten vulnerable shorebirds and sea turtles.
Emotions are running high because large swaths of the seashore were closed to ORVs and pedestrians this summer during bird and turtle nesting seasons. The closures – the result of a court order signed by environmental groups, a coalition of ORV users, local government officials and others this spring – were more widespread than in previous summers and shut off access to Cape Point and other popular fishing spots.
The shift in meeting sites follows protests at a September meeting in Avon. Park spokeswoman Cyndy Holda said some committee members felt threatened and intimidated.
At this week’s meeting, committee members could let themselves get bogged down by questioning the wisdom of relocating the sessions, which lengthens the drive for many of the islanders most affected by ORV regulations.
At this point, however, the more productive course would be for committee members to focus on a separate National Park Service move – the release, a year earlier than planned, of the agency’s own draft proposals for managing ORV use.
With these proposals in hand, committee members can now try anew to forge a consensus. Park officials presented five management options, from which committee members can pick and choose elements they like – as long as the result serves the general goal of protecting wildlife.
As Park Superintendent Mike Murray points out, it’s naive to expect everyone to agree on all aspects of the final ORV plan. But if proponents and opponents of the existing restrictions enter today’s meeting in a spirit of compromise, there’s still hope for a plan that’s negotiated rather than imposed by a court order. Anger is serving no one.