Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring is springing!

Well friends, spring is springing here on Hatteras Island, and apparently a tad earlier this year. This may come as some relief to our friend Jeff in New York as he seems to frequently post pictures of yet another 18 inches of snow.

I rather liked our big snow here better. It snowed a foot one day and it was gone, by and large, the next. Perhaps we have the benefit of having everything already covered with salt, free of charge, before the snow begins.

I suppose spring is my favorite time of year though I still debate it. And if your a fan of fishing these islands and read the various fishing forums dedicated, at least in part, to that subject, it's hard not to start getting excited because it wont be long before the drum, bluefish, cobia and a host of other fishes, return to our beaches.

Of course spring also means, at least these last few years, miles of string and thousands of signs along our beaches and N.C. Highway 12, a state designated "Scenic Byway". NPS makes the string of South Of The Boarder signs along I-95 appear amateurish.

One big difference between those signs is that the South Of The Border signs attempt to spur economic activity while those erected by NPS are designed to destroy an economy under the auspices of protecting wildlife. Of course while we think on this subject, it's important to remember that the majority of these seas of signs, the majority of beach closures, are for the "protection" of birds that even Gordon Meyers, Chairman of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, says don't need protection at these levels.

If you've never seen one of these signs, here is a picture I took the other day at Cape Point just outside of the Plover pre-nesting stadium.

This spring has also apparently resulted in yet another re-emergence of an apparent relative of the famed "Snorkle Tern", the seldom seen "Jungle Tern" and here is his closure.

This would be a good time to point out to those that don't know, the above mentioned species don't actually exist except as a commentary on how ridiculous these closures at the Seashore actually are.

This spring has also come with the thought that the Coast Gard might close Oregon Inlet because of shoaling and the monies for continued dredging will soon run out. Now I'm no professor, and bathyography and hydrodynamics aren't my forte' but it seems to me that putting the same sand you just dredged, back into the same hole, and into the same fast current, is not going to provide good long term results.

But that's not why I bring this up. Apparently there has been an ongoing debate about whether a jetty or groin north of the inlet would be the key to solving the shoaling issue. I'm not going to debate the issue as I don't know the science though I am amazed at the NPS opinion on the subject.

Found on a local board, comes this statement from NPS:

"• Construction of the jetties will diminish much of the public’s

recreational use of the Bodie Island spit, which, according to Interior, is
contrary to one of the legislative purposes of the Cape Hatteras National
Seashore. Interior stated that the construction of the north jetty on land
of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore would block access to a large
portion of the spit currently used for recreational activities such as
fishing, and a large section of the spit would be dredged away or used as
the site of the proposed sand deposition basin.

• The jetty project may not significantly reduce the loss of life at Oregon
Inlet. Interior points to data which shows that, in some cases, the loss
of life is not due to conditions at the inlet but rather to such factors as
alcohol consumption, unfamiliarity with the inlet, navigational errors,
and the lack of life vests and survival suits. According to Interior, these
factors would not be corrected by construction of the jetties. Interior
also raised concerns that the construction of hard structures would
introduce a new risk to vessels traveling through Oregon Inlet, based on
accident data from other jettied inlets.

For these and other reasons, NPS does not support the construction of the
proposed jetty project. NPS stated that the jetty project is not consistent
with its mission of protecting, and it might actually impair, the resources
and values of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore"


Block access to Bodie Island spit? You mean the same Bodie island spit that NPS proposes to close to virtually all human access of any form? And now they are worried about access?

It's no wonder dealing with NPS is like trying to win a pissing contest against a skunk.

This spring also brought a blog post by Irene Nolan last Friday about a letter she received. Quite frankly, reading that letter was to me,  like a swift kick in the teeth. The author smites the residents of the Islands with shame again and again. And in true form, Irene responded beautifully. You can read what she wrote at:

My response:

I can say to the writer of this letter, that though you and I are in complete agreement that this is a travesty, this is a national, not local, issue. And the reality, Sir or Madam, is that it's up to all of us to fight this fight, including you.

There are many that deal with the issues at this Seashore daily, including myself. But we cant win this fight on our own, and if you actually care about what is happening here as it sounds you do, you will fight with us. We will never win this fight unless everybody that cares about access to these beaches unites and rises to the occasion.

Complaining about the loss of access on a tackle shop board or someones blog wont do it.

In the time it took you to compose that letter, you could have written one to a congressman instead. Perhaps even made a phone call to voice your displeasure at what's happening here. That's what it's going to take to win it. Look at what the Bridge Moms did!

And somehow this quote comes to mind:

"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it." John Adams
Our fight is against an agenda driven governmental bureaucracy which demands protections it cannot justify. And a change in management policy that will violate the very core of this Recreational Areas' lawful establishment by the Congress.

Are just a couple of examples of sites you can visit to help.


an on eye mouse

Actually, we're not alone. And at least once and a while the fight against stupid wildlife management policy can be funny, albeit sad at the same time. My friend John sent me an email the other day reminding me of a story in the great coyote fight going on out west. In this chapter, trapping, and other forms of extermination were failing to protect ranchers herds and causing significant economic loss.
The solution proposed by the US Forest Service and the Sierra Club was to capture and castrate a portion of the male population.

There was, at one of the public meetings on the subject, an astute rancher who sat through the governments presentation of the above mentioned proposal and said something to the affect:

""Son, I don't think you understand our problem here... these coyotes ain't screwin' our sheep... they're eatin' 'em!" The meeting never really got back to order."

And it's because of stuff like that that we need band together and defeat this unbelievable and illegal change to our Seashore. We're doing what we can from the Islands but we need your help.

Tight Lines,


Friday, March 4, 2011

Of Discrimination And Irony

It’s not often I have the pleasure of being able to laugh at this mess that requires us to fight for access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area; not often at all. But once in a while the opportunity does arrive and I had such a moment this last weekend.

I was talking to a friend about access and the need to get the word out about our fight and how we are being severely wronged by the NPS. And as we continued our discussion we began to relate the nightmare of this fight and the toll it takes on us all.

As simple, yet sad as it is, I was bemused to discover that I wasn’t the only one waking up at 2am night after night trying to beat this thing. Yes I laughed. So I propose that we should file for a government grant to study this new sleeping disorder, “access insomnia”.

What’s really sad is that at this point in time, with the number of access fights that NPS has started around this nation, this disorder currently affects many thousands of taxpaying citizens of this country.

What’s been keeping me up at night lately was a great blog post by Irene Nolan, published on 2/18/11, about the need for an environmental impact study, to study the environmental impact, of the NPS Final environmental impact statement (FEIS). Yes, you read that correctly. The article can be found here:

This new study is to among other things, assess the impact of the proposed “improvements” found in the NPS preferred alternative F published in the FEIS.

Part of the so called “improvements” proposed in ALT F include parking areas and walk-over’s to allow pedestrian access to the proposed “vehicle free areas” (VFAs).

The VFAs are areas that would be limited to pedestrian use only and will permanently close huge sections of the Islands beaches to all ORV access in spite of the fact that these areas have, since before the existence of the Seashore, been reached primarily by ORV. This action by NPS also ignores Executive Order 11989 which qualifies reasoning for terminating ORV access with the onus upon NPS to show that proposed or continued access either” has caused or will cause considerable adverse effects” to the resource. As I’ve pointed out many times before, this is something that NPS cannot do.

It’s important to note that during the regular, or what used to be regular management of the Seashore, several VFAs exist for either a significant portion of the year and one, the largest of them all, the northern 13 miles of Hatteras Island, remains ORV free for all four seasons as it has for many years now.

The standard VFA that has been in place seasonally are the closures of the beaches in front of the villages on Hatteras Island. These are put in place to accommodate the persons who can manage to access the beaches from the villages on foot and choose to do so. This can be a bit tricky as there are no public walkways and the like to provide access so that anyone choosing this mode and location for egress risks the ire of property owners. These closures are billed by NPS as “safety closures” and typically run from about Memorial Day to Labor Day

The exception is Hatteras village which because of the threat of a lawsuit from a non-resident home owner, NPS no longer opens in the winter. Buxton Beach also remains closed year round.

Perhaps the most famous, irksome, and often seen VFA on the Seashore is the miles of beach between beach access Ramp 43 and north to Buxton. It’s been there for years and day after day, that entire beach goes almost entirely unused in spite of nearby parking.

Obviously, NPS wants a lot more unused and inaccessible beach on top of the vast areas they propose to close permanently to all access. And between those permanent closures, seasonal “resource” closures and VFAs, ORV access to this Recreational Area will be severely limited for the majority of the year.

When I look at the FEIS these days, the NPS “AGENDA” becomes even more apparent. And what we’ve been saying about that agenda, that it’s not just a plan to remove ORVs from the Seashore, but pedestrians as well, rings true.

Of course NPS offers a convoluted premise for these VFAs which include visitor safety, minimizing visitor conflict, and the preservation of what is referred to as “sightscapes”, all of which are in fact, NPS mandates. While certainly safety issues and user conflicts do arise from time to time there is a lack of remarkable record of either.

I do have issue with a federal agency that bespeaks a mandate which it won’t follow on its own. The same agency that says “some people would like to have a beach without ORVs disturbing the “sightscapes”“, line the one road on and off this island with bright orange dumpsters, miles of signs, posts, strings and plastic ribbon that also cover our 73 miles of beach from one end to the other, almost literally.

The solution to creating points of access to these proposed VFAs, according to NPS, is the construction of parking areas in select locations along the length of the Islands, most of which will be on Ocracoke if I read the chart correctly.

When this NPS thought process becomes absurd is when you start working with the supposed visitation numbers which NPS quotes at one point as ~2.1 million annually and then consider the proposed permanent, seasonal and incidental beach closures. Keep in mind, that until the final rule is place, we won’t know how a lot of this math works out but here are some thoughts to ponder.

Let’s assume we do have 2.1 million visitors a year even though who ever came up with those numbers clearly hasn’t lived here since the decree of forced consent. And for the sake of argument, let’s say half of those visitors come to the Islands with the intention of driving on the beach, a traditional form of access to these shores. That leaves us with 1,050,000 people that come here to recreate on the beaches via ORV so that they can access areas of the Seashore that are remote and comprise the vast majority of the Islands lands.

The insult begins with this user group, those that choose to visit the Seashore via ORV, because we are about to take on the cost of developing all of the infrastructure necessary to develop not only these VFA’s but all of the sundry accommodations necessary to support pedestrian only access such as walkovers, parking lots, more orange dumpsters, and restrooms and of course, required maintenance costs. This proposed cost will all be covered, according to NPS, primarily by ORV permit fees; cost to be determined.

NPS is openly discriminating against one user group in this process as “pedestrian only” visitors will be assessed no fee for seeking recreational activity upon the sand and by the sea. Personally, I see this as having great potential for the very same user conflict issues that NPS claim they need to avoid to justify these VFAs.

The insult continues when you realize that for all the cost that ORV users will bear in terms of permit fees and access lost to miles of some of the most favorite and productive beaches on these Islands, NPS plans to build only 130 odd parking spaces. Though admittedly this will create a slightly greater opportunity for pedestrian access, it remains restricted to the first to arrive and as such, limits the amount of persons on the sand much the same way vehicle per mile limitations have been proposed for ORV use.

As such, they not so subtly insult us all.

Most of these parking areas will be on Ocracoke but the vast majority of lost ORV access will be on Hatteras. I guess someone ran into an issue when they realized that the average width of the Islands is only about 150 yards.

And while NPS limits access to all user groups they foster use conflict born of resentment, they get to pave over paradise and put up a parking lot. The irony is astounding and it ticks me off to no end!

There are a lot of good folks that are joining this fight, and quickly! It’s made for an interesting last week and change to say the least. But we need everybody’s help in this fight.

We can win this if we band together and voice our objections to this absurd and unjustified action by NPS. Write and call your federal representatives and share your stories of Hatteras with your friends and encourage them to help as well. Bring them here and show them what we fight for.

Examples of the absurd and overly restrictive proposed alternative like the ones mentioned above, as well as their results, is a loud call for relief so that all that enjoy the magic that is this user maintained, user cleaned ribbon of sand can continue to do so.

The sun will rise tomorrow on islands being covered with closures but as the moon passes this night, many will continue their fight for free and open access to our Seashore. It’s a warm smile that comes with that thought.

Oh, and please give some further thought to the fact that you are paying somebody to do an environmental impact study to determine the environmental impact of the NPS FINAL environmental impact statement.

Tight Lines,