Without question, one thing that raises the ire of many visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is the closure of Cape Point to access in all forms. Also known as "the Point" this area of the Seashore has long been regarded as one of the premier surf fishing locations on our planet and draws fishermen as well as shellers, photographers and families, from all over the world.
Stretching south into the Atlantic,the Point also has the distinction of being the only place on the Island where one may stand in one spot, feet wet, and see the sun rise from the sea and set the same way. From here, on a clear spring night, the Milky Way appears painted with a brush and the constellations disappear amidst the cacophony of stars.
The closure of Cape Point is an emotional event that has the power to drain from many the will to fight the fight for free and open access. This becomes easy to understand when those whose families have fished here for generations find themselves in a position where all they can do for their children is relate memories instead of tangible experience. It doesn't help that we know that since the inception of the Seashore, neither turtle nor bird has been able to nest successfully at the Point and that 100% of these creatures mortality in this area, can be attributed directly to either storms or predation.
I was first confronted by the news of the Point closure after returning from a visit to my father who had just been released from the hospital. Of course, I wanted to know why it was closed and began a series of calls to NPS which led me to the office of Cyndy Holda, Murray's' information officer. She it appears, was out of town and I spoke to one of her assistants who had no idea about the closure and in fact didn't even know who or what the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA) is. It was also obvious, based on the rather convoluted response, that this person also had no idea about the beaches here at the Seashore and how they function. No surprise there either.
Tyring to figure out what this guy meant, I was left with the thought that NPS had decided that the walk was to far to be done safely. This thought was somewhat verified as I read Holda's reply about the issue in an e-mail to our friend Ted. I'll print that shortly.
The reasons cited by our community for this sudden closure varied and involved a cast of characters including a seal, a retired resource manager, an birder wearing an Audubon shirt and led by a local, to some guys toting a pier cart out to the Point.
Having talked to a dozen or so folks that claimed they were there, the consensus was that NPS sat back and watched the assorted violations take place and did nothing to stop or inform the persons involved. At this juncture in time, I would not be surprised if this were true.
In fact, when examining the numbers of violations recorded for the week prior to the closure, this must be true else there would likely have been few, if any.
What was missing during this event was an any attempt by NPS to inform those who chose to make the walk, about what the stipulations were. This could easily have been accomplished by having one of their staff stationed by the end of the closure. One would think that if protecting the birds was so important, NPS would have acted accordingly.
Take a look at the list of violations yourself and ask if NPS made any effort to educate anybody about anything.
Hatteras 4/14/2011 Pedestrian Two sets of barefoot tracks from the Pole Road to the ocean, 1 mile S of Ramp 55 in the Overwash prenesting closure.
4/15/2011 Pedestrian Two pedestrians having a picnic inside the closure, 1.6 mi W of Ramp 45.
4/15/2011 Pedestrian Two sets of footprints going into pre-nesting closure to Salt Pond and back out, S of Ramp 44.
4/16/2011 Dog An off-leash dog briefly ran into and then out of the closure on the east side of Ramp 45.
4/17/2011 ORV ORVs backed into and broke string for the Cape Point pre-nesting closure at the south end of the by-pass.
4/17/2011 Pedestrian Two sets of barefoot tracks in the PIPL closure/bumpout above the tide line to Cape Point.
4/17/2011 Pedestrian/Dog Tracks of two pedestrians and dog going down Salt Pond Road to shoreline.
4/17/2011 Dog Two sets of dog tracks in the interior of the Cape Point pre-nesting closure. The tracks crossed the dunes into the backshore.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian Eight people walking above the waterline in the PIPL closure/bumpout leading to Cape Point.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian A set of barefoot tracks were observed 0.6 mi E of Ramp 45.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian Three pedestrians at Salt Pond Road inside the pre-nesting closure.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian Two pedestrians in the prenesting closure west of Ramp 45.
4/20/2011 Pedestrian Two sets of pedestrian tracks inside Hatteras Inlet pre-nesting closure. One set went in the closure ~50 ft and left the same way. The other set led to the water's edge and traveled above the waterline.
Hatteras 4/19/2011 Pedestrian Five sets of pedestrian tracks going into the Hatteras Overwash pre-nesting closure, oceanside.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian Twenty-five fishermen were observed on the shoreline above the waterline inside the Cape Point pre-nesting closure.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian As many as 20 sets of pedestrian tracks were observed above the water through the PIPL and AMOY full beach closures/bumpouts on the east side of Cape Point. Many of the tracks overlapped so an exact number of violations was not possible to obtain.
4/19/2011 Pedestrian Four sets of pedestrian tracks entered the AMOY closure/bumpout from the shoreline on the east side of Cape Point and ended in the Hook. Drag marks from what appeared to be an ice chest were evident. Another pedestrian entered the closure from the Hook and walked through an American oystercatcher scrape. The tracks stopped near some exposed marine mammal bones and then returned to the Hook.
4/20/2011 ORV/Pedestrian ORVs parked south of the by-pass broke string between signs. Pedestrians walked past the broken string and signs down the by-pass for 20 meters and then exited the closure.
4/20/2011 Pedestrian Four pedestrians entered the Cape Point pre-nesting closure and walked WSW through the closure into the dunes and continued into the Hook. In doing so they walked within 15-30 meters of two unexclosed PIPL nests.
4/20/2011 ORV/Pedestrian More than a dozen bait fish, heads of bait fish and the remains of a filleted bluefish were dumped in the closure behind the "parking area" south of the by-pass.
4/20/2011 Pedestrian A fisherman who had walked from the Ramp 45 side of the Cape Point pre-nesting closure towards the Hook was observed fishing from the closed shoreline.
Hatteras 4/20/2011 Pedestrian Four pedestrian tracks were observed on the west side of the Cape Point pre-nesting closure. The tracks disappeared at the tide line after 50 meters. Returning tracks from the same four pedestrians were then observed exiting the closure north of the entry point.
4/20/2011 Pedestrian/Dog Two pedestrians with a dog were walking above the waterline in the AMOY closure/bumpout at Cape Point.
4/20/2011 Pedestrian A fisherman was observed at Cape Point with a pier cart.
4/20/2011 Pedestrian A man and woman on shoreline fishing inside the AMOY closure/bumpout at Cape Point.
Ocracoke 4/15/11 Pedestrian Seven pedestrians were observed entering the North Ocracoke pre-nesting closure from the ferry beach.
4/17/11 ORV, Pedestrian/ Dog A visitor drove into the closure south of Ramp 59 because closure signs had been lost in the storm from the previous evening.
4/17/11 Pedestrian Two sets of footprints entered the AMOY/bumpout closure on North Ocracoke, continued for several feet and then exited the closure.
4/19/11 Pedestrian One set of barefoot pedestrian tracks entered the AMOY closure 2.9 miles south of Ramp 59, continued for several feet and then exited the closure.
This is a sad statement through and through. It certainly does not reflect well on our community and also exemplifies the disdain that NPS feels for those who lawfully seek access. It is obvious that NPS would rather punish based on items noted on a clipboard than to work with the community to ensure access and wildlife protections, as absurd as they are.
Holda offered this explanation for the closure (in part):
"The closure intrusions are summarized in the weekly resources management
report. There were no "deliberate violations", such as vandalism, and no
violation notices were issued. The area was closed due to a combination of
new AMOY scrapes near the point that resulted in expand buffers and an
increase in the amount of closed shoreline that visitors would need to
by-pass below the mean low tide line and the number of closure intrusions
No deliberate violations means no expanded closures according to the decree of forced consent. The rest of her explanation is muddled and weak at best. This is especially true of the last part since had NPS been proactive the issue would have been largely non existent.
Then there is the issue of Murray, who as stipulated within the decree, retains the right to modify closures meaning the new AMOY scrape mentioned above (which is not a nest Madame Holda) need not have resulted in full closure but a corridor instead.
If you really want to know why the Point was closed, Holda said it all when she issued the standard non-scientific NPS opinion, advancing "the agenda" of nobody on the beach, which reads:
"The time had come to close it to avoid disturbance of nesting bird species."
So there you have it folks. I don't know what else to say other than I can't wait till this hypocrisy in all it's forms, is finally exposed to a nation that is rapidly becoming weary of the actions of NPS.
I hope everyone that reads this will share our story with as many as is possible and will join us in our fight to end this terrible injustice.