NO ACCESS: Groups Aim To Ban Driving On The Beach In Cape Hatteras

When I describe Cape Hatteras to my friends in California I tell them it’s kind of like Baja except you don't have to worry so much. You’re still in America – but you might as well not be. Walloping over the dunes in 4WD Low, with nothing but dune grass on side one and turquoise on side two, scouring the sand for a peak to share with your buddies, few things really matter aside from the "now" of that moment. You should probably have some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some Gatorade to address the peanut butter, and some form of non-melting candy on hand as well as a plank of wood to bail you out in case your tires sink – but other than the minutiae of preparation, there is nothing else to think about.

A massive chunk of east coast surfers can spit the same story when asked about their experience on the Outer Banks; it’s a special one. Unfortunately, as a result of The National Audubon Society, The Defenders of Wildlife, and Southern Environmental Law Center’s motion to eliminate beach-driving in specific areas along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, it may be in serious jeopardy.

The groups aim to further protect several species of birds indigenous to the area, claiming their nesting areas risk destruction from beach traffic. They have submitted their motion to the U.S. District Court, and they ask that until a decision is made the use of off road vehicles be suspended at Bodie Island spit, Cape Point and part of the South Beach, Hatteras Inlet, and the north and south points of Ocracoke.

The environmentalists' motion has incited uproar among the surfing, fishing, and local business communities, as well as local politicians, including Congressman, Walter B. Jones, who issued the following statement:

“I am very disappointed that a few special interest groups have taken the extreme step of filing a motion in U.S. District Court to stop beach driving in major portions of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This ill-advised action threatens to shatter the good work that Park Superintendent Mike Murray has done to implement an interim management plan for beach driving and to bring all the parties together to negotiate a final rule.”

"This development is especially troubling for many reasons. These groups demanded a seat at the negotiating table but their true intentions must be called into question when they insist on using the courts to short circuit or influence the negotiating process. Furthermore, available evidence suggests that the Park's interim management strategy has been successful in protecting endangered birds, so it is simply not credible to claim
that beach driving needs to be stopped in order to save birds. I urge these groups to rethink their decision, to withdraw their motion for a preliminary injunction, and to return to the negotiating table."

A hearing has been set for April 3, 2008, and if you have a strong opinion on the matter, we urge you to get involved. Click here for more information or to submit a plea against the motion.