North Carolina's two U.S. senators announced legislation Thursday to roll back limits on beach driving -- and walking -- at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and a House subcommittee planned a hearing Friday morning on a similar bill filed earlier by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones.
This spring the National Park Service started requiring anglers and other Outer Banks visitors to buy permits ($50 per week or $120 per year) for driving at beach locations where vehicles are still allowed. The new restrictions are the outgrowth of a lawsuit by environmental groups and a consent decree aimed mostly at protecting the nests of rare shorebirds. In recent weeks, the park service has closed some beach areas to pedestrians as well as vehicles after bird nesting behavior was observed.
The Senate bill announced by Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan would restore less restrictive rules that were implemented in 2007. In a press release, Burr said:
“Restricting ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a negative impact on local communities and the local economy. We must ensure that our state’s residents have access to North Carolina’s scenic treasures, and I am confident we can come to a compromise that allows people to have access while at the same time addressing any potential environmental concerns.”
Witnesses at the House subcommittee hearing Friday will include Jones, a National Park Service official, John Couch of the Outer Banks Preservation Association, and Warren Judge of the Dare County commissioners.
--Bruce Siceloff, staff writer