I hardly know where to start with this blog post. There just isn't enough room to tell the whole story here. You need to visit and spend some time on the website of the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA, http://obpa-nc.org), the local group that is leading the fight for access here. While the latest round in the fight for historic access to these beaches is somewhere stretching 9 years, it goes back much further than that. To many of the locals, it began when the Park Service took over from North Carolina.
Between the Audubon Society and other environmentalist efforts and the National Park Service efforts to close the beaches, it is amazing there is a community left to tell the story and to carry on the fight. The people who live and work here are frustrated. "It makes no sense at all what they are doing," said one business owner that I talked to. In terms of how serious this is, it is important to note on the island of Hatteras alone, they have lost over 60 businesses. The uncertainty of if or when the beach may or may not be open has deterred recreational visitors that once frequented a thriving community. Now, as I walked up and back the one main road, accommodations are all but empty.
And it doesn't make sense. The spin that has been pounded into the lame stream media by extremist groups is not true, but because it has been repeated so many times, it is accepted as some sort of gospel. For example, the notion that this is about ORVs ripping and tearing and creating a killing ground sets a picture in peoples minds that any good person would certainly oppose, but that isn't what happens here--by any stretch. Nor is it what has historically taken place for 100 years. It isn't about running rampant up and down the beaches like rogue outlaws, it isn't about ORVs at all. It is about access to the beaches to fish, to bird watch, to surf, to kite board, and a multitude of other recreational activities, including bird watching. Ironically, while Jeffrey Golding (director of OBPA) was showing me the issues they are dealing with firsthand on the beach, we ran across one of the most outspoken advocates of closing access, right there on the beach, unloading his gear from his Suburban. Everyone is motorized when they visit our public lands--everyone.
It doesn't make sense that here they are holding to standards of buffer zones that are 1000 meters when everywhere else on the planet is successful with only 200 meter buffer zones. It doesn't makes sense how the Park Service builds little containment areas of landscaping plastic for turtles that really become nothing more than contained killing zones for wary predators. And then, to offset that, the Park Service simply goes on a killing spree of their own, trapping and disposing of the would be predators including household cats.
It doesn't make sense to use junk science and advocacy science, and science that refuses to look at what is happening beyond its own little microcosm to justify the travesty they commit. The economics don't look at the whole picture such as the affects of hurricanes or increased taxes. Many of the scientific studies they rely on don't even look outside the park boundaries for a broader grasp. Numbers are skewed in such a way that you cannot help but wonder if it is intentional. What is worse? What happens here will NOT stay here. There are thousands of miles of public access up and down both coasts where the example set here will or already is spreading.
To say the people here are frustrated is an understatement. There is no cooperation, only extremist groups and the NPS bulling stubbornly on and solving nothing. But, the OBPA folks and the NCBBA (North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, http://ncbbaonline.com/) that I met with aren't giving up. They are in a legal action with the NPS right now and they are working on passing a legislative solution. We need to partner with them and help get that done.
Side note that I find interesting: One of the Directors with the NCBBA told me that they don't want to be in this fight, they are backed into it. The sad thing is that the NCBBA was formed to work with the NPS in a supportive way, and they used to be able to do just that. But sadly, what has happened, what the the Park is doing here has forced the NCBBA to go from advocate to adversary. I do mean sadly.