On January 20, 2017 the National Park Service (NPS) implemented a new ORV Management Rule at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area (Seashore). The new rule replaced the previous rule which had been in effect since February, 2012. With this action, the NPS has officially addressed each component of the Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2015, Section 3057: Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area (Act).
The completion of the NPS actions in response to the Act is a significant milestone in the efforts of beach access advocates which have been ongoing since the 1970s when executive orders were issued requiring the designation of ORV routes and areas on NPS lands.
The NPS aggressively began an effort to establish an ORV rule for the Seashore in 2005 in response to lawsuits from several environmental organizations in the previous few years. The Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA), led by the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA), North Carolina Beach Buggy Association (NCBBA) and the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club (CHAC), has fought for the past 17 years on behalf of the members of these organizations and for all beach access advocates to insure any rules or policies implemented would preserve and protect the natural resources and recreational opportunities within the Seashore without prohibiting the access formally promised to the public at the Seashore’s dedication in 1958 by the director of the NPS, Conrad Wirth.
The first rule and associated wildlife management practices, which were implemented in February of 2012, had significant shortcomings. Congress recognized these shortcomings and passed the Act in December of 2014 requiring that they be addressed. The Act and many of the changes made by NPS to respond to the Act were influenced by recommendations made by CHAPA, its member organizations, representatives of local governments and the individuals who have advocated beach access throughout this process.
At this milestone, it is important to reflect on the changes made regarding pedestrian and ORV access to the Seashore as a result of the Act and to look forward to the future.