Change is hard

By Molly Harrison | Wednesday, January 25, 2012
New rules are coming for ORV use in CH National Seashore.

The big talk on the Outer Banks right now is the National Park Service's final ruling regarding Off-Road Vehicle Use, i.e., beach driving, in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The NPS adopted the new policy last week, and people are polarized on how they feel about the changes...

Many residents and longtime visitors are mad. For those who supported free and open access to the National Seashore beaches, the news is not good...

Starting on February 15, the National Park Service will permanently close 26 miles of beach access to vehicles along the 67-mile seashore. Those who want to drive on the remaining 41 miles of accessible beach will have to purchase an annual permit for a cost of between $90 and $150 (the price will be announced soon) or a weekly permit for probably between $30 to $50. Those who purchase a permit will also be required to watch a 7-minute educational video at one of the park's visitor centers. See the entire ruling in the link to Off-Road Vehicle Use in the paragraph above...

For those who wanted to see the NPS do a better job of protecting and preserving the Seashore's natural resources, the news is better. Environmental groups say that the new rules are a compromise that provides protection for wildlife and pedestrians while still allowing access for beach drivers.

Personally, I feel a little sad about the new rules. I'm not angry, because I can see both sides of the issue. The NPS had to make a decision to try to please both parties, and this is what they came up with. I drive on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beach only for occasional recreation, usually for beach daytrips to Oregon Inlet or Hatteras Island or during our annual week vacation on Ocracoke Island. So getting a beach permit and watching a video isn't going to negatively affect my life too much, but it will be a drag, just something else I'll have to line up - and pay for - before we go on vacation. I feel most sad about losing the sense of spontaneity. No more free, impromptu trips to the beach with the surf-fishing gear and watersports gear on a Sunday afternoon unless I get that yearly permit. I feel kind of sad about how much that is going to cost too...

I feel the same way about saltwater recreational fishing license, even though I can see the point in that too. Last fall I took my 7-year-old fishing on the awesome new pier under the Washington Baum Bridge. (Seriously, very cool pier if you haven't seen it.) Anyway, so it occurs to me while we're out there fishing that I hadn't renewed by fishing license in August like I was supposed to. So, basically, fishing with my son was illegal. I put down my rod and let him fish. And when the Wildlife officers came by to talk to us, I had pangs of worry. Did they see me casting earlier? Were they going to bust me right there in front of my kid? That worry overshadowed the spontaneity and fun in the experience, but luckily they just talked to my son and encouraged him to keep on angling...

I can hear myself now, telling my grandkids in about 25 years, "I remember, Sonny, in the old days when you could fish for free. And you could drive on the beach for free. And the ferry to Ocracoke was free. And there was a time when you could drive to Virginia without having to pay a toll..."

Anyway, the decision has been made, so we'll all live with it. I don't know if I believe all the doom that people are predicting the NPS decision will bring to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. I believe people will still want to go there. I believe people will go out of their way and take the extra step to be able to spend time on those beautiful beaches. I know I will...

And you still have two or more weeks of freedom. Why not take a drive down to Hatteras or Ocracoke this weekend? Get that 4WD down there and cruise the beach. Take a picture of your last free ride on Hatteras or Ocracoke. You can show it to your grandkids one day...

So what else can you do this weekend?

If you've got teens, send them over to One Sick Event. You've got to love that name. It's for middle and high school students and it'll have skateboarding, music, Ping Pong, pizza and hanging out. It's only 5 bucks and it's on Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Dare County Airport Pavilion. * Also on Friday, there's a Jesus Jam at St. Andrew's By the Sea in Nags Head, and a Kinnakeet History Potluck in Avon. See details by clicking the links....

On Saturday, the 34th Annual Frank Stick Memorial Art Show opens at Ghost Fleet Gallery in Nags Head. This is one of the Dare County Arts Council's largest annual shows of artwork. Members of DCAC, both local and from off, enter the show, and it's a great way to see what everybody has been working on all year. There's always painting, pottery, sculpture, fiber, metal and mixed media represented in the show. The opening reception is Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. If you miss the opening reception, the gallery is open daily and the show is hanging through February 24....

Monday is the beginning of After Dark @ All Saints, a three-week series of one-night classes taught by local professionals. Classes range from cooking to wine tasting to yoga to line dancing to art and reading. There are still spaces in some classes. You can get all the details here...

In the planning ahead department: If you like to run, the Sweetheart 8K / 1 Mile Fun Run Race is set for Feb. 11 at 9 a.m. in Manteo. Go ahead and register now. Races fill up quick around here! The race will benefit the SPCA. * It's also time to buy tickets for the annual Outer Banks Taste of the Beach weekend for 2012. March 15 through 18. This year there are more than 50 events, including the grand finale OBX Grand Tasting at Pamlico Jack's in Nags Head.

Of course that's not all that's going on around here. Look at our By Night and By Day sections for more things to do. There's a lot of live music happening this weekend...

What are you doing this weekend? Did I miss anything big? If so, be sure to comment below and, remember, you can always Join In with OneBoat Outer Banks to list your events for free on Outer Banks This Week...

Hope you have a great week! It's supposed to be unseasonably warm and mostly sunny all the way into February, which, believe it or not, starts next week...

We want to hear what all of you think about the NPS rulings on ORV driving in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Make a comment on our Facebook wall if you've got something to say...

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of OuterBanksThisWeek.com. She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks. When not working she practices and teaches yoga and spends as much time as possible outside and in or on the water with her husband and two children.