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I was there for about an hour prior to the public comment and for the public comment. I went to make sure that the seasonal closure issued was accurately summarized. When I got there I learned that the NPS had presented a map showing the seasonal closures from Frisco to Hatteras and north of Ramp 43 as year round closures. I also learned that the recharacterization of the seasonal closures in these areas was debated and set aside for later discussion.

My comment is presented below. I submitted it in writing. Basically,

1. I proved that based upon the data and in Mr. Murray's own words, the closures in these areas are SEASONAL not year round.

2. I informed the comittee that Mr. Murray had stated that he would ask the comittee for a recomendation as to whether to open these areas seasonally while the new rule is being written (something it seems Mr. Murray had not mentioned yet).

3. I urged the comittee to recommend reopening of these areas off season as has been the practice during 2004 & 2005 when the beaches widened.

4. I asked the comittee, in the final rule, NOT to change the seasonal closure policy or that if they feel they must limit the changes to tweaking of the times.

*****Comment Hard Copy--Appendix A is a link to an attachment I posted 2 years ago--


It is not possible to develop any rules regarding seasonal closures without a thorough understanding of current policy and the impact the current policy has had on visitor satisfaction. This being the case let me take this opportunity o document current policy.

On October 17, 2006 I asked Mr. Murray why the seasonal closures for Frisco and Hatteras Village and north of ramp 43 had not been opened to all use, as per the press release dated 9/13/06 and as the per past practice of the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Mr. Murray stated that these beaches had remained closed to ORVs for many years prior to 2004 and that the policy regarding these areas was unclear. In an attempt to clarify current policy, I performed a thorough review of park actions as they related to beach closures for the period of 1978 to present (see Appendix A). After reviewing my interpretation of park policy and gathering information from other sources not available to me (including park staff involved in closure decisions for Frisco and Hatteras Village and north of ramp 43) Mr. Murray concluded that the policy regarding these beaches is the same as other village beaches—that is, closed seasonally but open from 9/15 to 5/15 unless beach width makes travel unsafe. (see Appendix B).

In 2006, despite the fact that the above referenced beaches were at least as wide as when they were when opened in 2004 and 2005, Mr. Murray decided to defer any decisions regarding changes to the “narrow beach” closures for the above referenced beaches until such time as this committee could meet to discuss the status of the above referenced beaches.


Insofar as the date for the implementation of 2008 seasonal closures is right around the corner, I do not see any benefit in making any changes for this season. That said, since

1. the local economy cannot survive on summer revenues alone,
2. the number of ORVs present on the park’s beaches is extremely low (the only congregations found would be in the area of the point or where striper and trout are coming to the beach),
3. the number of passive users present on the park’s beaches approaches zero in the winter months (see Appendix C), and
4. vehicular access is not only the preferred method of accessing the park’s beaches during the harsh winter weather but sometimes to only way for visitors with limited stamina to engage in winter recreational activities (fishing, shelling, etc.),

I strongly recommend that the committee suggest that the park enforce the current seasonal policy (as described above). Furthermore, I suggest that if the final rule proposed by this committee includes any changes to the current seasonal closure policies, recommended changes be limited to tweaking the closure dates to reflect current usage patterns. Quite simply, based upon the pictures in Appendix C and the vehicle count data the NPS is collecting, there is NO EVIDENCE that opening seasonally closed beaches presents any safety concern whatsoever.

********Appendix A


******Appendix B

Explanation Received From Mike Murray on 12/20/06

Dear Jim and Ginny,

I apologize for the belated response. Thank you again for the historical information you provided on off-season ORV access south of Ramp 49 and north of Ramp 55.

Since receiving your messages, I have reviewed the material you sent as well as the 1978 draft interim ORV management plan and Superintendent's Order # 7, visited the respective locations on several occasions, spoken with a number of park staff who have been involved with closure decisions and implementation of those decisions related to the area between Ramp 49 and Ramp 55 over the years, and spoken with several different stakeholders for their perspective.

There is consensus that the basis for maintaining the closure over the years has been due to a "narrow beach." (emphasis added) It is also clear that prior to 2004 the park did NOT follow any specific beach width parameters, such as those identified in the draft interim 1978 plan, for justifying the need for safety closures "due to a narrow beach" at these locations. The concept of using the specific beach width parameters identified in the 1978 draft interim plan was initiated and formalized by Superintendent Belli in Superintendent's Order # 7 in May 2004. That change in policy, which adopted other aspects of the draft interim 1978 as well, was a point of contention for many stakeholders and has been is dispute ever since.

As you know, we are in the beginning stages of the Negotiated Rulemaking process. My plan is to maintain the current policy for now and defer further review of this issue to the negotiated rulemaking committee. With this in mind, the existing safety closure south of Ramp 49 to just north of Ramp 55 will remain in effect. Please understand that I am applying the same rationale of deferment to all requests that I have received to either expand or reduce the current off-season winter closures in front of Frisco-Hatteras and/or Buxton. (emphasis added)

Thank you again for your time and interest in this issue.

Mike Murray
Cape Hatteras NS/ Wright Brothers NMem/ Ft. Raleigh NHS
(w) 252-473-2111, ext. 148
(c) 252-216-5520
fax 252-473-2595

***Appendix C


Please find below pictures depicting observed usage for the winter/spring 2007. Note, the below pictures are not the result of a random sample but rather were skewed toward fair weather days and mid morning to mid afternoon hours. Furthermore, the pictures presented below are only a small sample of the pictures forwarded to Larry Hardham. In my opinion the only way the committee can make “informed” decisions is by reviewing the full set of pictures in Mr. Hardham’s possession.
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