Regulations close some OBX beaches to drivers

Posted at 8:13 PM, Mar 20, 2012

OUTER BANKS, NC (WTKR)--If you travel to the Outer Banks in North Caroline and enjoy taking your car onto the dunes, you will find that now more than a third of the beaches are closed to drivers.

About 80 people, some from as far as Richmond, protested the new rules—meant to protect wildlife-- this morning, meant to protect wildlife.

The residents and visitors marched to the Hatteras Island lighthouse this morning chanting refrains of "Beach Access! Beach Access!"

The protesters carried American flags and signs asking for beaches to be re-opened, and condemning environmental groups who've supported regulations to protect species such as the piping plover.

The National Park Service recently began enforcing rules closing 26 of the 67 miles of Cape Hatteras National Seashore to off-road vehicles in order to protect certain species.

Some protesters came from as far as Richmond to participate.

New beach access regulations took effect Feb. 15.

Beach driving now requires a $120 annual or $50 weekly permit.  On Monday, the park service shuttered nine-tenths of a mile of seashore near Cape Point on the southeast portion of Hatteras Island because of signs of American oystercatcher and piping plover nesting.

Residents have also objected to National Park Service signs at five spots on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands--where waterbirds are known to nest—that tell visitors to leave kites, pets and vehicles at home and request;"Leave no footprints behind. Walk in water where footprints wash away."

The park service said the signs are meant to convey only that visitors could walk along the shoreline, the area of sand the high tide reaches, but not venture into the dunes where birds could be preparing their nests.