Time to Pay to Play!
2012 will mark the first year where we will be required to buy permits to drive on the sand. The new requirement takes affect in a few days (Feb 15) and permits may be purchased at various stations located at or near access ramps throughout the NPS Cape Hatteras National Seashore. For local/regular Hatteras wavesailors it will mean $120 for the annual pass. Those here short term will require a $50/week pass.
There has been a lot of debate on the issue with those both in favor as well as the majority who are against the new requirement. I for one, am semi-neutral. I see the validity given the explosion of SUV popularity over the past 20 years and the vast increase of visitor ORV traffic on the OBX. This new requirement, in my opinion, simply serves as an enforcement measure to better manage Cape Hatteras National Seashore given increased visitor/traffic numbers against static NPS personnel coverage.
From the Hatteras wavesailing perspective, I see it as a way to open the beaches and new found surf breaks, especially along the east Cape Point area where traffic can become quite tight during popular weeks/weekends with fishing lines every few yards along the beach. Additionally, perhaps we will less likely see passenger and light SUV vehicles stuck in the sand blocking access ramps and delaying the trek out to the surf zone. Of course, the decreased numbers of monster trucks racing between south Coquina beach and Oregon Inlet will also be welcome relief.
On the down side, there will be an economic impact. A definite part of the Hatteras experience is the opportunity to drive onto the sand and set up a beach camp for the day. A new fiscal cost to that activity along with time and effort to obtain a permit will turn visitors off of the OBX experience. If there are decreased visitor numbers, this will directly impact local business. Annual surf fishing contests in the Fall are huge and this requirement will likely turn off some who frequent these events.
Though who knows..., people will still come. The permit may be a "pain in the a$$" for some, especially if here visiting for a week, but all in all, for those who truly need to drive onto the beach or truly want to, they can. It will simply cost some extra time and money.