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Business Survey On Cape Hatteras National Seashore ORV Management Plan's Impacts Points to Uncertainty


Uncertainties cloud business expectations at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in wake of plan to restrict ORV and pedestrian access. NPS photo.

A strong majority of businesses along Cape Hatteras National Seashore believe rules that restrict access of off-road vehicles and pedestrians for the benefit of nesting shorebirds and sea turtles will harm their operations.

But at the same time, uncertainties and outside factors that swirl around visitation to the national seashore make it hard to reach definitive conclusions on the severity of impacts to businesses there, note the authors of a survey conducted for seashore officials.

The survey (attached below) was conducted from June-September 2009, and dated August 2010, and so couldn't specifically ask businesses about the seashore's preferred alternative for managing ORV traffic that was released last fall.

The plan, expected to take effect late this year, calls for new parking areas along Highway 12 as well as new access ramps to the beach; a new trail for pedestrians to walk down through the dunes to the beach; a "seasonal night-driving restriction ... established from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. during turtle nesting season, although areas with no turtle nests could open to night driving from September 16 through November 15,' and;" an "alternative transportation study and would encourage the establishment of a beach shuttle or water taxi."

Overall, the approved plan calls for 27.9 miles of year-round designated ORV routes on the seashore, 12.7 miles of seasonal routes, and 26.4 miles of vehicle-free miles.

Without knowing of that specific plan, what the survey consultant, RTI International, of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, tried to do was select "the two action alternatives that represented opposite ends of the management spectrum for the alternatives under consideration at the time to serve as the basis for questions about the possible impact of the alternatives on revenue in the future relative to revenue in 2008. The descriptions of the alternatives captured the major features of the alternatives expected to have the biggest impact on visitation."

When asked to compare their business in 2008 vs. 2007, some respondents attributed declines in 2008 to the recession, high gas prices, changes in ferry schedules, beach closures to protect wildlife, and uncertainties over beach access. At the same time, some pointed to an increase in business due to the economy (some visitors stayed closer to home for vacations), and higher prices or management changes.

But the general theme was that restricted seashore access would be bad for business.

Some business owners reported that they do not believe the recent decrease in revenue was caused by an economic downturn, because they normally do quite well during a recession by attracting beachgoers who would normally elect for a more expensive vacation. Others said that beach driving restrictions have resulted in a loss of business mainly by driving away daytrippers. Some Ocracoke businesses noted that the current compromise on Ocracoke Island is necessary for wildlife protection and acceptable for maintaining their business, but that any additional closures would cause problems.

Without the specifics that became known last fall with the seashore's selection of its preferred alternative, and with the country's ongoing economic malaise, it was difficult for those businesses surveyed to make hard predictions about their future. Still, among the conclusions reached by the survey:

* "The majority of businesses thought that all three alternatives described in the survey would result in decreased revenue compared to 2008. A smaller number expected no change or an increase."

* "The first alternative, under which all the spits and points were closed to ORV use year-round, was expected to have the biggest negative increase."

* "Fewer businesses felt comfortable providing a quantitative forecast of the expected impact of the alternatives on revenue given the uncertainties surrounding the cause of changes in revenue between 2007 and 2008, the impact of the alternative on visitation, and the year-to-year variation in weather and nesting patterns."

* "From the businesses providing quantitative forecasts: Businesses forecast median decreases of 0% to 25% in annual revenue compared to 2008 for the first alternative described (which closed the most miles of beach to ORVs year-round). For the second alternative (which involved no year-round closures), the median change in revenue compared to 2008 ranged from a decrease of 12% to no change. Closing the soundside
ramps generated median estimates of revenue loss ranging from no change to -4%."

But uncertainty stemming from changes in travel patterns and outside economic influences also was mentioned by the survey's authors in their conclusion.

In some cases, businesses said that visitors came in 2008 not knowing about the beach closures and did not return in 2009. However, some businesses reported that although business in the spring of 2009 was down, they were seeing increased bookings for the fall or expected business in the fall to increase. Some visitors may reschedule trips from the spring to the fall to visit areas likely to be closed in the spring and early summer. Because the business survey was conducted during the summer, businesses did not have information about revenue in the fall and winter of 2009.

Forecasting future revenue in response to management changes is necessarily uncertain. Some businesses worried that 2008 would not be typical of future years for reasons discussed above. Visitation in 2008 is also confounded by the economic recession and gas prices. Businesses that want to influence the debate over the alternatives have an incentive to exaggerate the expected impacts of more restrictive alternatives on their revenue. This possibility was recognized, and the survey included questions to probe for the reasoning behind answers to some questions. In addition, the economic analysis will use other data sources in addition to the business survey to create a range of possible future outcomes.

Some respondents were hesitant to give specific numbers on possible changes in revenue that could be attributed to ORV management actions because of the many other factors affecting the economy in the last few years, uncertainty about shorebird and turtle nesting patterns, and uncertainty about the long-term reactions of visitors to changes in visitor access to the Seashore. The ranges of possible impacts, which are large in some cases, reflect the uncertainty expressed by businesses and variation present in the survey data.


First I will address this

"alternative transportation study and would encourage the establishment of a beach shuttle or water taxi."

This idea is insane! Imagine a water taxi landing on the shore from the ocean spilling people like the soldiers on D-Day. Better Yet Imagine someone gets dropped off by the beach shuttle to go fishing and oops he or she has an accident with a fillet knife or even a heart attack. Do we place this person at the bus stop for the next shuttle?

I love Cape Hatteras, but I will not continue to go there if I am forced to pay for a daily permit in which me and my wife would have to take one day of our vacation to attend a class to even get the possibility of getting on the beach. Secondly with the permanent closures, bird and turtle nesting the little beach that will remain open will be filled to the gills giving more ammunition to close more beach creating a negative chain of events until no one has access to a place we were promised to always have access.

The NPS needs to grow a pair and face the facts that putting access off indefinitely for the "Future generation" to show up only hurts themselves.

Face the facts this way of utilizing this particular park (By accessing the beach by foot or by orv) is the only reason for crossing the Bonner Bridge. Without the beach it is nothing but a two lane road with sand on the sides.

Cape Hatteras NS was not established by the People of the United States to suport local businesses. It's there to protect the beaches, the wildlife, the vegetation and the history in ways that will keep them unimpaired forever. That's ALL that should be considered, if it's plan accomplishes those goals, then it is proper and good. If local businesses can profit from their proximity to the park, great, but that's NOT what the park is there for.

You are correct in saying "Cape Hatteras NS was not established by the People of the United States to suport local businesses" but I was simply referring to having access to our national park as the main driver in having a business there in the first place. I will also refer to the saying by the NPS "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"

By saying that and then saying not you but a future you can enjoy this park sure does not help local businesses.

From another article about the Flamingo Lodge states they had the same thing going on there, but did not have the interferences of Cape Hatteras...

"he National Park Service is eager to restore family-style hospitality services at Flamingo. Park attendance has declined significantly since 2005, and as you can well imagine, area businesses and governments are upset about the losses of income and tax revenues associated with reduced park visitation. Sport fishermen and birders lament the loss of convenient access to some of the best angling and birding in the southern states. "

They instead just built another lodge costing millions to do so. Cape Hatteras needed a bridge 20 years ago and it just made it through to the planning stage.

Posted on a Hatteras Island fishing board:

It's been a great 20+ years but we have to make changes
by btrotter » Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:54 pm

For many years I have been going to the OBX to enjoy the following:

*Time with my family away from normal life
*Away from the cell phone and emails
*great fishing on the surf
*Bringing my boat down and fishing in the sound or off the point
*Sleeping in with NO ONE bothering me
*Getting up every morning and taking my early morning Jog to Frank & Frans and have a free cup of coffee while eating my 18 vitamins that I take every day
*Visiting friends from Hatteras Village all the way to Rodanthe
*Spending money that I dont have to support "JOBS and the OBX"

But what do I get. RUN OFF! Let me break this down what has happened over the last 3 years that this has been going on.

We fought back by doing education, handing out flyers, working with OBPA, Beach Buggy, Anglers Club to raise money and support. Ok Ok I understand at this point your tired of reading but continue.

Lets take "my family" Husband, Wife, 2 daughters a son and my inlaw's. Total 6-7 of us. Now let me put this in $$$$$$$.

*(2) 4x4 vehicles to drive everyone down. From my house to the island, around and back 2400 miles= 171 gallons of Fuel (So at today's average $2.96 per gallon) 171X $2.96=$507.43, Only 65 gallons are purchased away from DARE County. So that means 106 Gallons of Taxable fuel is to benifit Dare County.
*(1) House for the week at an average of $1462.10 (based on my 4 weeks average every year)
*Food bill for us (again an average) spending at Conners, Food Lion and Red Drum for a week $1125.11
*Eating out 2 times during the week (again an average) for a family 6 &/or 7= $291.52
*Bait and Tackle (again average) $214.92 per trip
*I carry a max of $800.00 cash and it's down within 50 bucks so we will say $750.00 misc cash (I dont use credit or debit on the island.

Now lets figure that up.
$4351.08 (I was pretty shocked when I seen how much I spend every trip down)\
Now take that and MULTIPLY X 4 TRIPS PER YEAR......................YEA................PRETTY CRAZY HUH?
Over $17400.00 per year and I have NOT counted the weekend trips to catch the big runs of fish. Now if I added that up it would boost it some but I am dirt cheap on those trips because no WIFE and KIDS.

If I a middle/average/american spends 17k a year JUST WITH MY FAMILY. I hope this sheds some light on the impact that the island is going to suffer.

We are now 1 trip a year and that is October for the tournament. I plan on continuing that trip to support what I love and have loved for years.

Now I want to personally thank each and every friend that I have met on the island for great times. If you are one of the reasons why I have decreased my trips from 4 to 1. Well please never come up to me. Ignore me with respect.

I do not wish to read "statistics" I am telling you the impact and in final.........It's been an awesome 20 years of vacation and again thank you! We are moving our vacations to Morehead City, A Cruise and a week on a local lake "bass fishing"

I feel heavy hearted to even write this but this is how the new rules and regs have affected my family. I will never give up on keeping the beaches open but NOW I have to put my wishes and wants away and provide enjoyment for my family. I will always be here to help as always.

God Bless
The Trotter Family

Brian, Katherine, Morgan, Madalyn and Brian Alexanderbtrotter

Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:30 pm

I am in the same boat after this year if everything pans out like the preferred plan states. From my pocket that means 2500.00 per trip not including the three other couples and kids we come down with one of which rents a spot at a camp ground so he can visit 20 plus times a year. This is a new story that will be repeated over and over again.

To all of the nay saying Enviros (that will tout that we are leaving just because we cannot drive on the beach) I say lets see you walk out there? there will be no predictability in being able to plan a trip down because at a moments notice an area that is open will close and as stated before who wants to attend a National Seashore without the shore... Kind of like owning one of those fake aquariums that hang on the wall (not meant to offend those who do, but it is not my thing).

Thanks for the memories but these last visits will definitely be remembered and treasured.

Ranger Bill won't have a job when Audubon get's done with him and his Park.

$17,000 a year on trips to Hatteras kicks you out of average, glad you could do it, but sounds pricey to me. I spend $2-3K every two years on my trips to Hatteras (and I drive about 2K round trip and share a house with other families).

Actually Ranger Bob, the Seashore was set up to give Americans access to the sea.

Like some of the posts above, I have curtailed my trips each year as well. I still come once a year, although I have skipped -- down from an average of 2-3 trips with family or friends. Last time we came, it was 6 fisherman for a 5 days. That's 5 days of restaurant dinners, multiple trips to Food Lion and surf or bait shops, etc.

Ask any retailer at Cape Hatteras, Avon or the communities, especially those in close proximity of a ramp that accesses a closed beach if their business has been affected by the closures. I doubt you'll hear many no's or get an apathetic answer. If you're a Ranger for the NPS as your handle implies and working there, you might want to learn more about what your neighbors are experiencing.

Kurt, thanks for this article.

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