Still tackling a growing safety concern and multiple agendas, the County is seeking input from all over on how best to protect-enjoy-promote-restrict-capitalize-develop-preserve-drive-sit on the Northern Beaches. Below is an article from the Daily Advance on this issue. Despite the inconvenience and extra wear and tear on the vehicles, I am with Sheriff Johnson as a start to this effort...which will not be solved by any one measure but a series of adjustments and efforts requiring a sacrifice and an acknowledgement of all people (local and visiting alike) who enjoy, live, and work on those beaches.
Poll: Beach permits a concern
By Cindy Beamon
The Daily Advance
Monday, October 10, 2011
CURRITUCK — A recent poll of Currituck businesses reportedly reflects “a lot of concerns and questions” about any future permit system for the county’s off-road beaches.
Currituck Chamber of Commerce president Josh Bass asked for members’ input after a Beach Driving Committee last month recommended studying the possibility of a permit system for off-road beaches. About 70 businesses from both the mainland and the Outer Banks responded.
Some business owners were strongly against the idea, but most had questions about a proposed permit system for the off-road beaches, Bass said. Some wanted to know how permits might be issued and who would get them.
Commissioner Butch Petrey, who said a permit system would negatively affect tourism, asked a similar question.
“Who is going to stand at the gate and have people turn around?” Petrey asked.
The Beach Driving Committee advised commissioners to study the possibility of issuing permits during peak weekends to alleviate traffic problems. The committee suggested limiting the number of day-trippers who do not live, work or rent vacation homes on Currituck’s northern beaches.
The committee reported that about 2,000 day-trippers drive the 11-mile beach road each summer weekend. The added vehicles contribute to a dangerous mix of pedestrians and heavy traffic during vacation season, committee members said.
Bass said one of his chief concerns is making sure the community does not view “day-trippers” negatively. Visitors who spend the day on the county’s northern beaches without lodging there contribute to the local economy each time they stop to shop, eat out and buy gas, he said.
Short visits are also good for advertising the resort, he said. Day-long visitors may like what they see and decide to stay longer the next time — or may even consider investing in a second home, he said. Events at the Whalehead Club that draw vacationers and Currituck residents alike bring business to nearby shops and restaurants in Corolla, he said.
“My question is how do we promote day-trippers in one area of the county and not another?” Bass said.
The Beach Driving Committee also suggested other ways to relieve traffic problems on the beach road. Better directions for on-road parking and stepped-up efforts to educate drivers about airing-down tires and driving on the beach would help, committee members said.
Those options were the focus of a recent county staff meeting, two participants said. During that discussion, permits were “off the table,” but other ways to solve traffic issues on the beach were considered. Commissioners are expected to hear the staff recommendations on Nov. 7.
Tourism director Diane Nordstrom said educating vacationers about driving rules and where to park will probably be the biggest help.
Nordstrom, like Bass, was concerned about how day-trippers may be perceived.
“I think day-trippers may be getting a bad rap,” she said.
She said a majority of those day-trippers appear to be Currituck vacationers staying in rental homes south of the off-road area. A poll of vacationers at the Corolla Visitors Centers revealed that only 10 out of 150 each day will not spend the night in Currituck, she said.
Some day-trippers come from Dare County to see the wild horses or visit the lighthouse — which may whet their desire to come back, said Nordstrom.
“Once they find out how nice it is, they may decide to spend their next vacation in Corolla or Carova,” she said.
Sheriff Susan Johnson said changing the traffic pattern on the beach road can solve a lot of safety issues. She said a permit system would be difficult to enforce with the department’s current work force.
“I have been saying for years we have a public safety issue at the beach,” said Johnson.
She said beach-goers have to weave through vehicles driving on the foreshore to reach the water. She’s recommending traffic be moved behind the beach-goers and their parked cars to eliminate that hazard.
Johnson said she knows the change may result in more cars getting stuck in the powdery sand near the dune line, but that’s already a problem for motorists not used to beach driving.
Once the traffic pattern is changed, it will be easier to assess if too many vehicles are driving the beach road, she said.
Bass said he understands traffic may get congested on the beach, but the rest of Currituck is dealing with the same issue.
“That’s part of being a tourist destination. We all deal with traffic on Saturday,” he said.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Posted by Jason Summerton at 10:50 AM