Taking suggestions from a beach driving task force, the Currituck County Commissioners discussed several options for addressing the competing interests on the 4x4 beaches with beach goers and vehicles using the beach. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Cindy Beamon:
Currituck eyes ‘safe zone’ for beach-goers
By Cindy Beamon
Friday, November 11, 2011
CURRITUCK — Currituck may designate a “safe zone” on off-road beaches in the summer months so that sunbathers will not have to cross traffic to go for a swim. The safe zone would steer traffic away from one or two miles of shoreline so beach-goers do not have to contend with traffic.
The county staff suggested the idea Monday at a work session, and commissioners appear ready to consider it formally in coming months. Any change to the existing beach traffic pattern will require an ordinance change, public hearing and approval from commissioners.
As it is now, beach traffic drives on the foreshore and near the dune line with parked cars in between. Beach-goers have to cross traffic to get to the ocean. A Beach Driving Committee said in September the dangerous mix of pedestrians and traffic warrants a study to determine if the county should limit the number of vehicles on the beach.
But even the hint of a permit system has been unpopular with some commissioners and businesses. A recent Chamber of Commerce poll indicated that many businesses had questions about how the practice would affect tourism.
County staff did not consider that option in its recommendations to commissioners earlier this week.
Instead, the staff is recommending a change to traffic pattern on the beach during tourist season. The safe zone, possibly from mileposts 16-18, would push parked cars and sunbathers closer to the shore and steer traffic behind them.
Under the proposal, vehicles would access off-road beaches at milepost 12 and drive the existing route past state and federal property where parking is not allowed. The traffic pattern would change to a safe zone north of those properties near milepost 16, suggested Planning Director Ben Woody. After the safe zone, the old traffic pattern would resume, under the staff recommendation.
Woody said changing the traffic pattern will require more signs and manpower to redirect vehicles in the right direction. The details of how that would work have not been decided, but Woody suggested that a courtesy patrol could be formed to provide that service.
The safe zone is one of several changes county staff is suggesting to relieve heavy traffic and safety concerns on an 11-mile stretch of beach road on the northern Outer Banks.
Some of the recommended changes are designed to encourage more beach-goers to stop south of the four-wheel drive area. Woody said making two parking lots in Whalehead subdivision more attractive may encourage more visitors to park there. Landscaping and replacing asphalt with gravel would cost about $160,000, he estimated. One resident, countered, however, that the parking lots in Whalehead subdivision are frequently used as overflow parking by residents.
Woody said the county could also designate roadsides where vehicles can deflate tires, a practice to prevent drivers from getting stuck in sand and to prevent beach roads from forming ruts. The staff also recommended the county create an air-up station, where vehicles can inflate tires once they return to paved roads.
Other suggestions included:
• Creating a courtesy patrol equipped with all-terrain vehicles to convey information and direct traffic on the off-road beaches.
• Regularly updating county radio broadcasts at the beach.
• Adding another antenna to expand the radio coverage area.
• Setting up a website that is smart-phone friendly to convey information to vacationers.
• Adding more signs directing traffic to on-road public parking.
• Continuing to seek state approval for a new rest room at the end of Corolla Village Road.
• Expanding public parking on Corolla Village Road.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Posted by Jason Summerton at 10:05 AM