New limits on beach driving will take effect Feb. 15 at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the National Park Service said today. Off-road drivers will be required to buy permits that would add up to $50 to the cost of a week at the beach. [1/21/12 update: see today's story with reader comments.]
The park service had promised to develop new rules for off-road vehicle use along the seashore when it settled a lawsuit filed by environmental groups seeking protections for endangered turtles and shorebirds that nest on the beach. Seashore visitors who take their cars onto the beach to fish, watch birds or get away from the crowds will be required to watch an instructional video and buy a permit.
A park service spokeswoman said the fees, to be announced in the next week or two, will be set somewhere between $90 and $150 for a one-year permit and between $30 and $50 for a seven-day permit. The park service will update online and printed maps to with new information about times and locations were beach driving will be allowed.
The new rules were praised by officials with three environmental groups that sued the National Park Service in 2007.
"The park service's rules are a compromise that provides protections for both pedestrians and wildlife while still allowing responsible beach driving," Julie Youngman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a news release. Other parties in the lawsuit were Audubon North Carolina and Defenders of Wildlife.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for about 70 miles along the Outer Banks from south of Nag's Head to Ocracoke. The rules will be published Monday in the Federal Register (and are attached to this blog post, below, in a PDF file).