Sweeping new rules took effect in February to restrict beach driving at the national seashore, which covers 65 shoreline miles on three barrier islands from south of Nags Head to Ocracoke. The rules provide safeguards for federally protected birds and turtles, and they set aside long stretches of shoreline for human visitors who want to get away from vehicles.
Permits are now being required for the first time: $50 for a week of beach driving, $120 for a calendar year. In the first five months, drivers have paid more than $1 million in fees for more than 14,000 beach permits.
Off-road vehicles are banned now from miles of Outer Banks beaches where they were allowed in the past. The spots most popular with surfers and surf casters, swimmers and shell collectors are off-limits for all or much of the year – both for vehicles and for people on foot. They include the broad spits where these narrow islands end at inlets, and the long Cape Point elbow that bends around the spiral-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Another reason is rationing use to those with the highest value for the activity. Here is what I said on January 30:
User fees can be used to effectively regulate use and raise revenue. Only those users who are not willing or able to pay a relatively small fee are excluded. Raising the fee during environmentally sensitive periods should be a more efficient policy that full beach closure.