I tried my best to be polite in my response to the National Park Service request (congressional ORDER!) for public input to their decision-making, which typically adversely impacts island residents without benefiting them one iota. Here’s what I sent on for their consideration.
To whom it may concern:
I wish to comment on the National Park Service rules and regulations concerning off road vehicles on Hatteras Island. As a trained environmental scientist, a home-owner and a sportsman, I contend that the regulations as they exist are discriminatory and exist more for the convenience of the NPS than out of any legal, ethical or scientific basis.
At the time the Cape Hatteras National Recreation Area was created, the native population was promised that their right to free access to the ocean and sound would not be curtailed in any way. History has proven that promise to be an empty one, as natives and locals alike must pay to access the ocean and sound.
First, the practice of referring to all users of this area as “visitors” illuminates the cultural bias of the NPS and suggests an equality that in fact does not exist. Residents of Hatteras Island are more deeply impacted by NPS regulations than are casual or infrequent users of the Island, especially those residents who make their living by fishing, chartering, crabbing or selling seafood. To add insult to injury, many of the natives here trace their lineage to Native American populations. It is in fact the NPS that are “visitors” in the truest sense of the word, and NPS policies should not treat all users as a uniform class or population. Residents of Hatteras should be exempt from any and all fees, and those fees should be utilized to specifically benefit the local communities that exist on the Island rather than paying for personnel to collect the fees.
Secondly, as a handicapped individual, the practice of charging for assess to the ocean and sound violates my rights as a US citizen under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Walking long distances to gain access to the beach and sound to fish, swim or simply watch the waves is simply not an option for many, and there are no provisions for people like me to enjoy access without paying money, an egregious violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Third, the fee structure exists for the convenience of the NPS, and is not based upon any rational construct. Park personnel can identify “violators” by simply looking at the color of the pass, and people who purchase passes in September are, by definition, given less value than people who buy passes in January, again unfairly treating subclasses of users of the park. I notice that my pass has a bar code, and it would not be a problem for passes to be good for one calendar year, as North Carolina fishing licenses are. With a simple swipe of the bar code, NPS personnel could determine whether the pass in question is or is not valid. Similarly, charging fifty dollars for a ten-day pass as compared with $120.00 for a yearly pass is difficult to explain or defend. Ten dollars per week or $120.00 a year seems much more sensible and equitable.
Finally, beach closure rules should be modified in several ways. First, only the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day should constitute the closure “season.” One avowed rational for closures is to regulate the degree of use of the beaches, but the population that utilizes beach and sound are dramatically less after the peak tourist season, and closures should reflect that. Similarly, opening ramps and beaches as soon after daybreak as possible would greatly improve the value of the fishing experience without unduly affecting wildlife. Since the NPS has been tasked with developing closure and access rules based upon best scientific understandings, there is also no biological basis for conferring protected status to species that are not on the rare or engendered species list. In all cases, it should be the recommendations of the US Fish and Wildlife Service which serve as the default position related to limiting access to sound and ocean.
Respectfully yours, Peter Pappalardo, BS, MEM, Ed.D.