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Gov't restrictions on driving at Cape Lookout

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    Posted: 11 January 2016 at 9:48am
CAPE LOOKOUT   

Off-road vehicles under review   

Permit system proposal open for public comment   

Daily News Staff
   Localdesk@JDNews.com ‚ÄČ        CAPE LOOKOUT | A 60-day public comment period is underway on a proposed rule that will establish a permit system for the use of off-road vehicles at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
   The National Park Service released a proposed rule for Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) management in the National Register on Dec. 18. The public comment period is open until Feb. 16.
   ORVs are widely used for fishing and other recreational activities.
   The proposed rule would require that ORV users complete a short educational program and purchase a permit at a fee to be determined by the superintendent. Permits have not been previously required.
   Recreational anglers and others who use ORVs at Cape Lookout were critical of the proposal during public hearings after a draft of the proposed rule was released last year. Opponents said a permit system would restrict public access to the park.     
   The plans for a permit system have not been dropped, but the National Park System said a number of changes were made to reflect public input during the planning process.
   The park service indicated a desire to keep ORV use at a traditional level.
   The initial plan was to cap the number of permits issued each year at around 3,000. According to the proposal, there would initially be a cap of 5,500 permits issued.
   ORV use will be monitored for the first five years and will be based each year after that on a five-year average rather than a three-year average as was initially proposed. Any year during which there is a significant ORV closure of 14 or more days will not be counted in the average.
   A permit will allow for the use of ORVs along designated routes during designated times.
   Also under the proposed rule, seven miles of existing pedestrian-only areas would be changed from yeararound closures to seasonal closures from Memorial Day to Labor Day.     
   It would create a designated route for ORVs in front of the Long Point and Great Island cabin camps and there would be an additional four ramps on North Core Banks and five ramps on South Core Banks to allow for crossing between the beach route and the back route.
   A prohibition on night driving was also a concern raised after the draft plan was released. Under the rule proposal, restrictions on driving ORVs at night are lessened.
   According to the document, night driving on beach ORV routes would not be allowed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. from May 1 to Sept. 14, which is sea turtle nesting season. However, driving on the back routes would be          allowed from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and at any time in the Great Island and Long Point cabin camps.
   Use the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE24 when commenting on     the proposed rule.
   To submit comments electronically, visit the federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov.
   Copies may be mailed or delivered to: Superintendent, Cape Lookout National Seashore, 131 Charles St., Harkers Island, NC 28531.
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