Shutdown leaves Cape Hatteras Seashore anglers high and dry

By on October 3, 2013


Late Thursday afternoon, only six charters were moored at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. (Rob Morris)

The past two years, it was hurricanes. Now, just as fall fishing was set to shift into high gear, the federal government shutdown has created a storm of its own along the Cape Hatteras Nation Seashore.

Beaches and piers are closed. Charter boats can no longer operate out of Oregon Inlet.

“It’s like a small hurricane, we’re preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best,” said Cyndy Holda, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service Outer Banks Group.

The Park Service was forced to close Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site because Congress could not agree on keeping most government services funded.

The closing of Cape Hatteras National Seashore also means the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and Avon Pier, along with several businesses that rent horses for riding on the beach, must cease their “concession” operations.

Although the business themselves may own the buildings and inventory inside them, they are located on National Park Service land.

A skeleton crew of 13 staff members, including eight law enforcement Park Rangers, will available to cover all three Outer Banks Group parks, Holda said, so they have to close the concessions because of potential safety issues.

Similar situations are happening at National Parks across the country, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, which remains open to traffic, but adjacent facilities such as visitors centers and campground, along with privately operated lodges, restaurants and attractions on the popular road in the North Carolina and Virginia mountains closed their doors this week.

The operators of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway attempted to defy the closure order, however, even though the Park Service owns the land and buildings.

About two hours after they tried to reopen on Friday, rangers blocked the inn’s access road at the direction of Park Service management in Washington and the operators shuttered again. Click for link to USA Today story


Avon Pier, an NPS concession, was deserted Thursday. (OBXcams)

Oregon Inlet Fishing Center closed after the boats returned to the docks on Tuesday.

“Captains can keep their boats overnight there during the shutdown, but they just can’t conduct business there after (Tuesday),” Holda said.

Even though they could keep their boats at the fishing center, nearly all the captains have since made arrangements to pick up and drop off charters at other marinas, but that’s meant more money out of their pockets.

“I’ve gone to Pirates Cove and I’m paying additional dock rent, paying additional fuel to run up and down the (Roanoke Sound),” said Billy Maxwell, captain of the Tuna Fever, who said he already has trips booked for the next two months.

Maxwell and the other captains are considered “subconcessions” of the Park Service and have a contract that is part of their using the fishing center for their charter operations.

While the fishing center is closed, it has not been made immediately clear if the boats will still have to pay for rental space there during the shutdown.

“I can’t operate my business out of there, but I will be responsible for my dues (to the fishing center) and be responsible to give the Park Service a financial statement at the end of the year that showed I paid,” Maxwell said.

Avon Pier closed at noon Tuesday just as the winds and surf from a weekend nor’easter offshore had died down.

Manager Keith Matthews disputes the Park Service’s explanation that safety was behind ordering concessionaires to close.

“They have no liability. The liability falls on us. We have to carry the insurance to cover anybody that goes on the pier,” Matthews said. “They have no government employees that work here.”

“We’re using our own employees, doing the same thing we’ve always done. Why all of a sudden because they don’t have people to cover the pier we have to close it?” Matthews said. “That’s what I don’t understand.”

Matthews said he had up to 50 vehicles parked in his lot Tuesday morning because visitors couldn’t park in any of the Park Service lots to access the beaches.

“We’ve been two years without being open at all this time of year because of hurricanes,” Matthews said. “Now we’re battling Hurricane Park Service.”

One Hatteras village marina that also offers lodging said Thursday they have had several one-week and three-night renters cancel their upcoming reservations because of the beach closures.

Tackle shops up and down Hatteras and Ocracoke islands have already seen a major drop in business and have heard complaints from vacationers who purchased beach driving permits from the Park Service but were not told the beaches could close to access on Tuesday.

Even with the closings, there has still been some surf fishing by those intrepid enough to find their way on to the beach to wet a line, and they have been rewarded with good weather and catches.

And many fishermen who drive off-road vehicles have elected to instead travel north to Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. See story »

With no one knowing when the shutdown will end, there could be serious ramifications for several popular surf-fishing tournaments in the coming weeks that had to be reworked or cancelled altogether because of Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012.

“There are a number of surf-fishing tournaments coming up soon and we need them badly. But they can’t happen if the beaches are closed,” said Capt. Marty Brill, Max Radio of the Carolina’s fishing reporter.

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October 11, 2013 11:41 am

JON, I believe you are wrong on both points of your Oct 5 posting…

1) The Obamacare exchanges absolutely *can* be closed as Stirs suggests. This permanent-entitlement vs discretionary is an arbitrary distinction. Is National Defense discretionary? Military pay and benefits (including death benefits) discretionary? Well, Obama stopped military death benefits during this “shutdown”. 8 days of criticism later, the commander-in-chief changed his mind about our dead soldiers.

2) NC absolutely does have the authority to take back Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area (CHNSRA) from the U.S. government as bbc suggests. You cite Article 6, Section 2 of the Constitution. That section is irrelevant to unconstitutional laws and acts. In 1937 Congress confiscated CHNSRA of North Carolina in an unconstitutional act.

What is relevant: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17
“Congress shall have Power…To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;”

(CHNSRA) != (The seat of our Federal Government) OR (Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings)

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area is not Federal Government Property, it is the property of the people of North Carolina.


October 9, 2013 7:13 am

Call congress and tell the republican sto raise debt ceiling whether you like Obama or not for the sake of the nation, before China owns all our US national parks and seashores. Seriously. You don’t pay your debts the debtor comes after your house and vehicles . The debt is nothing to mess around with.


October 8, 2013 6:31 pm

party is struggling with identity, purpose, and execution. Support the parks.


October 8, 2013 6:28 pm

It is not the national park service or our national government stewardship of land that we should be venting such anger. The beauty of the outer banks and our entire economy revolves around the park and its natural resources.
Yes, hundreds of acres were taken by our families to form the park but, the cost has been minimal to the advantages. My family faced both sides of the coin in the 1950′s. On side owned the land, the other wanted to legislate into a national park. The results are obvious, they set their differences apart, compromised and resulting to some of the most spectacular, unspoiled real estate in the world.
“Selfishness” describes most of the above negative comments. I take great pride for the park, our local workforce, small business’s that are bearing the brunt of a nation that cannot solve ” the issues of our time” without compromise. The electorate is becoming more informed, and I think the “R”


October 6, 2013 9:01 pm

jon, i’m well aware of this, it was just wishful thinking on my part.

i just personally think the states could do a better job of running the parks than the federal govt. at least the monies collected would stay in our state.


October 6, 2013 7:25 pm

Stirs- Simply put–The health care law (Obamacare) already passed into law. The teaparty republican congress tried to repeal it over 40 times. It was legislated by congress and deemed constitutional by the supreme court headed by republican who every body thought would not pass it. But he had to because it is constitutional. The majority voted for the candidate backing the health care law. The republican congress has been wasting time trying to repeal a law without success. This was their last chance and it didn’t work. By laws in the constitution ( I think 14th amendment) POTUS does not have to negotiate and has the right to use executive privileges to raise the debt ceiling if congress does not do their job for the good of the nation. I think the republicans already won with the sequester negotiations.
They need to stop fighting within the republican party and get with the program and pay the bills they approved.


October 5, 2013 2:03 pm

Stirs, the exchanges formed under the PPACA remain open because their funding is a permanent appropriation. This is because PPACA is an entitlement program like Medicare and Social Security, which are also not shut down.

bbc, NC cannot take CHNSRA from the U.S. government, as that action is prohibited by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Here is a link to the full text of the U.S. Constitution on the National Archives website:


October 5, 2013 9:36 am

At the start of the civil war fort Sumter was federal land but it was located in a state that had left the union. Having the federal government control so much of the land around our state doesn’t seem to be a big deal until they are in control of people who no longer represent you. Then, well you see just what the power you gave them is about. There was a time that most Americans could spot a despot. Guess some see and some don’t.


October 5, 2013 8:12 am

The state of North Carolina needs to take over the National Seashore and Recreational area. Get the federal government out of it forever.


October 5, 2013 8:01 am

Playing devils advocate for a second. When Obamacare passed the Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency. It passed without a single Republican vote. In 2010 the Republicans took the house because many people didn’t think it was a good idea to turn over another big chunk of our economy and personal responsibility to the government. The house is doing what they were elected to do. They have sent bills to the Senate to fund the NPS the national guard, cancer treatments for kids and pretty much all the other things the government is responsible for except for Obamacare. The Senate rejected them and the president threatened veto if any of them came up for a vote. So here’s my question. If none of these things are being funded, how come Obamacare hasn’t been chained shut like our beaches?

Sam Walker

October 5, 2013 1:05 am

At the time we published the story, The Pisgah Inn management had intentions to defy the order to close, and there have been several new developments there since Friday morning.


October 5, 2013 12:14 am

I’m sure that ever since the land came under control of the National Park Service that taxpayer’s money has been funding the NPS and everything has continued operating all these years.
Now in addition to that taxpayer revenue, the permits which we’ve purchased are generating countless additional dollars. But now there’s no money to keep the park and ramps open?


October 4, 2013 7:44 pm

Why doesn’t the governor of North Carolina declare Hatteras and other areas suffering as disaster areas and seek federal funds when the clowns finally get their act together,

Or, If the federal government is shut down, doesn’t control devolve back to the states? The Governor can declare marshall law, send in the National Guard and reopen Hatteras…


October 4, 2013 7:28 pm

Does anybody out there feel like this is all a case of social manipulation? We pay the folks in DC (both sides) to do a job that includes upholding our constitution and keeping this kind of B.S. from going on. Can you imagine who would be running the show and what it would be like if the Nazi’s had computers in the 1930′s and 40′s? Looks like we’re going to find out sooner than you think!


October 4, 2013 6:21 pm

@OBX Resident I understand your feelings towards BO and Obamacare but is the budget battle where you want to fight? I personally don’t agree with this. The GOP has fought and lost on Obamacare at every chance. Time to let is sink or swim on it’s own.

OBX Resident

October 4, 2013 6:02 pm

@Junkman: Obama Care is a debacle. The Liar in Chief stated that “if you were happy with your plan; you can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor, etc.” I have to buy private insurance from a private provider. Got a letter in the mail from the provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and it states that I cannot keep my previous plan and that my costs are going to increase. I don’t want what the President has to offer. Obama as the “leader” is responsible for all of this mess, he is the CEO that is driving this country’s stock into a abyss.


October 4, 2013 4:42 pm

I agree with emartin. Call Walter Jones. He’s one of the problem Republicans. If he doesn’t care about his district and getting healthcare for his citizens, then get out of the way and let someone who cares get the job done.


October 4, 2013 12:56 pm

I hope all Americans remember this:
Stop repeat offenders: Don’t re-elect them

OBX Resident

October 4, 2013 11:47 am

Back in the day, the Park Rangers were mostly locals. Now, they are from out of town, not vested in the community, and do not understand the issues that face local residents. Talking to many of them they are minions of the liberal thought, of this greater cause. The closing of the Seashore, Avon Pier, Fishing Center shows no care for the community. How do the Park Rangers and the Federal government facilitate the daily operation of one getting out of their car along highway 12 and jumping over the dune for a surf, how do they facilitate the operation of the private Avon Pier, and how do they facilitate the operation of the fishing center? Just as Rob Morris ignored the closure to snap a picture of the vacated marina, we should all ignore the closures and continue on.


October 4, 2013 9:53 am

Your congressman, Walter Jones, should be concerned about any impact the shutdown is creating. Write to him & let him know.


October 4, 2013 8:49 am

Seems that it would be easy to find an unrented house on the beach and park in their driveway and go on to the the beach. They have no way to know who is who.


October 4, 2013 8:03 am

Press release from Pisgah Inn for immediate release

Due to the fact that a resolution to the shut down becomes more of a distant promise every day, the Pisgah Inn in cooperation with the National Park Service has decided to cease operations at 6PM this evening Thursday Oct. 3, 2013. We regret the inconvenience and disappointment of our guests but we hope for their understanding.


October 4, 2013 7:43 am

As usual the little people get hurt. Blame ALL the fat cats in DC. Top to bottom, side to side, GOP or Dem, they care only about the next election and the special interests – not you and me.


October 4, 2013 7:39 am

At least we can still park in the lots between Avon and Salvo. And just walk out to the beach. Same with sound access, just park on 12.

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