About 140 people assembled on Saturday May 8, 2010 to exercise their first amendment rights. It was a morning full of sunshine, God and country as these advocates for beach access gathered together for a rally at the Fessenden Center in Buxton.
“Rally for Beach Access” was planned by the OBPA to keep people on target for responding effectively to the National Park Service’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the outline for the future of beach access within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. The deadline for making DEIS comments was only three days away.
The morning began with a few dozen people marching through the center of Buxton carrying signs expressing personal sentiments regarding the continuing loss of beach access. Beaches are for Everyone. Stop the Insanity. Fix the Bridge. People are Animals too. Beach Closures too restrictive. Does Tradition Matter? Access for Future Generations. DEIS the Economy Killer.
The peaceful protesters were cheered on by car horns and supportive yells from the Saturday morning traffic. They walked in single file onto the baseball field at 10:00 a.m. as the music from the movie “Rocky” blared from the P.A. speakers.
This event was much different from the eight workshops conducted by the OBPA designed to educate people on the major impact points lodged between the covers of the 810 page hard-to-read DEIS. This had a mood much more like a political campaign. It was loud and it was noisy. The audience was energetic with their clapping and responses to the speakers. It was a red, white and blue event complete with patriotic music. It was America!
Speaking from a flatbed trailer that served as a make-shift stage, OBPA board member and emcee for the event, Rob Shay, instructed the crowd to remove their tops (hats) and face the American flag to say the pledge of allegiance. Bob Fox then asked for people to bow their heads as he said a prayer addressing the needs of the event.
Chairman of the Dare County Commissioners, Warren Judge, was the first of the eleven speakers. He said he felt like a Hatteras Islander in his heart though he lived on the other side of Oregon Inlet. This man left no doubt that he fully supported of the people who resided within the seashore and would fight to the bitter end to protect their right for beach access.
Allen Burrus, also a Dare County Commissioner and resident of Hatteras Village, spoke passionately about his heritage and the negative experiences that happened to his family brought by NPS policy.
Also on the list of speakers were OBPA members John Couch, Natalie Kavanagh, Larry Hardham, Wayne Mathis and Anne Bowers. Local residents Donny Bowers and Jeff “Wheat” Golding delivered powerful words about problems with the DEIS. Gary Gross, Project Coordinator for Dare County, pointed out the lies and half truths said by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Audubon Society. Jim Keene, President of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, spent his time covering the topic of cultural traditions on the island. Over and over, the fact that this is an access issue, not just an ORV issue, was driven home.
In between each speaker, the emcee kept reminding the crowd on how important it was to write comments on the DEIS now and tips of how to do it effectively. It wasn’t long before the lines grew at the help tables as people waited for information and assistance.
The tables were set up under a tent manned with OBPA volunteers helping people write their comments in both paper form and directly into the NPS PEPC website with several laptop computers that were receiving wireless internet.
“Rally for Beach Access” was a true exercise in the freedom of speech. Many speakers took off their proverbial gloves and threw big punches for the protection of beach access and the people’s right to be treated fairly by the federal government.