By Peter Vankevich
Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Dave Hallac praised Hyde County and their contractors on the progress removing the demolition debris from the Ocracoke Beach Access parking lot (lifeguard beach). The Seashore also on Tuesday released its 2019 visitor statistics posted below.
“I am very impressed with their progress, especially in light of the myriad efforts they are making to help the village recover from Hurricane Dorian,” he said in an email.
The removal process got a speed boost a few weeks ago when debris removal via the Hatteras Ferry was approved. That pushed the debris removal end date to the first week in April, including the large amount of vegetative debris that is being stored next to the NPS campground.
As of Tuesday, the pile of debris in the Lifeguard Beach parking lot was a fraction of what it was after Ocracoke village began the arduous task of cleaning, making house repairs and getting rid of the massive amount of material destroyed by Hurricane Dorian which struck the island on Sept. 6.
Halllac indicated that once the debris is removed from the public beach access parking lot, some pavement repairs and resurfacing may need to occur.
“Our goal is for Hyde County and the NPS to complete that work in a manner that avoids or minimizes impacts to Seashore visitors,” he said. “We aim to have the parking area at least partially open to the public by around mid-April.”
The new restroom facility at that location has had its shares of delays for various reasons, including the impact of the hurricane. The target for reopening the restrooms is by Memorial Day. It will take more time to complete the shower and decking, but the Park Service will maintain the temporary shower facility.
The next challenge will be to remove the massive amount of vegetative matter, which includes hundreds of downed cedar trees, stored along Ramp 68 at the NPS campground.
In other NPS news, the restrooms at the Ocracoke Visitor Center across from the long-route docks in the village reopened last week. The center, which includes a gift shop and the island’s ORV beach permit office, will not open this summer due to extensive flood damage.
In Tuesday’s press release, the Seashore last year received 2.6 million recreational visits for the first time since 2003.
Since 2015, the Seashore has experienced a yearly increase in visitation compared to the previous year. 2019 visitation was 0.60 percent higher than visitation in 2018.
Here are the recreation visits by year:
Visitation estimates are collected by counting southbound vehicles just north of the Marc Basnight Bridge and then using a multiplier to estimate the total number of passengers heading south. Those estimates are added to the number of passengers going to Ocracoke Island from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter.