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« Getting off the Point… | Home | Is it time for Hatter… »

The Things Left Behind on the Beach

Friday 14 July 2017 at 10:52 pm.

By JOY CRIST

In August of 2016, the Island Free Press posted a story about the growing concern of beach gear being left behind on the shore overnight – or even abandoned altogether after an island vacation.

It wasn’t a new topic by any means, but at the time, both Irene and I had an inkling that the problem of “stuff left behind” was worse in 2016 than in the years before. We both noted going to the beach in the evenings or in the early morning hours, and coming across those big metal tent frames, or piles of broken beach chairs and umbrellas that were deposited next to the dune line or a nearby trash can.

And it looks like the wave of abandoned beach items is a topic that continues into 2017 as well.

In the past month, we’ve received a couple comments and emails about things left behind on the beach, and several folks have said that while they’re not sure if the presence of abandoned beach gear is better or worse than 2016, it’s still certainly noticeable.

So why is this happening, what’s the harm, and who is cleaning the mess up?

All good questions to consider, but let’s start with the easiest question first – which is who is cleaning up our collective mess.

The Folks who Clean Up our Beach Junk

You can’t talk about beach clean-up without singling out the efforts of the Avon Property Owners Association, which is an operation that is managed by Treasurer Rick Anzolut.

The Avon Property Owners Association, (in conjunction with the Greater Kinnakeet Shores Homeowners, Inc. and the Kinnakeet Shores Property Owners Association), is unique in that it uses some of the funds it collects to station 75 trash cans along the beach shoreline within the Avon village limits.

In addition, they have a contractor that patrols the beach 2-3 times per week during the summertime, (depending on visitor volume), and removes the trash and abandoned beach equipment that’s often left behind on the edge of the area trash cans. This is all done with permission from the National Park Service - which allows the contractor to drive along the village beaches for trash pick-up and also provides the trash bags - as well as area businesses that lend their dumpsters.

“It’s really done as a convenience for anyone who visits the beach,” explains Anzolut. “For those who walk the beach, if they see a piece of trash, they can pick it up and discard it easily in the cans... We also do it so folks don’t have to haul [trash and discarded items] back to the cottage.”

The totals for 2016 in terms of what the APOA contractor collected is pretty staggering, and includes:

  • 3329 bags of trash
  • 383 beach chairs
  • 251 umbrellas
  • 119 canopy frames
  • 206 boogie boards

And while it’s hard to gauge how these numbers compare to 2017 so far, there’s already been quite a few items picked up as of July 13, which includes the following:

  • 1,113 trash bags
  • 144 chairs
  • 95 umbrellas
  • 40 canopies
  • 58 boogie boards

The program has been in place for roughly 10 years, and even though it makes it much easier to discard beach trash and beach gear on a local Avon level, it should be noted that too many items that are left behind can potentially lead to more runs, and more costs involved to run the program. It’s a situation that hasn’t really come to fruition yet, but is worth noting before people get gung-ho and start bringing all their stuff to the local trash cans on the Avon beaches.

As for the other island towns, this is where it gets a little trickier.

The National Park Service patrols the beaches within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and looks for “stuff” that’s left behind from sunset to sunrise.

“When this happens, we post tags on the items which are warning and educational tags to let folks know these items can’t be left on the beach overnight,” explains Boone Vandzura, Chief Ranger for the NPS Outer Banks Group. “If we come back the next day and they are still there, we are permitted to take them.”

Once the items have been removed by the National Park Service, visitors can still get their stuff back – but it may require a little effort. “They can call the Park Service general number, and depending on where it was picked up, it will be at the Bodie Island ranger station or the ranger station in in the Hatteras area,” says Vandzura. “From there, we can then direct them towards where it would have been picked up.”

And getting these items back will also result in a fine. It seems strict on the surface, but it’s a measure that results in a better and more pristine beach for everyone. “Our goal is not to write people tickets – our goal is to have an orderly beach,” says Vandzura. “But it is a violation of the law to leave [this type of] property unattended between sunset and sunrise.”

In addition to the National Park Service, the APOA, and other local organizations that regularly sponsor beach clean-ups, (like the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association), a good chunk of beach gear is removed by locals.

Jim is a Salvo resident who, along with a number of other locals, regularly picks up items that were “left behind” from visitors who seem to have since left the island.

“There’s an average of two [canopy frames] in the morning, but there are three right now that have been there for a couple of days,” he says of his local beach close to Wimble Shores Drive South in Salvo. “There’s also an inner tube under one of the [frames] – the heat has been getting to it, so it’s been blowing up like a balloon.”

This is where things can get problematic.

When items are regularly left behind, it generally takes large scale clean-up efforts to address the issue – as evident by the 2-3 pick-ups per week operation of the APOA.

And even then, it’s not unusual to see stuff left behind in the evening hours, or in the early morning hours, or during any time of the day, really, where folks want to claim a good spot, but don‘t want to be at the beach all the time.

And with just a handful of resources to address the issue – especially when compared to the sheer miles of beach to cover – the abandoned beach gear can start to be a noticeable occurrence.

Why Leaving Stuff Behind is a Problem

Just to get it out of the way, first and foremost, leaving stuff behind on the beach overnight is not permitted. According to Section 36 CFR 2.22 of the seashore's laws and policies, "the placement of unattended property on the beach, such as, but not limited to chairs, toys, umbrellas, canopies, coolers, etc. is prohibited between sunset and sunrise.”

But on a practical level, there’s actually a few real world consequences of leaving stuff behind – whether it’s for a night, or indefinitely.

For one thing, having canopy or tent frames on the beach can be an obstruction for emergency personnel who need to access the beach at night for a call. These items can be hard to see after hours, and an emergency response vehicle heading down the beach at night shouldn’t have to go through any obstacles to get to where they need to be.

For another, it does affect the local wildlife. “One of the objectives [of this rule] is to protect the sea turtles, so that sea turtles coming up the beach don’t get tangled up in unattended beach equipment,” says Ranger Vandzura. This applies to both the sea turtles laying eggs, as well as the hatchlings which start to pop out in mid-to-late summer, and who need a clear path when making their initial mad dash to the ocean.

And finally, it’s for pure aesthetic value.

“It also just for a clean beach, so folks who are walking around don’t have to see tents and canopies that are set up,” says Vandzura. “At sunset and sunrise, the beach is more pristine.”

He’s right about that.

Salvo resident Jim sent us a picture of a gorgeous tri-village sunrise that somehow lost its appeal with the black tent frame in the foreground. (A smart photographer can be seen in front of the frame, taking an unobstructed photo.)

And part of the reason why our island is so popular is because our beaches are so bare. Even in the heart of Avon, or Salvo, or Hatteras, or Rodanthe, or wherever, you can walk out at 7 in the morning or night and generally enjoy an unobstructed piece of shoreline to yourself.

But when stuff is left overnight – whether it’s a tent, a frame, or a collection of beach chairs – a little of that magic is lost.

“We want safe enjoyment of the beaches by all of our users,” says Vandzura. “[These items] are harmful to wildlife if left unintended, and change the pristine landscape.”

Why this is Happening, and What Can be Done

If I were a betting woman, I would say that stuff is being left behind on the beaches en masse for either one of two reasons – unawareness or laziness.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am literally one of the laziest people you will ever meet. I just bought one of those beach chairs that straps to your back so I don’t have to haul it with my hands, (perish the thought.) Also, I live on the soundside of N.C. Highway 12, and I will literally drive across the street to park when visiting my local beach, because walking an extra block and crossing the highway when it’s hot outside is ridiculously unappealing.

I’m putting this info out there as a sad way to say that I get it – hauling a broken canopy or tent frame back with you when you already have so much stuff to bring back is a real pain.

And, admittedly, once you get your broken gear back to a motel room or vacation home, options for disposal aren’t always ideal. Discarded equipment that is left at the curbside – particularly if it’s a huge item – might not be picked up by the sanitation department. There are several big item pick-ups per year, but generally, trash pick-up is restricted to what’s in the cans.

It can also be hard for newcomers to determine where big items can be disposed of. The Buxton Transfer Station is arguably the best solution - as is just bringing it home - but granted, there is an inconvenience factor in both of these solutions.

Then there’s the issue of unawareness, which I would guess is a more prevalent problem.

After all, many folks do not realize that you legally can’t leave stuff overnight on the beaches – honestly, I wasn’t positive about this until the aforementioned August 2016 article.

And many others may not realize that leaving their stuff behind after they depart can cause a serious issue. When you’re enjoying the beach and relaxing, you’re not thinking about sea turtles, emergency vehicle access, or just what the shoreline will look like when you’ve retired for the day – you’re just enjoying an awesome day at the beach. And that’s completely understandable.

The good news is that several sources have noted that area vacation rental companies are being proactive in getting the word out that items should not be left behind. And considering that the majority of our summer visitors stay in vacation rentals, this does a world of good.

“We’ve done more outreach to the realty companies asking if they can help us get the word out,” says Vandzura. “And we appreciate all the support from the rental offices.”

So, in essence, folks should follow the “haul out what you haul in” policy, and should help spread the word – in as non-obnoxious way as possible – that leaving stuff behind is never a good idea.

Regardless if you’re leaving equipment behind for just for a few hours – or for all of eternity – it’s always a good idea to take back what you brought, and to leave nothing behind but footprints when it comes to our local beaches.

“Bring it back every night - that’s what we want folks to do,” says Vandzura. “We get new visitors every week, so the locals know what the rules are, but for the brand new visitors, we need to educate them.”

27 comments

Ivan Amos

Who do I contact to help clean up when I’m at Salvo

Ivan Amos - 14-07-’17 23:36
Babin

We always use Frisco Beach! We drive out there year round. There are no trash cans on the beach!! There is a dumpster as you drive off the beach on the right next to the campground entrance.
I honestly do not remember driving on to that beach and seen anything left behind!! We walk our dogs on the beach and the beach is clean! I have picked up small pieces of trash brought in by the waves band someone’s sandles now and then!! If we have trash in our trash bags ( we always bring them) we put it in the dumpster on ramp 49 or take it home with us!! The motto should be CARRY OUT EVERYTHING YOU BRING TO THE BEACH!! Easy to do and that is why we have not seen trash on Frisco Beach!! Everyone should do it on every beach – it is so so EASY!!

Babin - 15-07-’17 01:54
Hanapad Frisco

Thanks for this reminder. This is a huge issue and I also notice that it is becoming worse. As a property owner, I make a few runs a year to the transfer station to get rid of the broken stuff left at my house by renters or stuff that I see broken on the beach when I am visiting. These tents are not hard to disassemble and stuff into a trashcan or take to the dump. I don’t understand people who think that it is ever ok to just leave trash on the beach or block off half the beach for an entire week with tents, chairs- etc. by leaving stuff out overnight to save a spot. I had one person recently tell me that the beach in front of her ocean front rental was “hers” and I needed to move my 2 beach chairs and 1 small umbrella from “her” beach. I am glad to see that the rental companies are educating guests. I print these articles and put them in my house for renters to read. I really think that this is an educational process. People are so happy to be at the beach that common sense doesn’t always prevail. Sometimes gentle reminders are needed.

Hanapad Frisco - 15-07-’17 14:00
salvo jimmy

And don’t leave any holes in the sand behind either.

Just as bad as canopy frames for emergency personnel, day or night, as well as for turtles and any ORV day or night (when driving permitted).

salvo jimmy - 15-07-’17 17:03
too many tire tracks

All the tire tracks on the beach make walking difficult, create more visual pollution than all the trash and left behinds, and create more ankle and leg injuries than any of the holes dug in the sand.

too many tire tracks - 16-07-’17 22:40
Just The Facts

Too many tire tracks,

From the NPS ORV Rule DEIS C. 2010:

Geologic Resources:

ORV use may also impact the ocean beach at Cape Hatteras National Seashore by disturbing sand, compacting sand, creating ruts, and changing local topography. Studies have also shown that heavy ORV use could result in increased beach erosion (see the literature review in appendix A).

However, the Seashore is part of a dynamic coastal barrier ecosystem, and visual effects of ORVs on ocean beaches can no longer be visible in a matter of hours due to daily tidal action, winds, rain, hurricanes, and other storm events.

http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm..

While tire ruts may be a pet peeve of your own, they are definitely not to the NPS’ scientists, and they simply do not “create more visual pollution than all the trash and left behinds”.

Tire ruts and ORV use in general were found by the NPS to constitute their lowest rating for impact, known as “FONSI”, or “Finding Of No Significant Impact”.

Your claim that “(tire ruts) create more ankle and leg injuries than any of the holes dug in the sand” is dubious at best, and an outright falsehood at worst.

Perhaps you have a citation to back up your claim?

Just The Facts - 18-07-’17 20:42
Tim

Don’t let NPS fool you. They do not tag overnite equipment left on the beach. Been going on in Tri-cities for years now. This writer will stop NPS personnel, driving by at sunup, point out overnite equipment, (which they can plainly see) and be told over and over they have no instructions to tag the equipment.

Tim - 22-07-’17 14:11
Craig

As usual there is never any enforcement or consequences. It’s time to start removing items ourselves. Those who lose items hopefully will get the message and be mad enough to tell their stories to everyone they know. Not the class of people we want here anyway. Great opportunity for new umbrellas and chairs.

Craig - 24-07-’17 16:34
Robert Keller

I think the problem is one of ownership. Before the egregious take over of the beaches by the NPS was forced on us by the court order there were thousand for members of the NCBBA who took it upon themselves to police the beach of unwanted items, plastic, bottles, dangerous wooden steerage with nails and other items that marred the view. Now that we are only grudgingly allowed access in a few limited places people have lost that pride of ownership that was formerly evident. Not only that, there were numerous beach clean up drives by hundreds of volunteers that swept the beaches several times a year. We always carried bags and picked up debris that didn’t belong. All of that pride of ownership is gone now. And like the TV Ad, we now have monitors who don’t do anything to help but do keep very accurate statistics of what is wrong. There is no way that the NPS can ever do what was done before for free. We didn’t make it this year for the first time since 1976. It’s no fun anymore and I am sad.

Robert Keller - 05-08-’17 03:51
pussycat

Robert Keller,
Only two percent of the visitors to CHNS use the beach via ORVs. This includes drivers and passengers. This can be proven by counting the number of permits issued along with added passengers factored in. Therefore, your importance is greatly exagerated. It’s unbelievable how such a small visitor group, just two percent, can buy their way into controlling up to 40 percent of the beach…and then complain and refuse to return. Bless your heart.

pussycat - 07-08-’17 16:45
DevilDog

What’s new, Pussycat? (Whoa^3!)

Hard to believe you’re still peddling that same debunked BS, but originality was never your forte.

Here in Realityville, the CAHA NPS is building new interdunal road and ramps and allowing ORV access around bird and turtle closures, under the guidance of both Congress and a very realistic Supt. Hallac of the NPS.

I suggest you take your sour grapes to either/or governing body before they ferment into whine.

DevilDog - 13-08-’17 05:42
salvo jimmy

DevilDog

Stop feeding the trolling wanna be agitator. LOL

salvo jimmy - 14-08-’17 15:22
Pussycat

Devil Dog,
My numbers are correct. That is why you can’t dispel them and then try to deflect the truth through useless rhetoric instead of mathematics. The number of permits issued tells the truth. Show me your math instead of anger. ORV beach users, including drivers and passengers, equal two percent of visitorship to CHNS. If you ask nicely, I will be happy to show you the math again. The locals and natives are well aware of this because we know where our money comes from. Neither you or Salvo Jimmy are locals or residents. You are both way, way behind the times. Sorry.

Pussycat - 14-08-’17 16:50
Devildog

Pussycat,

Why would I be angry when the CAHA NPS is adding more ORV use features and following common sense for a change?

Your “math” is fatally flawed on several fronts. To list but a few:

- You count ORV permits as if they are a single-use, one time entry/exit event, which they are not.

- You do the same with the vehicle count data done at the Pea Island entrance, while not admitting that the ORV users are part of this overall tally.

- You also do not admit that the ORV users permit holders are comprised of many return customers, whose return trips also figure into the headcount data.

- You also never admit that the headcount data also includes UPS, FEDEX and Food Lion roundtrip route trucks on the daily routes, just to name a few.

In short, you’re not an honest broker, as lies of omission are nonetheless still lies.

Your attempted “non-local” smear falls rather flat, as I am a US citizen and taxpayer, so this and all National Parks are as much mine as they are yours.

And it is you who is “behind the times”, as ORV use opportunities in CAHA have been expanded since common sense reappeared recently, and will be not going away in your or my lifetime, no matter how much you whine.

Devildog - 14-08-’17 21:01
Salvo Jimmy

PC

OK, I’ll feed the troll.

Tell me, mathematically, how many in the visitor count you spout, actually access the beach. No clue, right, other than those with an ORV permit.

Nope, I’m not “local”, just a native Tar Heel who has been coming here since about 1949 and have owned a house here since 1971.

How long have you been around here?

Salvo Jimmy - 15-08-’17 01:40
Salvo Jimmy

DDog,

Yep, going to, Bodie lighthouse, Charter fishing at OI or HI, birdwatching on PI, fishing on HI or Avon pier, going to Cape H lighthouse, visiting Native American and Graveyard museums, taking a ferry ride, seeing ponies on OI, checking out the 2 British cementaries, etc etc etc etc. Never hitting the beach. And then there are those who rent houses with pools and never hit the beach.

Salvo Jimmy - 23-08-’17 01:08
pussycat

SJ & Ddog,
Okay, let’s be honest. In 2016, there were approximately 2,412,000 visitors to CHNS. There were also approximately 47,000 ORV permits issued. On an unadjusted basis, that would mean permit holders comprise less than one half of one percent of visitors to CHNS. But of course, adjustments must be made. So factor in ORV passengers, delivery trucks, trash trucks, and anything you want. Heck, increase ORV
numbers by 300, 400, 800 percent…it still makes no difference because of the astronomical distance between 2,412,000 and 47,000. Bottom line: less than 2 percent of visitors to CHNS have bought their way into controlling up to 40 percent of the beach. There is still a long, long way for NPS to go to bring beach access to parity levels. That said, the establishment of pedestrian only areas, permitting of ORV drivers, ORV fees, real time monitoring of ORV drivers by NPS for resource protection and the building of pedestrian walk ways from ORV permit funding have gone a long way from just a decade ago. Of course, this is all just the beginning.

pussycat - 26-08-’17 23:21
ccb

i’d like to see the numbers for beach driving permits this summer as compared to last summer. having the point open all summer and the appearance of the new island off the point have greatly increased the number of visitors to this end of the island, especially on the weekends.

ccb - 27-08-’17 03:36
Salvo Jimmy

PC

If for no other reason your percentage argument holds no water because even in prime season the VFAs outside the village areas are way underutilized compared to the ORV areas. This is based on numerous observations over the past five years by myself and others.

So when these VFAs get as utilized by the ninety plus percent you tout as the ORV areas are utilized then you might be justified in bringing the argument back up. Until then it makes no sense to set aside any more underutilized area based on your visitor percentage vs ORV permit nonsense.

Salvo Jimmy - 27-08-’17 21:58
pussycat

ccb,
I think you are right that permitting increased because of ORV flexibility and the recent sandbar offshore. Of course, “shelly” is an anomoly and that part of the equation should not be factored in regarding future planning

pussycat - 27-08-’17 22:06
DevilDog

Pcat in the pinkhat,

You can juggle, adjust, increase, decrease, whine, cry and moan all you want to about “the numbers” as they relate to CAHA visitorship, but it won’t change my constant and obvious points:

- CAHA ORV useage opportunities have increased in the past few years, rather than decreasing.

-CAHA ORV useage constraints have been relaxed to allow more ORV access around resource protection areas with no detrimental effects to said resources.

-CAHA ORV useage is not going away in your or my lifetime, so you’d better just get used to it.

Speaking of resource protection, perhaps you’d like to address this alarming trend from the 2014 CAHA resource final report:

Human Disturbance

Human disturbance, direct or indirect, can lead to the abandonment of nests and optimal breeding habitat, or loss of chicks. Throughout the 2014 breeding season, field staff documented 254 violations to closures with nesting shorebirds. Of these violations, 108 were documented in closures containing nesting PIPL or habitat protected for PIPL. These violations consisted of: 90 pedestrian, 4 ORV, 13 dog and 1 boat intrusions into closures.

Seems that your user group is responsible for over 90% of the enclosure violations within critical PIPL habitat.

What must we do to end this terrible assault by an obviously careless user group on resource protections to the sensitive PIPL habitat in this national park?

DevilDog - 28-08-’17 03:53
pussycat

SJ and DevilDog,
Stop the deflection and show the numbers you silly pair. And may your “success” over the recent past continue in the future with such changes as fees and VFAs in return for flexible “useage opportunities. By the way did you look at violations with regard to percentage of overall users, or if a violator walked from an ORV to a nest. Remember, there are 2,412,000 visitors to CHNS and around 47000 ORV permits. Bottom line: ORV users make up two percent of Visitorship but have bought their way into controlling 40 percent of the beach, which is a 60 percent drop. There’s far more beach parity to be reached. ORV users should only be allowed to drive on 2 percent of the beach.

pussycat - 02-09-’17 00:11
pussycat

SJ,
One person’s underutilized is another person’s overutilized. It all depends
on how people are using our national seashore. I think ORVs are far too overutilized on our seashore because of their intrusiveness and ability to travel mile after mile with a touch of a gas pedal, yet they are only a miniscule fraction of visitorship. In fact, ORV drivers and passengers are only two percent of visitorship, yet they have bought their way into controlling forty percent of the beach.

pussycat - 02-09-’17 01:09
DevilDog

Pcat,

Keep up the whining and you’ll likely get a “parity” that might not suit you and your fellow ORV-haters, like the $15/person $35/carload entry fees that the big parks out west have.

Personally, that would suit me just fine, as then you’d have more skin in the game than just your tongue.

Back to your numbers game, can you explain how ORVers “bought” up to 100% of the beach prior to the final rule? On that point alone, your little charade falls apart.

Also, your tapdance around the 90+% of pedestrian closure violations is ridiculous. Violations are violations no matter how they got there, and pedestrian have always been the biggest violators in this park, and the percentages track almost exactly with your total visitation numbers. Do the math on that one for us, will you?

Sounds like your user group needs to go through a permitting and education process like ORVers do, and again, a fee added on top of that might cause them to think twice before they break more federal laws.

Keep up the fight, though. You’ll get user fees for all one day, and I’m sure everyone will thank you graciously.

…..and after that, we’ll see what happens to the visitation numbers.

DevilDog - 03-09-’17 20:53
pussycat

DevilDog,
Thanks for telling the 98 percent of visitors that you, as a member of the two percent (ORV drivers and passengers) that park entrance fees of $15 to $35 for everyone—would “suit you just fine.” I’m sure all HI residents and business owners, as well as 98 percent of visitorship, appreciate your thinking. Quite frankly two percent of CHNS visitorship—ORV beach drivers and passengers—have already bought their way into controlling 40 percent of the beach. Now, you are waiting for “what happens to visitation numbers” as an implication that you are willing to gain revenge on everyone to defend your position. ORV users, which is two percent of visitorship, deserve their fair two percent of the beach—and that’s it.

pussycat - 07-09-’17 03:18
pussycat

Devildog,
By the way, Congress just approved our automated car future. All electric, no steering wheels is right on schedule, contrary to people like you trying to hold back the inevitable.

pussycat - 09-09-’17 01:55
Devildog

Pcat,

All I seek is parity in the form of all user groups having skin in the game by paying user fees like ORVers do, you’re the one who seeks revenge in wanting to pack 40K+ ORV users onto a couple of miles of beach.

Besides, by your “logic” the only way for the non-ORV user groups to control up to 98% of the beach is to “buy” it, and the only way for that to happen is through user fees.

100% of users pay fees at Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, and even the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it’s just a matter of time and shrinking budgets before they come to CAHA. Through your constant whining and posturing, you’re helping to speedi up the process. Good on you!

Oh, and rest assured that ORVers beach driving permits will cover their entry fees, so the change will be seamless to those of us who drive the beaches.

What’s not to like?

Devildog - 09-09-’17 03:52




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