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Currituck Beach parking pass system generates $341K

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Shown here is an image of a parking permit for the beach in the off-road area of the northern Currituck Outer Banks.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, September 9, 2018

CURRITUCK – Currituck County’s new summertime beach parking pass system for the off-road area generated $341,350, based on sales of 6,050 permits, according to data from the Currituck Travel and Tourism Office.

Most of the revenue came from the sale of 10-day permits in June, July and August at the Corolla Visitor’s Center.

The data for the 10-day permits showed the Corolla center sold 1,349 permits in June, generating $67,000; 1,687 in July, generating $84,050; and 1,609 in August, generating $80,150.

Combining the data for the 10-day as well as seasonal permits, the Corolla center sold a total of 5,355 permits, generating $292,600.

Commissioner Bob White, who represents the Currituck Outer Banks said by phone Friday, the sales at Corolla in that three-month period explains what prompted the large overall total revenues.

“I mean, the bulk of our business is weekly renters,” White said. “So, they would come in and get those passes that match up with their vacation stay.”

Permits were also available at the Currituck Welcome Center at Moyock. Combining the data for the 10-day as well as the seasonal permits, the Moyock location sold 695 permits, generating $48,750.

“The good news is we can use that towards bettering the tourist experience up there (in the off-road area),” White said.

System proponents have said the system was particularly designed to reduce “day-trippers” who have been visiting the off-road area at the height of the vacation season. They also were concerned about the safety of beach-goers due to increasing vehicle traffic over the years.

White led a 5-1 vote in March to go with the system, requiring visitors to buy the 10-day permit for $50 or the seasonal permit for $150. Commissioner Mike Hall cast the lone “no” vote and Commissioner Kitty Etheridge was absent.

The system went into effect the Friday before Memorial Day and ended at 11:59 p.m. on Labor Day.

The new parking restrictions applied to the off-road segment starting a mile and a half north of the North Beach Ramp at Milepost 13 and continuing to Albatross Lane at Milepost 17.

County residents and property owners were exempt from paying fees.

County residents who live full-time in the off-road area were allowed two additional guest permits. Also, owners of rental property in the off-road area received two additional guest permits or visitor passes to be used by renters staying on the property.

Overall Friday, White was pleased with the system.

“For our first foray into it, I think it worked well,” he said. “We really spent a lot of time working with staff, myself in particular, to develop something.”

He emphasized the main goal was to ensure beach goers would be free from risk of being struck by vehicles.

“And we achieved that goal and reduced traffic at the same time. And it made the tourist experience that much better,” he said.

White said Friday he asked County Manager Dan Scanlon to assemble a group of maybe 10 or 12  residents and non-resident rental property owners to provide input about what could be done to improve the system for 2019.

White said he would also like sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and emergency personnel and Currituck Travel and Tourism officials to participate in the discussion.

He said he anticipates the get-together will probably be late this month or early next month.

He also said he’s going to work with Scanlon on a punch list of needs in the off-road area he believes the revenues could be spent on.

One thing White would like to see is expanding the work of a contractor for grading and repairing the parking areas between Mileposts 14 and 17. During the 2018 summer season, the contractor pulled an I-beam across the beach every Monday, removing ruts and smoothing out the sand so motorists wouldn’t get stuck.

White said he would like to see the smoothing process maybe occur on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to better maintain the beach.

The new parking permit system isn’t without controversy, however.

That’s because the Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association on June 21 filed a damage lawsuit against the county in Currituck Superior Court.

The suit claims the county is violating North Carolina’s constitution by requiring non-Currituck residents to pay a substantial fee for a permit to enjoy the public areas of the state located in Currituck, while at the same time not requiring any payment from Currituck residents.

The Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association also wants a court order terminating enforcement of the parking permit system.

White can’t comment about the suit because the legal dispute is pending in the judicial system.

County Attorney Ike McRee on Aug. 20 filed a response with the court denying the Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association’s allegations. McRee also is calling for the court to dismiss the suit.

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