While You Were Sleeping... the Government Shut Down
Ocracoke residents and visitors woke this morning to find that, indeed, the Park Service was ordered to shut down the beaches.
"It's officially closed to pedestrians and vehicles," said Ocracoke's head ranger, Ed Fuller. He was in the process of closing the Park Service boat ramp. Other rangers were informing boaters that they need to vacate the NPS docks.
Ed got the word this morning that he would have to implement the shutdown. It was obviously something he hated to do. I asked if he'd received a lot of angry phone calls.
"No," he answered. "We've talked to a lot of angry people in person. We haven't been at the office, we've been talking to people on the beach."
Ed says the big NPS parking lot will remain open and accessible, as well as the multi-use walking/running/biking path from the village to the campground.
Campers at the NPS campground will have 48 hours to vacate.
Ocracoke's small airport will remain open.
Park rangers will continue to patrol the beach and will have to ask people to leave if they see them.
So... I asked, if you were to walk out along the path, and then, when the Park Service wasn't looking, slip over the dunes to the beach, you could stay there as long as they didn't see you, right?
"I can't comment on that," he said.
Leaving your car parked along Hwy. 12 is prohibited. Beachgoers will need to be stealthy.
Judging from the comments on the social networks, the backlash against these closures will be directed at the local Park Service employees who have no choice but to follow orders coming from D.C.
"We just deal with it," Ed said. "We live here, too."
Ed told me that law enforcement rangers will be the only ones on duty, and not all of them will be employed after today.
"I'm sure nobody wants to get laid off," he said. "Hopefully, this ain't going to last long."
Important to note is that this will absolutely not affect the ferries. They are state-run, and only by coincidence moving to their fall schedule today. Ocracoke Village is still open for business!