Officials from the Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service convened a public information meeting at the Chincoteague Community Center on May 19, 2007 at 7:00 pm to present their plans for the Island and receive public comment.
Approximately forty citizens attended the meeting.
Mayor Jack Tarr welcomed the public and thanked Lou Hines, Director of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR) and Scott Bentley, Superintendent of the Assateague National Seashore (ANS) and their staff members for preparing and presenting the public briefing.
Highlights of the presentation follow.
Parking Lot Status
Despite the nor’easter of last week, the parking lots will be repaired and open to the public by Memorial Day weekend. The full capacity of 961 parking spaces will be available. In order to complete repairs on the parking lots, crews have been diverted from other tasks. Not all the cabanas and showers will be in place by Memorial Day. All porta-jon facilities will be in place.
Life Guard Program
Two additional life guards will be on duty this summer. A larger area will be covered by life guards. A roving patrol up to the bike trail will be maintained with a life guard mounted on an ATV. Last season life guards on Assateague performed twelve major rescues. There were no fatalities. Entrance fees to Assateague National Seashore fund $81,582 in the life guard program expenses
One additional, seasonal protection ranger will be on staff this summer. Entrance fees to Assateague National Seashore fund $24,895 of the cost. This ranger will help with traffic control and law enforcement.
The presenters noted that if a conflict exists between regulations of the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the regulations of Fish and Wildlife regulations always prevail. The speakers reviewed two detail maps that delineate areas where various types of boating are allowed. Some boundaries will change as protect birds develop nests. Boaters should request up to date information on boating regulations at the visitors center.
U.S. Coast Guard Station
Director Lou Hinds updated the status of the facility.
- All windows have been fixed
- Asbestos abatement is not finished, but little remains to be done
- Lead paint abatement has been finished
- The building was repainted two years ago, but will need to be repainted soon
- Load-bearing walls have been stabilized
The project needs about an additional $1million to complete work on the dock. When that work is done the building will open to the public. This is probably about two years into the future.
This summer Fish and Wildlife Service personnel will give guided kayak tours of Tom’s Cove. The fee is $10 per person. Tours will focus on the cultural history and ecology of the area.
The Children in the Wood program returns during the last week of June. Sixteen children will spend a week discovering nature on Assateague.
Evening lecture programs at Bateman Center will return this summer.
Maryland Pony Herd
Superintendent Scott Bentley advised that an environmental assessment of the Maryland pony herd will be released in June. The findings and recommendations of this study DO NOT APPLY TO THE VIRGINIA PONY HERD. The findings will recommend a herd size of between 80 to 100 animals and set out a two to six year term to reach the goal. Several options of how to reach the goal will be proposed.
Resealing and striping of the road to the beach will be done soon. The National Park Service will reseal the bike trail too. Upgrades to the Tom’s Cove visitors center will be done. New kayaks and snorkeling equipment will be available for the bay ecology and history program.
Parking lot maintenance will receive $230,000 from entrance fees to Assateague National Seashore.
2008 Fee Schedule
Random checks for possession of the proper pass will begin this summer.
Daily pass: $5 per vehicle - includes beach parking
Weekly pass: $15 per vehicle – good for seven days and includes beach parking
Duck Stamp: $15 – valid at all National Wildlife Refuges, does not include beach parking
Duck Stamp with parking: $30
Interagency Pass: $80 – valid at all federal recreation fee sites, good for one year
Senior Pass: $10 (lifetime pass)
Commercial Buses 20 or fewer occupants: $40 per day
Commercial Buses 21 or more occupants: $100 per day
Over sand vehicle pass: $70
When the fee booth at the entrance to Assateague is not staff, visitors are to make payment at the Bateman Center.
NPS and FWS will conduct joint meetings as they develop new comprehensive management plans for their responsibilities on Assateague.
Piping Plover Management
The goal in managing the piping plover population is to reach 1.5 fledged nestlings per pair of nesting bird and sustain that rate over five consecutive years.
Year # Nesting Pairs Average # Fledged Nestlings
2007 37 1.95
2006 50 2.29
2005 53 1.64
2004 44 0.86
2003 39 1.98
Approximately $1 to $1.5 million is required to complete restoration of the Lighthouse.
The order of work is:
- Replace iron decking at the top of the Light
- Re-glaze the windows
- Replace the floor in the lantern room
- Re-point the mortar on the exterior
- Paint the lighthouse
Within the next few weeks a protective wood structure will be attached to the entrance of the lighthouse to protect visitors from any material falling from the top of the Light. The Light is safe inside. However, the exterior iron work structure is not secure and could fall.
Fish and Wildlife has committed $200,000 to lighthouse restoration. The Assateague Natural History Association will soon begin a capital campaign to help raise money for the project.
The meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Notes by Bill Troxler
N.B. These notes do not constitute the public record of this meeting. The information contained herein is offered in good faith, is presented as accurately as possible, is thought to be a complete account of the proceedings. These notes are intended to be a public service devoid of political commentary for those who are interested in following the civic affairs of Chincoteague Island. Notes of the meeting are recorded, transcribed and distributed by volunteers who receive no financial compensation for their efforts.