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National Park Service seeks input on beach driving

6:18 PM, Aug 20, 2012   |    comments
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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- While working on its General Management Plan for the Fort Matanzas National Monument, the National Park Service is reconsidering the driving ban on its stretch of beach in southern St. Johns County.

Mike Mooney likes fishing on the beach within the park.

He's just fine keeping the stretch of beach closed off to cars. It means fewer people for him.

"I don't like to fish around a lot of people swimming. I'm afraid I'll hook them," Mooney explained.

However, Jimmy Carter -- yes, that's his name -- thinks opening up the park property to cars would help with traffic congestion on the beach right next to the park.

"I think it would aid it if they'd open it up to some extent. I don't know how you'd regulate it and how many people could go in though," Carter commented.

Some visitors to the area really like driving on the beach.

George Walker and his family from Pennsylvania are visiting St. Johns County this week.

"I think it's good, it's different. We can't do it up north, and you've been doing it down here so long. Unless there's a problem with safety, why not?" Walker said.

John Schacke is visiting St. Johns County from Athens, Ga.  He parked his SUV where beach driving is okay.

But just a few feet away at the park property, beach driving is not allowed.

"When we walked [down there], we noticed all the turtle nesting areas and it made sense to us," Schacke said. "There are no condos there, so it's less disturbing to the turtles to have that as a nesting area."

He's supports banning cars from a portion of the beach.

Jon Burpee with The National Park Service said the agency is considering public safety, environmental impacts, and enforcement now that it's looking at a long-term management plan for the Fort Matanzas National Monument.

In 2010, the National Park Service banned cars from its portion of beach.

Now it's readdressing the issue and proposing three options.

Plan A would keep the status quo and continue to ban beach driving.

Plan B would ban beach driving, but it would add extra parking spaces to the parking lots.

Plan C would permit beach driving.

The National Park Service prefers Plan B.

"It's the one that seems to best manage the resources for the long run," Burpee said.

As for Mooney the fisherman, he wants some beaches to permit driving, but he likes a reserved beach for walking only.

"You might as well have some of it left pristine," he added.

Let the National Park Service know what you think by clicking here

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