Monday, November 28, 2011

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - #3449 - Chincoteague Fears Proposal to Move Beach Would Hurt Tourism, Economy - Washington Post

Over the years, residents and tourists in this picturesque resort town have been guided by five gentle words: “Relax, you’re on island time.”  But these days, laid-back Chincoteague is on edge.  In a new plan to deal with beach erosion and prepare for sea-level rise, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed changes that the mayor, the chamber of commerce and homeowners say would eventually drive away summer tourism and drive down the economy that depends on it. Some of those changes would involve closing the beach and its parking lot, then opening a beach with parking farther away and shuttling tourists.  Town leaders say vacationers won’t board shuttles with all their beach stuff — umbrellas, chairs and food. They’ll bypass Chincoteague for Ocean City, where hotels sit near the water.  Feelings are running high, as Beth Hanback learned after she helped shuttle tourists to the public beach after Hurricane Irene washed out the parking lot.  Approached in a grocery store by a little old lady who asked whether she helped with that shuttle, Hanback thought she was about to get a sweet, neighborly “attagirl.”  Not quite. “She sort of cleared her throat and spit at me,” Hanback said. “She said, ‘You’re going to kill this town with your [darn] shuttle.’ ”  Hanback, executive director of the Chincoteague Natural History Association, was flabbergasted. She was helping tourists, not endorsing the part of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan residents dislike most.  “We had so many happy folks who said this bus saved our vacation,” Hanback said. “I was really happy.”  For a town that relies on tourism, the stakes are high. The beach is the lifeblood of Chincoteague, swelling its 3,500 population about tenfold in summer.  But Chincoteague doesn’t control its beach. It’s part of the Assateague Island National Seashore, run by the federal National Park Service, and sits within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, controlled by the Fish and Wildlife Service.   “Our purpose here is migrating birds. . . . Piping plovers nest on the beach. Disturbing adults off the nest in the summer could mean that the eggs will fry,” Hinds said.  Read more..........

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