‘Word has gotten out’

By on August 1, 2020

JRSP’s soundside access creates neighborhood woes

(Michelle Wagner)

The number of visitors at Jockey’s Ridge State Park’s Soundside Access has steadily climbed in recent years, exploding this summer to the point that local and state park officials are starting to work with concerned neighbors to tackle the skyrocketing traffic and parking woes.

With its shallow waters and calm conditions, families, bathers, kiteboarders and other water enthusiasts have increasingly discovered the access. Thousands of visitors and hundreds of vehicles travel down Soundside Road each day to compete for its 23 parking spaces or a spot along the access road. At times, vehicles line up to wait for the access gates to open at 8 a.m. Latecomers find alternative parking spots along the road’s right-of-way or in residential yards.

“Word has gotten out,” said Jockey’s Ridge State Park (JRSP) Superintendent Joy Greenwood said of the access’s popularity, noting that it is one of the few public soundside beach accesses on the northern Outer Banks, as well as an ideal spot for families with young children.

For some residents, that popularity has brought problems.

“The neighborhood is really concerned about the volume of traffic, it’s unacceptable for a residential district,” said Megan Vaughan, who’s lived on Soundside Road for 33 years. “We’re hoping that in conjunction with the town and state, we can start to solve the problem. We want to reduce the traffic…I think the volume is too much and not right for a residential neighborhood.”

The town of Nags Head leases the soundside access from Jockey’s Ridge State Park (JRSP) and they manage it jointly. And local and state officials both say they are working with residents on possible solutions.

“I think that the goal is to try and restore some of [the quiet neighborhood atmosphere] if we can,” Nags Head Deputy Town Manager Andy Garman told the Voice. “We’re just sort of the tip of the iceberg with some of the ideas we want to talk about.”

JRSP’s Greenwood said she is confident that a resolution to the traffic and parking issues can be reached, but added that “it’s very challenging when there are a lot of different stakeholders involved. It will take a little time, but I am optimistic.”

In an attempt to control the parking along Soundside Road, Nags Head has erected a number of no parking signs along the roadway, but Garman acknowledged that those only push people to park further away and don’t address the volume of traffic.

“People just sort of migrate to other areas, and I’ve heard people are starting to use the church parking lot all the way at the end [of Soundside Road],” he said.

Garman explained that one concept that came out of a recent stakeholder meeting with residents and representatives of Nags Head and JRSP was the possibility of offering a shuttle to the access from JRSP’s main entrance to decrease the traffic volume on Soundside Road.

According to data provided by JRSP, an estimated 53,644 people visited the access during the month of June. And as of July 26, there have been 69,448 people who have visited the access this month.  Based on JRSP numbers for June, the soundside access accounted for roughly 18 percent of the total visitation to the park, which has a main entrance on Carolista Drive. So far this month, the soundside access accounts for about 24 percent of total visitation to the park

Greenwood estimates that the access sees an average of about 400 cars per day during the summer months.

The Town of Nags Head developed the access roughly three decades ago and Garman said that even back then, there were some concerns from neighbors about the conflict between a high- use area and a quiet residential neighborhood.

“I think that what had been a concern back then has grown, probably well beyond what people ever thought it would become,” he asserted.

Karen Reeder, whose property on Soundside Road has been in her family for generations, characterized the traffic problems on her street this summer as “extreme,” with cars going 40 miles per hour in a 15-mile-per-hour zone. “It [unnerves] me so badly that I can’t even sit outside because every single car is speeding,” she added.

Bobbie Murray, another longtime Soundside Road resident, worries about the environmental impacts the droves of people will have on the sound beach.

“How much can this beach handle and still protect the resource and safety of people in and out of the water,” Murray said. “I do think it’s overused…I do feel like we’re not taking care of the natural resource that the shoreline is.”



Comments

  • Christine Louise Hudgins

    I noticed this in February and March and it is hard to take an exercise walk or for just a walk to enjoy nature. I stopped walking on that road because the traffic was getting crazy and the drivers go back and forth on the road waiting for cars to leave (and they do drive fast). It is no longer pleasant taking a walk to the area. I use to enjoy it. I live on Deering Street and use to walk everyday but no longer walk there anymore. Also, none of them were wearing masks back in March and April, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer and liquor. Something needs to be done.

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 9:57 am
  • Suzan Wescott Overman

    As a Native to Roanoke Island and a Mom with a small child, I prefer the shallow sound, less worry about depth and current. A problem I have witnessed in my life time here on the Island, from 1970 to now, is that due to development, people have less & less ways to access the little sound side beaches. Even when supposedly there was a public neighborhood access, for example, up Mother Vineyard road in Manteo, the adjacent neighbor paved the “right of way” and used it as the driveway to their home, then made you feel uncomfortable for continuing to use the access. If you look at the Dare County GIS you can clearly see the right of way and said pavement by the neighboring property owner, at the end of Rogers Rd. There was supposedly a neighborhood access on the west side in Sunny Side off Airport rd. and this was a selling point when lots were offered for sale in that neighborhood. I bought property and built a house there in 2000. The neighborhood husbands built us a nice boardwalk out to this sound access, a storm broke the boardwalk loose and it washed up the street and wasn’t replaced. Now a new house has gone in on the adjacent lot and you feel uncomfortable walking by the new owners. If we knew where more of the right of ways were and felt like we are free to use them, some of the traffic to the more congested accesses would thin out because we wouldn’t feel like we have to use the same ones all the time. I would like to know where all the public sound side accesses are in Dare County.

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 10:02 am
  • Hugh Robertson

    If there is that much demand for sound access in the area, how about expanding it or adding additional sound access elsewhere in the area? I have kiteboarded there a few years ago and it is a good site with strong southerly winds in the summer, so additional access sites would be great. It should not all be private property for those with money.

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 2:26 pm
  • Mary

    ‘Get This Word Out’ and it wouldn’t take long for problem solved.

    “Capacity 23 Cars NO Street Parking TOWING ENFORCED”
    Then: Post it, patrol it, enforce it! JRSP!

    Residents are entitled to enjoy their property in peace and this beautiful ecosystem needs to be protected from too many people!

    Just another example of how the Outer Banks is way too overpopulated to accommodate so many visitors!

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 4:23 pm
  • Bridgette S Magerkorth

    How about a pay to park, parking lot (WITH A BATHHOUSE)and a shuttle. Those parking in violation of signs should be towed.

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 4:33 pm
  • KDH beach dog

    We should be charging all non residents for parking at beach and sound accesses. OTher states do this why shouldn’t we? OBX has become so crowded it’s becoming unlivable. My heart aches for the place it use to be. We should never have opened up during this pandemic, at the very least we should have kept rentals at a total of 10 people- no exemptions

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 11:26 pm
  • hightider

    The peaceful enjoyment of one’s own home is should be a guaranteed right. When hordes of yahoos destroy the privacy and serenity of a residential neighborhood with their noise, trash, and entitled attitudes, homeowners are trapped. At least if you are in a public place and feel uncomfortable around inconsiderate people, you can leave. When you confront that in your own yard, you have nowhere to go. And people wonder why private communities are popular. Where do you think these people use the bathroom? There is a recent you tube video from Carova with a tourist laughing about climbing a dune (on private property) to “go potty.” Charming.

    Wednesday, Jul 29 @ 11:52 pm
  • Jon

    Expanded payed parking,funding litter control and bathhouse installation,stop selling to private owners,creates choke points.everyone deserves to enjoy this gem.its not the number of vehicles that create the problem,it’s lack of development. Create laws for non alcohol beach,keeps families coming and keeps out idiots.

    Thursday, Jul 30 @ 1:17 am
  • Lee Roach

    I agree with Bridgette Magerkorth. Great idea and the money made could be used to upkeep the parking lot and bathhouse. And thoughts of expanding…

    Thursday, Jul 30 @ 8:16 am
  • John

    I say get rid of the of the existing homes and turn it into one big parking lot/party area. Must have a mask and surfboard to enter. For overflow parking, Park on the dunes. Out of Towner Yahoo’s must bring free alcohol for all locals. Have a party bus in constant rotation which will tour all of the still existent resident neighborhoods playing Snoop DOGG very loud. This new parking lot will be the hub for the party bus. Have law enforcement patrol it, issuing citations to anyone not having fun.

    Thursday, Jul 30 @ 10:37 am
  • Jeff

    Same old story
    Let’s blow up the economy with greed and tourism. Complain your poor when tourist don’t come. Complain there’s to many when you just begged for things to open so you can make a buck. You can’t have it both ways.

    Thursday, Jul 30 @ 9:34 pm
  • Scott

    Hey Karen Reeder? How do you know they are doing 40 in a 15 zone? Are your eyes calibrated like a radar unit? How do you know EVERY car is speeding? I bet I could drive down your street at exactly 15mph, and you would claim I was speeding.

    Friday, Jul 31 @ 1:53 pm
  • Billy Bob

    Why y’all complaining?? You bought property in the Outer Banks. No matter how expensive your house, y’all just like the rest of us. Stop acting like you didn’t expect a party all up in this dirty dirty island. That’s how we roll with our wings flapping in the salty, alcohol drenched winds. I’ll be all up in yo neighborhood this entire week. Keep an eye out for an 80’s bronco playing N’Sync music so wave blasting loud that yo windows will rattle yo.

    Sunday, Aug 2 @ 12:57 am
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