By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on April 9, 2021
During its April 7 meeting, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners unanimously endorsed a series of recommendations from a working group created last fall to explore solutions to the growing parking and traffic problems along W. Soundside Road and at Jockey’s Ridge State Park Soundside Access.
During peak summer months, the popular beach access at the end of W. Soundside Road draws as many as 23,000 vehicles a month down the otherwise quiet, residential street. Residents along the road brought their concerns to the board last year, stating that traffic, speeding and parking have all reached unacceptable and dangerous levels during the busy tourist season.
Included among the 12 recommendations made by the committee are increased parking restrictions, strict enforcement of violations and the exploration of an alternative soundside access for visitors within the municipality. The committee, appointed by the board, was made up of neighborhood residents, Jockey’s Ridge Superintendent Joy Greenwood, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Siers, Town Planning Director Michael Zehner and Police Chief Phi Webster.
“Ultimately, the committee thought that the three-way stop sign stop along W. Soundside Road at the entrance to the Soundside Access was a must, towing of anyone parked along the side of the road was a must, enforcing the speed limit was a must,” Siers told fellow commissioners. “My suggestion to the board, as a commissioner, is that we do everything we can as a town to help offset some of that strain on the neighborhood.”
Siers also suggested reaching out to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau about the possibility of establishing an access to the sound at the Soundside Event Site.
Other recommendations from the working group include a traffic study to determine the impact on W. Soundside Road; prohibiting on-street parking within the right-of-way of W. Soundside Road, S. Thirteenth Street, and Deering Street; an audit of existing parking and traffic regulation signs along the affected streets to determine the need for additional no-parking areas and traffic regulations; and consideration of other traffic calming measures along the roadway to discourage speeding.
“The Town should commit to continued coordination between its police department and park rangers, performing routine visits to the Soundside Access when open,” the group’s report stated. “The Town should work with Jockey’s Ridge State Park on supervision of the beach and water during the season…”
The working group also stated that it was opposed to any increases in capacity at the access parking lot in its current location and configuration at the end of Soundside Road and it recommended no parking along the access drive aisle of the access, which typically is lined on both sides with vehicles during the summer season.
In addition, the group recommended that the Town should request that Jockey’s Ridge State Park also limit events held at the access to 50 or fewer participants and that those events not use W. Soundside Road for access. And it asked that group education activities with 15 or more participants utilize shared transportation and not allow participants to individually travel to the access.
The recommendations also call for standing committee to be established between representatives of the Town, Jockey’s Ridge State Park and neighborhood members to address concerns and issues. And they press for Nags Head and North Carolina State Parks to develop a new agreement to reflect the roles of each in the operation and maintenance of the access.
The group also wants to limit park hours to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April 1 to Sept. 30 and to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 1 to March 31.