Currituck officials seek to address Carova beach traffic, parking

By on August 30, 2023

Commissioners discussed the selling of coveted beach parking passes. . (Credit Kip Tabb/OBV)

Concerned that traffic and parking on the beach in the 4WD area of the Currituck Banks is becoming unmanageable, Bob White Chair of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners (BOC) asked board members to think about how the county could address the issue at the Aug. 7 commissioners’ meeting.

“I just want to have discussion with the board and see what you guys thought about it,” he said in his opening remarks.

Although White stated that he did not expect action at that meeting, he pointed out that at times in the past, the BOC had not enacted changes quickly enough, forcing county staff to implement changes during the busiest time of the year.

“We tend to kind of wait too long in the year to deal with these things…So this is a good time to have this discussion,” he said.

The commissioners discussed a number of factors that have led to the concerns White expressed. One issue that came up consistently is the impact of the new Currituck County Access Permit. Put into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, the access permit consolidated county-wide recycling and re-entry permit for all county residents. It also granted residents parking privileges on the Carova beach.

For visitors to the Outer Banks who do not own property or live in Currituck County, nonresident beach parking permits are limited to 300 per week and cost $50.

According to commissioners, there is a high demand for the resident parking privilege—and the passes are being sold online. “I think there’s people who are looking to make a buck off of passes and that is really troublesome,” Commissioner Selina Jarvis said.

Commissioner Kitty Etheridge asked County Attorney Megan Morgan if there was anything to prohibit the transfer of the permits.

“I don’t think there’s anything in our ordinance right now. But we could put something in there,” Morgan said before adding a cautionary note. “I think that there’s probably going to be some difficulty in enforcement.”

The commissioners, however, as they discussed the issue, focused on more than the parking.

White, in particular, expressed concern that increased traffic in the area was harming wildlife. The weekend before the meeting, one of the Corolla wild horses was hit by a car and had to be euthanized. There was also a report that a sea turtle nest had been run over by a car.

“All those things are coming together at one time. It seems like it’s culminating this year, for whatever reason,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Payment did not feel the parking permits on the Carova beach was the problem.

“Those 300 that are stopping and parking…probably ain’t the problem…The ones that you’re saying that are, are just constantly driving up and down, up and down.”

Commissioner Kevin McCord, who is a Currituck County Sheriff captain, told the BOC that the parking passes had improved the situation compared to how many cars were parked on the beach before passes were required. He went on to describe traffic from “the second week of June to probably the end of August” as “crazy.”

County Attorney Morgan and County Manager Ike McRee suggested a change to county ordinances that would prohibit passed from being transferred. They also recommended the commissioners consider raising the fine for unauthorized use of a parking pass. Currently the fine is $75.

At the end of the discussion, according to the minutes of the meeting, the BOC asked county staff “to review ordinances and bring back language modifications that would give law enforcement more authority, including revocation, increased fines, and access restrictions as suggested.”

The commissioners also directed staff to ask state agencies if a traffic count could be conducted at the Carova off-road ramp.


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  • Greg

    There is barely any public beach parking in Corolla. There is one tiny lot at The S end of the Currituck Club and one access at The Lighthouse. When subdivisions were approved going back into the 60s no provisions were made for public parking. The same applies to Duck and Southern Shores. The other factor is the big increase of 4WD vehicles that are now comfortable enough to do a highway trip to The Outer Banks.

    Wednesday, Aug 30 @ 2:48 pm
  • Steven

    If you want to dramatically decrease traffic and wildlife harassment, do away with the feral horse tours..

    Everyone around here knows to never go up there in summer. Even Nags Head, KDH and Kitty Hawk is avoided.

    Wednesday, Aug 30 @ 3:21 pm
  • surf132

    Can the county legally restrict driving on the beach and parking since they are owned by the state and public access is guaranteed? Carova has publicly accessible roads that anyone has a right to drive on. In order to drive to Carova to access these roads one has to drive on the beach since that is the only way to get there. As for parking unless the whole beach is marked as no parking you cannot decide who can and who cannot park. This situation is quite a bit different from Nags Head where a permit can be required since the beach is not needed to access any public areas. If there were a section of beach with houses that could not be accessed except by driving on the beach then the permits would not be enforceable if someone were to pursue a case against the government restricting access. Same is true for Hatteras Island as all roads are publicly accessible so there is no need to get on the beach to drive to a house that cannot be reached any other way.

    Wednesday, Aug 30 @ 3:34 pm
  • Chris Smith

    Ok so I’m going to let you know how easy this will be to solve. You don’t sell permits to every Tom dick or,Harry that comes here you greedy asses. The only people that get permits are the ones that physicly live here. Not properly owners that give it to their renters. PEOPLE THAT LIVE HERE!!!!!!! Grow some balls and do what’s right for a change. Give a monkey enough bananas he can figure it out. That’s the privilege for living here. Talk about that in your discussion.

    Wednesday, Aug 30 @ 5:07 pm
  • Bobby

    I saw nothing in their discussion about killing an endangered turtle. Night beach driving should be eliminated. Why hasn’t an alternate road off the beach ever been pursued for home owners there? A sand road now runs down the dunes side a long way. Mr White is very self serving in the issue and should have recused himself from the discussion.

    Wednesday, Aug 30 @ 6:20 pm
  • Mary

    “If you build it, they will come!”
    If you keep on building and building, they will keep coming and coming!”
    It will NEVER stop!
    It’s rather obvious the northern beaches are already in big trouble.
    Restrict land sales, limit building permits, stop the horrible horse tours, make driving and parking permits mandatory with restrictions, station an officer before the entry (like NPS at Coquina) during summer, set requirements for vehicles to even be able to enter the beach, build a back road access, restrict night driving hours, and so on…there’s a lot that can be done but $$$ talks.
    We’ll see.

    Wednesday, Aug 30 @ 9:30 pm
  • Steven

    Surf123, There are many private roads on Hatteras Island, I live on one that goes from Hwy 12 to ocean.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 4:23 am
  • Just Another Mike

    Just make the local pass a sticker that can’t be removed in once piece instead of a window cling. Problem solved with the black market beach passes. This also prevents people from letter their guests use the pass.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 6:58 am
  • Dan

    So what the commissioners are saying is that their concern isn’t “parking” per se, it is getting PAID for parking. Who cares if I sell my pass to my friend for a profit? If 300 passes exist for visitors and one for each resident, than that is the number of cars allowed to park. They are just mad because they aren’t getting the money. Payment is right: it is the traffic, not the parking.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 7:52 am
  • Part Time OBX

    First, More Public access to the beach from Duck to Corolla on the Paved Road – people keep coming up to the beach because they got no where else to go! Second – reduce the amount of horse tours per day by half, and restrict them to ONLY be on the back roads – not the beach side (except at the beginning, obviously). Third, if you want to reduce the amount of people just driving up and down, charge all cars $50 for a 10 day parking/driving pass in order to enter the beach off the paved road. Rental companies with houses in the 4×4 can issue printable temporary passes with specific dates as part of the Rental process based on the amount of vehicles per house. Residents should be issued hard stickers per vehicle with 2 extra visitor passes per household. Lastly, put a Deputy Sheriff at the entrance to the beach, no pass, no entry. Just that simple.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 8:11 am
  • Fake Outrage

    Concern from Bob? The same Bob that owns the Horse Tours? The same Bob that exempted himself and his business from buying parking passes (because YES, yes they do park)! This article is funny.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 8:35 am
  • The Captain

    Boo Hoo. You are paying the price of OVERDEVELOPMENT, POOR PLANNING, but even more Important is the Publicity and Advertisement of the area. Slowdown. Big Bucks to be made from Tourism on Horses and Beach Riding. Corolla rakes in the Money. Who owns Beaches? If Currituck County Owns, do what you have to. If Federal, UGH! If private you may have your best luck with restrictions. Oh I forgot to say I’m a Local Resident for 30 plus years and the Outer Banks is not the Outer Banks of Yore. Beautiful, Open, Family Beach Destination. Currently Overcrowded. We have too many people expecting a RESORT ATMOSPHERE. WE ARE A BEACH. Golf Carts, Electric Bikes etc. running wild.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 8:43 am
  • surf123

    @Steven…I should have been clear that I know there are several private roads on HI. I live on one that was but a neighbor got it converted to public to have it paved. Had asphalt that was 30+ years so it was a disaster. Are all of the roads in Carova private?
    @Bobby…Excellent point that no one has mentioned at any point.
    @JustAnotherMike…will work, but will 7-day rental passes.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 9:30 am
  • Greg

    These comments are interesting. The fact is that Swan, N Swan, Penny’s Hill , Carova Beach and the rest of the subdivisions in that stretch of beach were platted 50-60
    Years ago. It was marketed as a quick drive from Sandbridge. Mobile homes were allowed in Carova Beach. The False Cape National Wildlife Refuge went in and that was the end of driving down from Virginia on the beach. I will submit that was a good thing. The development push then came from the South with no public access for 25 miles other than the beach north of Corolla. The resident horses have had to be cared for in the face of rampant development which includes an explosion of 4WD vehicles. Beach driving permits were necessary to cut down on “ weekend warrior” offroaders on Hatteras Island. The horses are the ancestors of shipwreck survivors. From the 16 and 1700s . When the ship was headed for grounding on the outer bar the load had to be lightened so as to drift to the beach and survive so over the side went the horses. They were military tools of the Spanish in conquering much of North and South America. Horses are not native to both continents. The paved road now needs to be extended. Whether one likes or not there is a great deal of private property in the area and proper access in needed.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 9:47 am
  • Bob

    I’m sure no one wants to say it out loud as it would totally change the atmosphere of the area, but at some point it would seem to me it is time to build a real road. And the bridge to go with it.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 9:55 am
  • BK

    If the permits are legal it’s possible to address two issues in one proposal-
    Train and hire seasonal traffic control agents. Like in many other areas, they can direct traffic, issue summonses for illegal parking and check that permits match a residents address or rental receipt for NRPO guests. This can free up deputies for other law enforcement duties.

    Also make it year round, not sure how those groups of pick ups with Va plates head to the beach in lines along 12 sometimes over 1/2 mile long.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 11:10 am
  • Terry Warren

    I bought 1 of the 300 beach parking passes available the week of 9/10/2023. My pet peave is there were a lot of parked vehicles without passes on the beach. I think there should be a crackdown on those abusers.

    Wednesday, Sep 13 @ 7:35 pm