Trail, fishing pier, driving permit all new for 2017

With temperatures beginning to warm and Easter break just days away, Cape Lookout National Seashore is ready to welcome visitors to barrier island.

The national seashore has opened a new fishing pier and refurbished the Soundside Nature Trail, both located at the park headquarters and Visitors Center on Harkers Island.

Meanwhile, for those planning to driver their vehicles on the island, a new permit is now required.

As for the fishing pier, located a short distance from the main parking area, it allows those with disabilities to safely take in the beautiful view of Core Sound or to fish.

Visitors can also take hikes on the improved Soundside Nature Trail located behind the Visitor Center. The trail has been retreaded with crushed rock and is gently raised so that it drains well.

The path is also smoother, making it easier to maneuver baby strollers and wheelchairs. The 0.8-mile trail traverses along Core Sound and a saltwater marsh as it winds through a maritime forest.

From the visitor’s center, pedestrians can board a boat to be ferried to the seashore, which is home to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

However, drivers on the island will first need a permit now required under a new Off-road Vehicle management plan.

The new Off-road Vehicle Educational Certificate is free, but any ORV driver must obtain a certificate to use the vehicle for fishing, camping or any other activities on Core Banks.

The National Park Service recently initiated the program and released information on how to get certificates, which are available online at www.nps.gov/calo or at various locations, including cabin camp offices, the park visitor centers, approved vehicle ferry operators and park rangers.

The certificate includes a list of all the rules and regulations pertaining to ORV use. ORV users are to read all the rules, provide a license plate number for the ORV and indicate whether they are camping or staying in one of the cabin camps.

One copy of the certificate is to be kept with the vehicle and the other is to be presented to park staff for a proof-of-certificate decal. The decals are to be placed on the ORVs and are good for one calendar year.

The certificate program is being implemented as part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore ORV Management Plan, which was formally signed into record on Jan. 10.