Public Comments Sought On Assateague Future

SNOW HILL – A new general management plan for Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) codifying an overall direction for the future of the park is in the beginning stages.

Trish Kicklighter, the new Superintendent of AINS, explained to the County Commissioners Tuesday that the management plan would consider how best to protect the park’s natural resources, appropriate uses, needed facilities and visitor access to the park.

Public involvement is a major key to creating the plan.

“It is really up to the public to tell us how they’d like to see the park managed,” Kicklighter said.

AINS wants the public’s comments on what is special to them about the island, as well as details on public concerns over the future of the island, recreational and educational opportunities the public would like to see added and ways to better protect the seashore.

There will be several comment periods during the plan drafting process and comments will be accepted by letter, e-mail and in person, Kicklighter said.

AINS staff will hold listening sessions in the park for visitors over the summer, with the next one scheduled for Aug. 15.

A public meeting at the coastal ecology center has also been scheduled for Sept. 22, from 4-7 p.m. From 4-6:30 p.m. attendees can view information on the park and the management plan, with a presentation following.

Kicklighter said there are no preconceived notions on the park’s future.

“We’re wide open to suggestions on this,” she said.

After gathering ideas from the public, alternatives will be created and put out for public comment. Then the plan will be drafted and more public comment will be solicited.      

The plan should be complete in spring 2012.

The park is also working on a transportation plan. There is not enough parking on the island to accommodate visitors, yet there is nowhere to expand parking areas on the island. On the Fourthof July, parking lots were filled to capacity and traffic backed up on Route 611 as far as the turn-off to South Point.

“We’re really limited by the parking facilities we have,” said Kicklighter.

The park is looking into a shuttle system from Berlin and Ocean City to the park as well as a park and ride arrangement.

“It’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.

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