National Park Service Seeks Comments On Proposed Assateague Changes

National Park Service Seeks Comments On Proposed Assateague Changes
The existing entrance to the Assateague OSV area is pictured. File Photo

ASSATEAGUE — The National Park Service is seeking public comment on a planned reconfiguration of the existing South Ocean Beach parking area and the popular Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) entrance road in advance of anticipated changes on the barrier island.

The public comment period on the proposed changes opened last week and will remain open until July 5. The proposed project would make the South Ocean Beach recreation area and the OSV entrance area more resilient to natural coastal processes and future storm events, while improving safety and enhancing the visitor experience.

The proposed project is in response to the westward dune movement that is encroaching on the facilities at the South Ocean Beach recreation area and the entrance to the OSV. Data collected by the National Park Service (NPS) suggests a portion of the existing traffic circle and most of the OSV entrance will be impacted by natural coastal processes by 2040, making the facilities that provide access to the popular recreation areas unsustainable at their current locations.

The NPS also plans to address the increasing visitor use at the South Ocean Beach recreation area, which is causing congestion and creating safety concerns while resulting in resource degradation. More specifically, the South Ocean Beach parking area does not provide sufficient capacity to accommodate visitor use at the recreation area.

In addition, the existing OSV entrance road cannot support the line of vehicles that forms when the OSV zone reaches the 145-vehicle maximum capacity. The current configuration creates safety issues when crowded, as it often is on most summer days, for pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists and wildlife.

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The NSP is developing conceptual design options to reconfigure the facilities that serve the South Ocean Beach recreation area, including the parking area, the OSV entrance road and other infrastructure and amenities to manage visitor use more effectively. The proposed project would relocate park infrastructure west of the projected 2040 secondary dune areas.

The proposed project would also reconfigure the parking area to be more efficient and better support current visitor use of the area. The project would also relocate the OSV entrance road to enhance visitor use and reduce pedestrian crossings, upgrade amenities such as showers, changing rooms and restroom facilities.

The proposed project would also relocate access to the Life of the Dunes Trail, relocate the existing multi-use path, and develop infrastructure that can easily be modified to accommodate future alternative transportation options such a shuttle or bus service from the mainland.

The 30-day public comment period on the proposed changes to the South Ocean Beach recreation area and the OSV entrance, among other amenities, closes next week on July 5. Comments can be submitted in writing at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=108559