Removing vehicle access to Gulf Islands National Sea Shore, Fort Pickens

Removing vehicle access to Gulf Islands National Sea Shore, Fort Pickens (WEAR-TV)

Major changes are possible at the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore.

"There are consequences for insisting on having a road in a place where nature tells us it probably doesn't make sense to have a road," said GINSS Superintendent, Dan Brown.

Since Fort Pickens Road and Highway 399 were built, Brown says the federal government has spent more than $50 million repairing them, each time a storm blows through.

"It's tough to have a hardened structure on a substrate that is nothing but sand," said Brown.

That's why Brown says the next time the road is destroyed by a storm, the decision could be made not to repair it - which would mean no more vehicle access to the area.

"Horrible! I can't even imagine," said Joe Cafaro. "We've been coming here since the 90's!

Cafaro, didn't take the news well. He and his wife drove their recreational vehicle here from Georgia.

To clarify, there would still be camping - just not in RVs. Campgrounds would be accessible by ferry, where brown says visitors could stay in cabins. It would be more of a glam-camping or 'glamping' situation.

"I'm sure people would enjoy that," said Cafaro. "It wouldn't be us!"

If you are going to stay in a cabin Cafaro says, you might as well stay in a hotel.

"I would be willing to wager to you, if you did this same interview with anybody in these other campers, they would tell you the same thing," said Cafaro.

Angela Young and her husband Rex drove here in their RV from Alabama. They, like Cafaro are not keen on the glamping-via-ferry option.

"If you've got to come across on a ferry," said Angela. "You're really going to be limited to what you can bring."

"The government wastes money on all kinds of things," said Rex. "Why not spend it here where it's a beautiful resource for people to enjoy."

Without a road, the $800,000 that the park retains from annual entrance and camping fees would be drastically reduced, but Brown says rebuilding the road is not up to park staff.

"Ultimately," said Brown. "The decision could be made, and it wouldn't be made here at the park level, but either at the regional or Washington level, or by federal highways or maybe by Congress."

There is no timeline on when - or if - the road will be closed. It may not be the next storm, or the one after that, but Brown says now is the time to get used to the fact Gulf Islands National Sea Shore and Fort Pickens will not always be accessible by vehicle.

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