The National Park Service is reviewing existing driving regulations at...

The National Park Service is reviewing existing driving regulations at the Fire Island National Seashore to preserve the roadless nature of the barrier island and protect its seashores. The Fire Island Lighthouse, seen here. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The National Park Service is weighing a proposal that could change the way the agency distributes driving permits to the Fire Island community and update non-summer driving regulations that have been untouched for 35 years. 

The park service is reassessing how driving permits are allocated for residents and workers through an off-road vehicle management program. The current regulations, established in 1987, aim to preserve the roadless nature of the barrier island and protect its seashores. Many homes can only be reached via boat or by driving on federal land, which requires a permit. No driving is allowed during the summer months. 

The proposal would expand permit access for when water transportation isn’t adequate, granting unlimited permits for full-time residents and 50 total permits for part-time residents, which is similar to the number of part-time residents who currently hold permits, seashore Superintendent Alexcy Romero said. The number of full-time resident permits is currently capped at 145. Only one permit per household would be allowed under the proposal.

Essential services, construction and recreation workers also would have access to unlimited permits, but would only be allowed one permit per contractor or business. There would still be strict requirements to obtain a permit, such as proof of residency or business on Fire Island. 

The proposal also would limit the number of roundtrips drivers can make daily. Full-time residents would be allowed two trips through the east or west gate daily, while all other permit holders could only make one round trip. The proposal comes after the park service said restricting the number of round trips drivers make is the best way to preserve the seashore. Limiting permits isn’t as effective, they said. 

Credit: Randee Daddona

Residents have shared with the park service that they need loosened permit regulations, making it easier to drive, said seashore Deputy Superintendent Lindsey Kurnath. The park service has considered implementing updates since at least 2002. 

NPS project manager Michelle Carter led a community meeting earlier this month to pitch the idea to residents. An updated proposal will be shared in spring 2023, and the park service will make a decision on the plan in late 2023 or early 2024, she said. She acknowledged that driving regulations were convoluted and welcomed the public’s feedback ahead of next year’s updated proposal. Fire Island Association Suzy Goldhirsch said that residents are eager to collaborate with the park service to determine appropriate driving regulation revisions.

Public comments on the proposal will be accepted through May 20 and may be submitted on the Fire Island National Seashore's park service website. The proposal and the community meeting are also available on the NPS website. 

Proposed regulations

Driving would be allowed:

  • The day after Labor Day to the weekend before July 4 for residents and essential services permit holders 
  • The day after Columbus Day to April 30 for construction permit holders 
  • Sept. 15 to March 15 for recreational permit holders 

The permits would be required to access: 

  • Burma Road at the Lighthouse tract 
  • All Atlantic Ocean beaches 
  • Sailors Haven/Sunken Forest 
  • Talisman/Barrett Beach 
  • Watch Hill 
  • Beach off Otis Pike Wilderness area between Watch Hill and Smith Point

Driving would remain prohibited at: 

  • Bayside beaches 
  • The William Floyd Estate 
  • Burma Road within the Carrington Tract (between Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove), except for public utility companies with an active right-of-way permit 
  • Interior of Otis Pike Wilderness area 
  • Fire Island Lighthouse Driveway

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