Is Corolla Headed for Tourist-Wild Horse Showdown?

By Jeff Hampton of  The Virginian-Pilot

Wild Horse Eco-Tourism GIANT Summer Success Story

A group of wild horses cools off in the ocean breeze on the beach in Corolla on Monday, July 25, 2011. (Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot) ~ stylized by SFTHH

COROLLA, N.C. – Beach driving fees in Hatteras and a new global advertising campaign pitching Corolla’s wild horses could send thousands more this summer to the Currituck Outer Banks, where beaches are already teeming on summer weekends.

The double whammy could be both fortune and trouble for Currituck County.

“This year could be the breaking point,” said Commissioner Vance Aydlett, who owns property in Carova Beach. “We’ll see.”

Crowded beaches are good for business. Corolla shops and beach-home rentals depend on a busy summer season. Currituck County draws the bulk of its revenue from taxes on Outer Banks property and tourism.

At the same time, though, county officials and residents in the four-wheel-drive area lament that the beaches are reaching a saturation point on some weekends, making it hazardous for people and horses alike. A beach-driving committee made several recommendations earlier this year to deal with the overflow situation, including a permit system that would limit the number of vehicles allowed on the beach.

“If this beach becomes like every other beach, then we’ve lost something special,” said Kimberlee Hoey, a resident of the four-wheel-drive area and member of the beach-driving committee. “We have to find a balance.”

Hoey, Aydlett and others support a permit system that caps the number of vehicles.

“We’ve got to focus on the quality rather than the quantity,” Aydlett said.

The talk of limiting access comes at the same time that North Carolina’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development is featuring for the first time the Corolla wild horses in an Internet and print advertising campaign.

The state’s $3 million campaign includes running photos and videos of the wild horses in digital ads and images in national magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living and O, The Oprah Magazine, said Wit Tuttell, marketing director for the Division of Tourism.

The wild horses are also featured on the state’s website, VisitNC.com, which gets 4 million hits per year.

“We wanted to find things that are unique to North Carolina and made impacts on people,” Tuttell said.

If successful, the campaign could attract thousands more people to the same four-wheel-drive area of the Currituck Outer Banks that locals are trying to tame.

Diane Nordstrom, director of Currituck County’s Department of Travel and Tourism, acknowledged the potential for large crowds but said being included in this kind of campaign “is the most exciting news I’ve had in this business.”

She said her department would be encouraging interested travelers to take advantage of the fall and spring seasons in Currituck to avoid the crowded summer and its higher rental rates. Her office also educates people about beach rules, such as the need to stay 50 feet from the wild horses, and it suggests visitors use the horse tour companies rather than drive their own vehicles.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund Director Karen McCalpin, anticipating bigger crowds because of the ad campaign and Hatteras fees, said she plans to hire more staff to educate crowds sharing the beach with wild horses.

“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword,” she said. “We certainly want everybody to see the wild horses because they are amazing.”

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore began requiring permits this year for driving on the beach – $50 for a week and $120 for the year.

Currituck visitor centers and the tourism website are getting more inquiries, most asking about wild horses, Nordstrom said

“The most popular attraction after the beaches is the horses,” Nordstrom said. “Every time you see them, it makes you stop in awe. They are beautiful, beautiful animals.”

Jeff Hampton, 252-338-0159, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

To visit the PilotOnline.com and to Comment click (HERE)
To learn more about the Corolla Wild Horses click (HERE)

25 comments on “Is Corolla Headed for Tourist-Wild Horse Showdown?

  1. Are you paying attention, Ken Salazar? Bob Abbey? Legislators and citizens of the western states?

    I hope the Cape Hatteras National Seashore will be able to restrict the number of vehicles, both for the safety of Corolla’s horse and human pedestrians and to retain the specialness of this wild equine paradise.

    North Carolina deserves tourist dollars for doing right by all the inhabitants of the Outer Banks.

  2. I grew up in North Carolina. A beautiful, wonderful state. I taught riding in the summer at camps in the mountains in Blowing Rock and Boone.I met Carl Sandburg one summer while riding horses near Flat Rock, NC.

    The wild horses of the NC seashore are a national treasure.

    They are descendants of the shipwrecked horses brought over by Spaniards hundreds of years ago.
    In Chincoteague, the local firemen “swim” the herd across a section of water each year to the town where they hold an auction of some of the ponies.

    The wonderful book “Misty of Chincoteague” was written about the wild ponies in North Carolina.

    Except for the problem with 4 wheels, they seem to have the situation pretty much in hand. I personally despise 4 wheels except in very limited numbers. They are a menace to wildlife and property if misused.

    Salazar is only concentrating on the pressure he gets from cattlemen. He cannot see beyond his nose on the wild horse situation because he doesn’t want to.

    This type of attraction could be very popular in many areas of the country and could turn a liability as far as expense, into an asset.

    R.T., thank you for researching so many stories and avenues for solutions to the problems our horses face. I don’t know how you do it and write so many articles but it is so important to keep all of this information in front of the public.

    • I agree with most of what you wrote – but Misty of Chincoteague was written about the ponies on Assateague Island off Chincoteague Virginia. In July, Chincoteague has pony penning where they swim the ponies over from the island & auction some of them off. Its become a real tourist attraction.

  3. It is positively indecent that this discussion is even happening. A living breathing creation is always priority one! Even though Ken Sillyczar and the rest of the Bovine Loving Miscreants can’t seem to grasp the concept.

    I used to live in a beach community that allowed people to drive on the beach (for a fee) and I never really quite got a grip on the thrill. When they wanted to raise fees people screamed bloody murder because their rights were being infringed upon. What’s the deal about driving on a beach? Why not walk, get some exercise, breathe some fresh air?

    Oh no, we want to zip down the beach with a cooler in the back seat and generally make a nuisance of ourselves to others including the wildlife.

    Some people just need to get out of the gene pool, go home, and stay there.

  4. Dear RT I have seen the Corolla horses many times they are truly amazing , i stayed in a vacation mansion, what a wonderful experience, the wild mustangs there are very highly regarded by their people there, they co exsist in a most special way !!! it is not unusual to wake up in the morning and have those beauties right up close and very personal, they play at the beach whenever they want to , they are a treasured herd , Ken Salazar should spend some time enriching the Wild ones of the west , after all the Wild Mustangs all should be treasured for who and what the are and represent.,……………………….

  5. Aren’t the Atlantic wild equines of MD, VA and NC managed by the locals/state? If so, I wonder how they kept the murderous Feds out? Isn’t there a wild equine herd inland of VA? That herd is managed by BLM, right?

  6. With the exception of the authorities, no one should drive on beaches. A few years ago, some crazy kids didn’t see two girls lying on beach towels on the beach and drove on their heads causing severe traumatic brain injury to them. These girls’ lives were changed in an instant.

    People should stay 50 ft. away from horses but won’t. So the horses have to be removed from the beach, because people will feed them. In addition, people driving vehicles could also harass these beautiful animals. I’ve read the Corolla herd is managed locally and well.

    Salazar is a rancher doing ranchers’ bidding; he really has no place at the Interior. Seemingly in the West, no one can talk about viewing wild horses unless they do it with disdain and hatred. Some talk about the bison, Bighorn sheep and prong horns being native animals, which truly they are not. But even those who want to reduce cattle grazing for the good of the range will not or cannot talk about our horses as natives.

  7. Thank you RT for bringing this story to us. This gives me another vacation spot to visit. One that involves our national treasures. Who wants to take a vacation and see a bunch of 4 Wheelers
    whizing by you on the beach. I’m sure these vehicles run on gasoline..ick!!!! They have it right with the horses for the tourism..I hadn’t heard about this area, but I’m sure going to research the lodging and flight info. Speaking of Nevada, I saw a show early this morning that talked about the mining of cadium (not sure of the spelling) which is used to make batteries. The CEO was talking about mining large areas somewhere in Nevada. I was appaulled and all I could think about was the Wild Horses and Burros plus the other wildlife that would be effected. I get so tired of these people raping the land and its animals for that almighty dollar. People wonder why we have earthquakes and sunamies…where do they think the land above is going to go when the oil, natural gas and other resources are taken from the ground. Unreal!!! The horses are paramount and should not take second fiddle to any thing. The “Dreg’s” state of Wyoming has a push for tourism too which shows again the Wild Horses running against that beautiful sky. My first thought was that a helicopter was chasing them from behind but not shown in the picture. I think its very
    two faced to use them to generate tourism and then support slaughter..What gives here????

  8. with everything terrible happening to our wild horses out west i’ve been searching for a decent place to bring my horses to live. looks like n.carolina is the place where they treasure their horses. anyone know of a rental with room for 3 horses?

  9. It seems people can’t view wild horses in the West, especially NV, Idaho and even TX without disdain or hatred. Even groups who want to see a decrease of cattle cannot mention wild horses as natives. Instead they talk about the culturally important bison, Bighorn sheep and pronghorns as being natives, which they truly are not. Of course, we know who they are trying to reach.

  10. The Wild Horses of Corolla are managed by a local, private foundation; however, part of the herd’s grazing area is in a federal wildlife refuge area managed by USFWS which, like the BLM, is under the supervision of Interior Secretary Salazar. Hence, the need for the current legislation. Like other wild horse (and burro) legislation in recent years, this legislation has passed the House, but so far has gone nowhere in the Senate.

    • Just a little correction here–”Misty of Chincoteague” written by Marguerite Henry takes place on the islands–Assateague and Chincoteague in Virginia. The Chincoteague ponies in Virginia are owned by the local fire company but are “allowed” to graze by permit from the USFWS. The grazing area has been reduced for several years much to the protest of locals and pony lovers alike.

      • Thanks for the correction, Barbara. I have (and love) the Misty books, but hadn’t gone back to them to confirm the location. I’m really sorry the grazing area keeps being reduced, BLM-style, despite protests. Sounds tragically familiar.

      • Barbara,
        I mentioned the M.Henry books, forgot they were in VA, but so close to NC, it doesn’t matter. Marguerite Henry wrote so many wonderful horse books that educated young people about horses and ponies. I could not get enough of them when I was a teenager.

      • I am aware of this. I am not sure what Corolla has to do with Chicoteague other than that they are both coast herds in the East. The fire department in Chincoteague makes too much money from the auction.

    • The key is balancing the needs of the many (tourists) with the needs of the few (horses). Any wild horse is as asset, in one way or another. Perhaps ‘horse watchers’ would go to the Western states to see those wild horses as an alternative to overcrowded Eastern beaches if given the opportunity. There are Wild horses on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. While our American wild horses have it rough at the hands of the BLM & USFWS services, the Abaco Island horses get very little help or assistance from their government. With less than a dozen wild horses are left on the island. “The Abaco Colonial Barb”. is on the fast track to extinction. Go see them if you can before its too late.

      http://www.equinechronicle.com/world-news/%E2%80%9Cthe-horses-of-abaco-island-living-history-critically-endangered%E2%80%9D.html

      http://www.kbrhorse.net/wclo/abaco.html

      • That’s a wonderful article, kashohio; thanks for sending us to it. Based on the one comment below, I see it was written in late 2009 or early 2010. I’d love to know how the remaining six Abaco wild horses are doing and whether they’ve had any babies since then. Those mysterious deaths (lantana-caused?) are so sad. So is the photo (at the bottom) of the burned tree — from illegal immigrant farmers and/or boar hunters.

      • BlessUsAll- The youtube site has some of the best info on these horses. As far as I know the last six are still there. The mares are in a compound (for their own protection) and one stallion roams free. They have discovered smaller hoof prints along with his bigger ones. So we have a mystery horse on the island. Hopefully, its a not a domestic mare. They have a facebook page with additional info, Arkwild. Thank you for your interest, I just came across these magnificent animals on the internet, please share.

        http://www.youtube.com/user/arkwild?feature=watch

      • Oh, wow, these youtubes look wonderful. Can’t wait to watch tonight; will share them widely. Thanks again, kasohio! :-)

      • kasohio, I did watch many of the arkwild films last night, including the 9-minute introduction, which was fascinating. I was surprised at how fast the wild horses became “tame” when they were given grain in buckets (the only way to ensure they wouldn’t be poisoned by eating the plants in the preserve until their habitat was widened). Thanks for sharing the beautiful last few Abaco Colonial Barbs with us. I hope the breed replenishes itself. And I hope the wild boar hunters and illegal farmers are kept at bay.

  11. I hope they limit the number of permits. I remember seeing the wild horses while on vacation in the Outer Banks a few years ago (we took one of the guided tours) and I’ve always wanted to go back. The see that beautiful beach overcrowded with vehicles and the horses with nowhere to walk would be a shame. It truly is a special place.

    • I do, too, missredreflection. In fact, after thinking it through, I realized that permitting even one vehicle to race around the beach is neither horse-friendly nor safe for humans. It’s hard to experience the beauty of nature in their loud presence. Reminds me of snowmobiles allowed on pristine public lands: their noise ruin everyone else’s enjoyment of the peace and quiet.

  12. The interest and attraction has always been there and will continue because the people appreciate these magnificent creatures for what they are…living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West. The more Americans can experience them in the wild the better, as long as their managed properly and shown the dignity and respect for which they deserve. It’s truly a win-win. (-:

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