HARLINGEN — An announcement late yesterday afternoon has caused confusion about a new federal ban on activities on popular Boca Chica Beach.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release announced an immediate ban on all-terrain vehicles and “off-road vehicles” from the beach and the dunes behind the shoreline.
People caught driving in the area could face fines and see their vehicles impounded by federal officials, the statement said.
But it remains unclear whether “off-road vehicles” means just four-wheelers or includes regular cars and pickups driving along the beach to reach fishing spots or the jetty on the north end of Boca Chica.
Cameron County officials say they were caught off-guard by the press release and say they were trying to find out what it means since federal officials did not contact them before releasing the new rules.
Bryan Winton, refuge manager for the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, issued the statement late yesterday.
So far this morning, Winton has not responded to calls or emails to clarify the extent of the vehicle ban on the beach.
Winton cited critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles which nest on the beach, the degradation of the dune areas due to four-wheeler activity and the beach being a site for nesting shorebirds such as piping plovers and red knots as reasons for the vehicle ban.
“Further justification for this change includes the need to improve vehicle/visitor management throughout Boca Chica in anticipation of unmanned spacecraft launches (SpaceX) scheduled to begin in 2019, that will necessitate expedited beach closures,” the statement read.