Park Service proposes removing caps on Fire Island National Seashore driving permits


The National Park Service is proposing new driving regulations in an effort to maintain the sustainability of the Fire Island National Seashore

The Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Management program is a new initiative created by the National Park Service for the Fire Island National Seashore. It would evaluate off-road vehicle use in the area and review the existing regulation to allow for appropriate driving access while protecting park resources and preserving a safe visitor experience, officials said.

The three main goals of potentially implementing the new driving rules are …

  • Support a “roadless character” for the long-term sustainability of the Seashore’s natural and cultural resources, while providing necessary access to communities. 
  • Protect visitor use, experience and safety, especially during periods of high visitor use. 
  • Update and clarify the permitting process.

The Ocean Beach Association opposes the FINS driving changes and does not want caps on driving permits removed. The organization believes the Fire Island National Seashore should continue to oversee and enforce driving regulations and potentially partner with communities to draft a new proposal.

Public comments on the issue are accepted until May 20. Click here to share your thoughts.

Existing driving rules vs. proposed regulations

Established in 1987, the current ORV driving regulations for the Seashore allows for driving access on park service lands and is managed through the FINS permitting system, which authorizes holders to drive to privately owned properties on Fire Island. 

No more than 145 permits at any time are issued to year-round residents. The park service issues 100 permits for part-time residents who held a residential permit as of Jan. 1, 1978, 30 permits to public utility and essential service vehicles, and 80 permits to construction and business vehicles.

The preliminary proposed action for the new Off-Road Vehicle Management Program would provide all eligible applicants with a driving permit for when the ferry or other waterborne transportation is not suitable. 

This includes year-round residents, part-time residents, essential services, construction and business, recreation and temporary use. 

Under this proposal, there would be no cap on the number of permits (except for the part-time residents, which is 50 permits) and each residential permit holder would be allowed two roundtrips through the east or west gate per day. 

All other permit holders could make one round-trip through either gate per day. 

Permits would be limited to one per household and one per contractor or business owner. 

One of the reasons the National Park Service wishes to review the old regulations and offer this proposal is the environmental changes Fire Island has faced, such as the wilderness breach caused by Hurricane Sandy, and how vehicle access and use patterns may be further affected by sea-level rise.  

According to their proposal, the updated regulations should provide future flexibility as conditions change. 

Residents and essential services would be permitted to drive from the day after Labor Day until the weekend before July.

In addition, construction vehicles could begin driving from the day after Columbus Day until April 30.

Recreational permits would be in use from September 15 until March 15 and essential services that are unable to be completed by marine transportation during no-driving summer month may qualify for a driving exception.

Community response 

One of the main concerns the park service addresses in its plan is that applicants, especially those with two or more working adults in their household, are concerned of the lack of permits and that confirming residency status could be a problem.

The park service states in the document that revisions should address these issues with the current process.

Read the full plan here and continue to follow for updates.

Top: Seashells on the beach. Photo courtesy of the Fire Island National Seashore Facebook page.