Anna Bay resident Warren Leadbeatter is among beach users who want a rethink on four-wheel-drive access to Birubi Beach.
The Worimi Conservation Lands board introduced a no left-turn policy in September 2015 on safety grounds.
Previously 4WD vehicles that came down the beach track off Gan Gan Road could turn left when they reached the beach and head north toward the the patrolled area – a measure that put pedestrians and dog walkers at risk according to the board.
But Mr Leadbeatter said he and his family had felt safer in the past being north of the access track away from the many 4WDs headed up and down the beach.
“It was good before, you could get a little bit of safety for the kids,” he said.
“Now you really have to watch out [parking south of the track], they’ve made it more dangerous.”
Mr Leadbeatter said he would still occasionally go down to the beach with his children who have now grown up.
“We would take our barbecues, eskies and chairs down there and make a day of it, have a swim and a fish,” he said.
“We’ve loved the place and cleaned up after other people. If people went too close to the flags [National Parks rangers] fined them, it worked.”
The Worimi Conservation Lands board – which has 13 members including Aboriginal owners, National Parks and Port Stephens Council representation – implemented a plan of management for the recreational use of 350 hectares of dunes and 25km of waterfront in September 2015.
National Parks and Wildlife Service enforces the plan and its area manager Andrew Bond – who spoke on behalf of the board – said it was clearly a safety issue.
“The plan of management made it very clear that this is in fact a safety issue,” he said.
“The intersection and section of beach in question gets quite busy where he have pedestrians, dog walkers and even horses. In fact, the dog walkers from Anna Bay have told us they feel much safer now because of the changes.”
Since the plan was handed down the board has spent $350,000 upgrading the access track via Gan Gan Road right down to the beach. This includes eight bollards and a cable protecting signs that prohibit access to the beach, north of the track.
“Our point is that we know people wish to park closer to the [patrol] flags they need to park at the headland and walk,” Mr Bond said.
“When it comes to popular beaches people do have a sizable walk.”
Mr Bond said his rangers had experienced few issues enforcing the plan and hadn’t noticed more people congregating close to the beach entry.
“We monitored the access track over Easter and there wasn’t any increase in vehicles parking near to that point,” he said.
“It’s been a slow process generally around education and most people are amenable to the directions of rangers.”
The council made a submission to the board in 2014 which said it held “reservations in relation to the proposed restrictions” given the section of beach was so popular among surfers.
The submission noted the Worimi Conservation board’s concerns with 4WDs mixing with pedestrians and dog walkers but stated the “risk of vehicle and human or dog collision is low” if an on-lead only stance was adopted.