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Council Votes To Eliminate Freeman Park Pass Early Discount

The Carolina Beach Town Council voted Friday October 19th, to eliminate a discount for purchasing annual Freeman Park vehicle passes prior to April. All passes are now $100 a year.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Earlier this month the Carolina Beach Town Council voted to keep discounts, all through restricted, but a week later they voted to eliminate discounts for people wishing to purchase annual passes to Freeman Park prior to April. Rather than getting the discount rate of $60, everyone will now pay $100 a year. The overall purpose is to generate revenues of around $400,000 a year to help fund beach nourishment and inlet maintenance projects.
In recent years federal and state funding for beach nourishment and dredging the Carolina Beach Inlet has become unpredictable and could disappear in the near future. The Town is seeking ways to create a fund annually to save up for future projects. To add to the funding concerns, the Town was recently informed by the Army Corp of Engineers they are responsible for maintaining a rock wall on the oceanfront on Carolina Beach Avenue North.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said he liked the idea of setting aside $40 of each annual pass and, "With the requirement that if we fall short of $400,000 it's augmented out of the Freeman Park and parking revenues. I like the idea of being able to explain to our population that the reason we are not discounting the ticket is we've now been hit with new costs."
Lonnie Lashley said, "We're not really raising the annual rate" and that it's simply an elimination of a discount.
Shuttleworth questioned whether the Town should raise the annual rate and then offer a discount for early purchases.
Mayor Ray Rothrock said that's an idea but Council should not move in that direction this year. He said, "Already we know there will be people, and Will is here and might or might not write about it, who say you did this without a public hearing. We have time constraints and things that we do certainly when it comes to the budget" and they are under time constraints to let the Parking Enforcement company, Lanier Parking, know what the rates are in time to prepare for selling passes in the new year.
Councilman Bob Lewis said there will be some diminishing return by eliminating the discounted annual passes.
The Council voted unanimously to change all annual passes to $100 per year with no discount and to allocate monies to go towards beach and inlet maintenance projects.
Council member Sarah Friede said it's important to inform the pass holders what the funds are being used for.
Lashley said, "The tourists are paying for a lot of this... we are not raising taxes or setting a fee for all of our residents, that's the key."
Shuttleworth said a note could be included with each pass saying where the funds are spent.
For this season from 2011 to 2012, 8,951 annual passes were sold. (In 2011, 8,220). For this season, 6,413 passes were sold before April 1 at the discounted $60 rate. After April 1, 2,538 annual passes were sold at the full $100 rate. Freeman Park generated $900,909.05 for 2011. To date for this season, with only a couple of months left, it's generated $885,743.85.
Freeman Park, located beyond the end of Canal Drive on the Northern End of Pleasure Island, is largely outside of the Town's jurisdiction. They have authority to manage the area as a park. That was granted to them by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners some years ago. There is a fee charged for vehicle access to drive on the beachfront within the park. The Town, by it's own admission, doesn't charge people to walk into the park. They can only charge for four-wheel drive vehicle access. Permit applications are not required for daily passes. Daily passes may be purchased for $20.00 at the entrance of Freeman Park.  Weekend passes are available at $40 for 2 days and $50 for 3 days. Credit cards are accepted.