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Carolina Beach Council Talks About Freeman Park Improvements

The Carolina Beach Town Council got an update at their July 16th meeting regarding improvements at Freeman Park to address issues with litter. The Town also plans to install a wooden Hatteras Ramp for 4x4 vehicles to easily enter and exit the beach within the park.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council got an update on efforts address littering and other issues at Freeman Park during their July 16th, meeting.
The park is located at the northern end of Pleasure Island and is one of a handful of locations on the east coast that permits four wheel drive vehicles to drive on the beachfront. Permits are $100 a year or $20 per day for vehicle access. Camping is permitted in designated areas.
Crowds flocked to Freeman Park on the North End of Carolina Beach over Memorial Day weekend. The Council took notice of issues within the park. Most notably piles of litter left behind by visitors.
Several Council members visited the park following the holiday weekend to pick up trash and speak with the public.
Brian Stanberry, Public Works Director, explained the issue of litter witnessed over the Memorial Day holiday was addressed prior to July 4th. The number of trashcans was increased and helped to aid in keeping trash from overflowing the cans and blowing around the beachfront.
He said one issue continues to be a problem where trash barrels migrate to different areas around the park. People often move the barrels for their own convenience.
Stanberry explained the State, "has agreed to the installation of concrete fire ash receptacles within the park" and, "The benefit here should be the reduction of abandoned fire pits and burnt firewood."
Stanberry said concrete fireboxes have been installed at the park. People are required to follow certain rules when building camp fires such as using a "fire pit" but until now they had no where to dispose of the burnt wood and coals other than hauling them out or dumping them on the beach.
The fire department directed lifeguards to speak with people about moving the trash barrels, discarded trash around campsites in an effort to educate the public.
He said an additional trash trailer was placed at the park to increased capacity.
Extra temporary staff was hired and modifications were made to the schedule to provide increased coverage in the evening hours. Stanberry explained that helped alleviate some of the trash accumulation that typically would have occurred.
An extra set of port-o-johns was delivered to the park prior to the July 4th holiday.
The Fire Department ran a hose out the Freeman Park entrance and irrigated the area there to help reduce the incidences of stuck vehicles. When the sand gets dry vehicles can get stuck much easier than when the sand is moist.
Stanberry said the Town has received permits to install a wooden Hatteras Ramp at the entrance to the park. That ramp will provide a hard surface for vehicles to travel on at the narrow entrance-area where vehicles often get stuck in the sand causing traffic backups in the park and on Canal Drive.
The Town also received their State permit to use a beach rake on a regular basis within the park to pick up litter and pet waste.
Stanberry said the rake will be used once a month in Freeman Park and will work in cooperation with the Town's Sea Turtle Monitoring Program to ensure the safety of nesting turtles and their eggs.
The rake will also be used for two consecutive days following major summer holidays including Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day weekend.
The rake will also be used in the area in front of the downtown Boardwalk area.
Previously the Town was only permitted to use the mechanical rake and tractor twice a year in the off-season when federally protected sea turtles are not nesting.
Last month the Town demonstrated their mechanical beach rake to state and federal officials hoping to use the rake more than twice a year outside of sea turtle nesting season.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials signed off on increased use of the rake throughout the year and after major holiday weekends.
Jerry Haire, Project Manager for the Town, explained they looked at obtaining a State grant to install the Hatteras Ramp at the entrance. He said the grant application deadline is in two weeks making the process complicated but they could meet that deadline.
He said, "The bad news is the awards are not until January. It would be a wait process. We couldn't do it in the next couple of months."
He said good news is there is no requirement for the Town to match that grant funding.
The estimated total of the grant is from $150,000 to $175,000.
The ramp would be around 300' feet long within the narrow entrance area out to where the beach widens.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said the Council would like to appoint some people to serve on the Freeman Park Committee to further research improvements on park operation.
Shuttleworth said, "If we can get with the committee and start looking at some of these long time issues of how to address where people camp, how they camp, what they are doing out there."
He said several people had spoke with him about limiting the number of people in the park and camping.
He said he hopes the park committee can work on a detailed plan ready by the end of the season so the Town can act on that plan prior to selling passes for next season.
He said, "We have a difference of opinion throughout the community on do we want to stop camping, do we want to shut it down, do we want to limit it? So I think we are open to some exploration and some ideas."
Stanberry said, "The operations committee is looking at that as well."
The next meeting of the Freeman Park Committee is July 25th at 7PM at Town Hall.
Prior to the meeting on Tuesday, Mark Hewitt - Environmental Superintendent, Public Works, Town of Carolina Beach - explained a small crew of town maintenance workers and temporary helpers labored twelve straight days (no holiday, no weekend), up to 15 hours a day, beginning at 5 am, to remove tons of trash off of the beach strand and Freeman Park, clean the boardwalk, pick up trash along the dunes, roadsides and parking lots, and clean the public bathrooms and showers.