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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Charging For Beach Access A Bad Idea

Editorial: Charging For Beach Access A Bad Idea

Managing Editor

The Revolution Festival was discussed at length at the June 12, Carolina Beach Town Council meeting. (See report on page 1-A for details.)
One recommendation to better control this festival was to switch from "free" admission to charging a fee of around $10 per person. The festival takes place in Freeman Park on the very northern end of Pleasure Island near the Carolina Beach Inlet.
Dealing strictly with the issue of public beach access, there maybe some issues that arise from charging a fee.
Freeman Park 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 enter 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.
Therefore, how can anyone charge for people to walk into a specific area of that public-trust beach simply under the guise of charging for access to a festival?
Unless state law gives a Town or County permission to carry out such a scenario, they have no authority to tell someone they can't be on any particular section of the public-trust beach. Unless of course it's a public safety situation such as a crime scene or other hazard.
The term "public-trust" is an ancient term under common law currently observed by the State that says anyone has a right to access our beaches and the dry sand area from the dunes to the water cannot be deemed private and off limits.
Currently the Town operates under the impression they have authority to charge for vehicle access to the beach within Freeman Park. Although there is no law granting them that specific authority, they claim an existing law granting Town's the ability to regulate, restrict and prohibit vehicles on the dunes and the beach also gives them the latitude to charge for vehicle access. However, that state law does not include language pertaining to charging a fee.
However, the Town has in the past claimed they have authority due to "broad construction" of the law. Meaning that while it doesn't specifically grant that authority, it's implied as a means to carry out that authority.
The event in question has grown from just under a 1,000 in previous years to around 3,000 this year and there's another one set for later this summer.
As mentioned in the article on page 1-A, it's for charity but perhaps it's time to relocate it to a more suitable location than the already densely populated tourism destination known as Freeman Park.