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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Town Should Ask Legislature Permission To Use Beach Rake

Editorial: Town Should Ask Legislature Permission To Use Beach Rake

Managing Editor

Everyone can agree a clean beach is good for everyone. A cleaner environment is most important and while we would hope society would properly dispose of their trash, some don't. Litter of all types accumulates on area beaches overtime and allowing it to wash out to sea or sink beneath the sands isn't responsible when there's a solution readily available.
Mechanical beach rakes.
They come in many sizes from that of a riding lawn mower to the larger ones the size of a sport utility vehicle. The latter isn't ideal. Sure, it's faster, but it's not ideal for our local beaches for several reasons not the least of which are buried sea turtle nests.
Smaller beach rakes weigh less than the ATV's our lifeguards drive up and down the beach every day during turtle nesting season. They are clearly lighter than the large police and lifeguard Ford Explorers and F-250 pickup trucks that travel up and down the beachfront all year long; especially frequent during turtle nesting season.
And beach rakes can be adjusted to have the least possible impact while still performing their basic vital function; to clean our beach of environmentally unfriendly litter.
Tire pressure can be lowered to further avoid compacting sand and creating tire ruts. Both issues for nesting and hatching baby sea turtles. The depth to which the rake will penetrate into the sand is also adjustable to reduce impact.
The Town of Carolina Beach purchased a medium sized beach rake years ago to be pulled by a tractor. They were informed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission they could only use it twice a year and not during turtle nesting season. Yet the Town drives large trucks up and down the beach continuously, there's no limit. It's permitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They also have a trashcan machine that lifts and empties the large trashcans along the beach. That's not a light vehicle. The Town also has John Deer Gators (off road utility vehicles) used by the lifeguards and other departments on the beach continuously throughout the summer. And Freeman Park, located on the North End of Pleasure Island, permits four-wheel drive vehicles to drive on the beachfront year round often parked three or four deep near the waters edge.
This begs the question, if all of these heavy vehicles are permitted on the beachfront year round without restriction, then why isn't a beach rake designed to help maintain a cleaner environment permitted to traverse the beach any time it's deemed necessary or on a set schedule?
This would surely address issues of plastic bottles, glass, straws, cigarette butts, chicken bones, fishing line, plastic bags, aluminum cans, and any other type of litter that frequents our beach. Also important to note, dog waste. Even with an ordinance in Carolina Beach that prohibits dogs on the beach at certain times of the year and prohibits dog waste any time of the year, it still happens.
A beach rake would catch that waste and dispose of it properly.
I separate dog waste from other forms because it's one thing to notice cigarette butts, plastic bottles and other common forms of litter, but it's a special kind of hell to discover you spread your beach towel upon a covered chocolate-sand-castle that a disrespectful dog owner kicked sand atop to avoid having to dispose of it properly. A beach rake would pick up that waste.
One concern is a beach rake will smooth out the sand and possibly cover up the trademark tracks left behind from a mother sea turtle who came ashore to burry her eggs in the middle of the night.
There's a solution to that. The Town has a sea turtle monitoring program. People comb the beach each morning looking for those indicators and when a nest is identified, they mark it and put up a sign and barriers around them for protection.
Also, beach rake operators would only operate in the morning - avoiding the thousands of beachgoers - within a zone of the beach and could be trained to look for those indicators and the smaller beach rakes do not operate at a blazingly fast speed. Some can in fact be operated by remote control leaving the operator to walk ahead of the rake giving ample time to comb the beach for tracks, stop and call the proper people to come tend to the sea turtle nest to ensure it's protection. Even with a large beach rake, trying to rake the entire beachfront everyday would not be possible.
The Carolina Beach Council should take the lead on this issue and call upon their local delegation in the State Legislature to introduce a local bill giving Carolina Beach permission for a five-year pilot program with a report due at the end of that period. If not, then the question should be posed to State Wildlife Officials regarding the use of four-wheel drive vehicles, ATV's and trashcan machines on the beachfront during turtle nesting season on a continuous basis. That includes Freeman Park. Because imposing such a ban on smaller lighter weight beach rakes doesn't make much sense when other larger heavier vehicles are permitted.
The reason I point this out is because of the increased awareness of reducing litter on our beaches. In particular cigarette butts and plastic bags.
Banning both may help reduce litter, but will in fact not adequately address the issue short of hiring 10 or 20 full time officers with pay and benefits to actually go out and patrol for those specific violations.
Utilizing a smaller lower impact mechanical beach rake and positioning cigarette butt containers along the beachfront will facilitate compliance with existing littering laws and by using the rake, will ensure a higher and more measurable solution to collecting and properly disposing of debris and litter.
Telling the Town they can't use a beach rake for stated reasons is like telling a China Shop owner they can't sweep the floors but there's no problem bringing in a heard of bulls. It just doesn't make sense.