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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Event Parking At Carolina Beach Lake; Wing Fling

Editorial: Event Parking At Carolina Beach Lake; Wing Fling

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

According to the agenda for the upcoming February 11th, Carolina Beach Town Council meeting, "The Wing Fling has held their event in Carolina Beach at the Boardwalk for the past three years. The businesses in the CBD have had past concerns with the event at the Boardwalk. This year the Wing Fling is proposing to hold their event at the Lake."
For three years the event has catered to college students charging admission for people consume chicken wings and get their beer within a chain link fenced in area while watching bands play on a stage at the Boardwalk. This photo (appearing above) was taken in 2011 looking at Cape Fear Blvd. To the right just out of frame were some 50 portable toilets. To the left is a large stage and audience area.

Lots of people.

Question is, based on recent complaints from residents around the Lake concerning parking problems along Atlanta Avenue during various events, can the lake really host an event of this magnitude?

The following is a portion of the minutes of the Carolina Beach Town Council May 14th, 2013 meeting where residents expressed concern about other events held at the Carolina Beach Lake:

PUBLIC DISCUSSION

Mark Goddard, 311A Atlanta Avenue, said the issue is the lack of parking management at lake events. He said he thinks there are a few more people here who want to address different aspects of that as well. He said it seems that the town council approved events at the lake and this is primarily around the lake events and they do a good job of providing setup for the event by fencing in the areas, bringing the portable potties in and then taking all of that down when the event is over but that seems to be the extent of what we do to support the events that are in town. Visitors who come to the events are really left to figure out where to park. There appears to be no attempt being made to enforce a town ordinance. I could be incorrect on this but I think there is an ordinance that people aren’t supposed to park in the road and, in fact, there is no attempt to do that and Atlanta Avenue is a 17’ wide road so if you have cars parked in different places it narrows that being able to enter and exit Atlanta significantly as well as some of the others. There is a small public parking at the lake I’m sure you’re all familiar with but visitors don’t really get to use that. I think a good example of that was at the Chowder Fest this past month where it was essentially closed off. If you walk in that parking area 4 or 5 of those spots are taken up by the portable potties which you could easily move to the grass and free up some spots and then they have signs placed up saying the lot is closed for vendors or VIP parking only. I am concerned that council approves such as that especially something as big as the Chowder Festival which can attract upwards of 3,500 people with really no management of the parking situation at the lake and I think it is a recipe for disaster and a great liability to the town and it concerns me as a citizen but also I live on Atlanta and it’s a very difficult situation. He showed some pictures of what it looked like on Atlanta during the Chowder Festival and, also, one of the residents at 218 Atlanta, Steve Hogan, could not make it but he sent me an e-mail and wanted me to share that with you. Steve ended up with people swinging and playing under his house and cars parked in his yard and it was really hard for him to manage it. There are impacts to this issue and some of them are for the residents and I think there are impacts to the visitors. For the people who live around the lake, Third, Atlanta and such it essentially closes access to your home both exiting and entering. It is not only inconvenient but it creates some concerns for many of us that feel like trapped residents. Right now I am fairly healthy but if I was older I would be a little concerned if I had need of ambulance services or fire services because that road could not
tolerate a fire truck coming down it. A fire truck needs at least a 12’ space and if you only have a 17’ road there is no way that kind of emergency vehicle could make it down. Also, for residents, it’s inconvenient as you see from Steve’s e-mail and I think you’re going to hear some more folks talk about that. We have folks that park in your driveway, in the road, on the lawn – there’s just no way to address it. This also impacts visitors to the lake and there is frustration because they meander around Atlanta and Third searching for places to park. In time I have to think that as we try to promote events at they are going to remember what it was like last time to try to find a place to park and that certainly doesn’t bode well to try to sponsor and support these events. Most concerning is the potential for injury. As you see in some of those pictures and if you’re there you have bikes and people weaving between the traffic and you just know that inevitably some child is going to run out and easily get struck by an oncoming car. To put an event of 2,000 to 3,000 people and offer absolutely no parking is a recipe for disaster. I think there are some potential solutions and some of them are to manage parking for all lake events, not just some. Decide where people can park, post signs and have police ticket cars that are not legally parked. Signs should be put up that could direct visitors to the school potentially with golf cart shuttles to events or other places in the town where they could park and come to the event. It should just be part of when an event occurs at the lake. Enforce the town ordinances for cars parked illegally, post signs if needed just alerting visitors to the consequences of parking illegally on any of these streets. Limit events at the lake to more locally focused events like the movies at the lake and the farmer’s market where a good share of the people who are coming to those events are local and they are walking or riding their bikes there but when you are looking at events that are over 2,000 – 3,000 people like the Chowder Festival serious consideration should be made to changing the venue for that and considering the gazebo area or areas that can more easily handle not only the parking but the size of those crowds. I would also say that someone needs to be tasked with the responsibility, either a department or person, with the overall management of lake events. The management of this event should not just be setting it up or tearing it down, it should include parking, signage and enforcement of town ordinances. About several weeks ago Tom Ingram, who I think is going to speak in a little while and who is my neighbor, and I were contacted by Ron Bond, who is the Chairman of the Operations Advisory Committee, who heard of our interest in this issue and this committee was starting to address that issue and asked if we would be willing to attend. Ron also lives on Atlanta and has personal experience with several incidents that were caused by the parking situation at the lake. Ron could not make that meeting but Randy Simon chaired the meeting. Overall the session was very cordial, the committee seemed anxious to support our efforts. Sarah attended the meeting and we appreciated her being there on the parking issue at the lake. We highlighted this issue and also some issues that Tom will talk about in addition to parking. During the meeting I think there was a motion made and it was accepted that a member of that committee would come tonight to this Council to talk a little bit about an update on what their committee is working on and also seek some support for some work on the parking issue. My sense from attending that meeting was that they have a lot of enthusiasm but they don’t necessarily feel they have the authority to do things, that they get that authority either from the town manager or the council and are in fact really seeking someone to authorize them to move forward on doing something about the parking issue and, in fact, coming back to the council to present some recommendations. He is requesting Council to authorize this committee to take action on those issues which means to explore those issues probably a little bit more in depth, create some recommendations and bring them back to Council. Given the time of the year and the events that will be occurring at the lake I am seeking your support of not only authorizing this committee to work towards solutions as soon as possible and that either the Council or town manager request an update in terms of that committee’s actions within 30 days.

Mayor Lewis said, just so you know, we’ve been looking at this for a while. We’re trying to work with a property owner across the street that is tearing down the car wash and negotiate an opportunity where we can actually do something with parking there, whether we manage it or they manage it – make it a parking lot with 35-40 spaces. It’s not going to answer the problem with 2,000 people. When I was on Council before this Council was here, we attempted to put almost 50 spaces along, to extend the parking lot that’s in the park itself and all the homeowners on Atlanta raised heck and said no we don’t want any more parking there so we backed off of that and said we’re not going to put in any parking because the people in the community didn’t want the parking period. They didn’t want parking there, they didn’t want another lot, they wanted to just have the grass and trees so we all agreed with that. I agree with the fact that the school has perfect parking, they allow us to park there so that is a definite opportunity and there are a lot of ways to park in it and no one ever gets to it for whatever reason, it’s a short little walk down there. I think the idea of shuttling people may be something we’re going to have to take a look at, whether it’s a shuttle on a little bus or golf carts – something to move people down. We have another parking lot in front of the Marriott off of Lake Park but it never gets a lot of parking there but the Hamlet Street parking seems to be crowded. There are various places to go so we’re trying to figure that out. That would be something we need to review. I agree, if the Operations Committee would come back with a recommendation for us to review and start to implement some of those ideas. Right now there is the Chowder Festival, the Step Up for Soldiers Cook-Off and there is Island Day, the only three big events that go there not including the movies on Sunday night. Somebody wanted to hold a Beer Fest there every Saturday for 3 or 4 hours and we turned that down. I knew that was going to be a problem for the residents. Surely something needs to be done with the first block of Atlanta, that seems to get buried with cars and people don’t seem to care.

Mr. Goddard said I don’t think in here you heard anything about build more parking. The issue really becomes the management of an event and that would include the movies as well as the farmer’s market which means when I go to an event and I would go to park I might see people with yellow jackets on that says parking or whatever that would be directing me where to go. That’s one aspect of it. It could be signs pointing me where to go. So really the issue isn’t that we need to create more parking, it might be helpful, but when you have an event of 2,000-3,000 a lot of 20-40 won’t solve it but if we know what we want to do, if the trollies or shuttle people and we let them know when we publicize these events where they should go to get shuttles, etc., and when they come to the event there is a uniformed officer or someone directing people where to go – managing the parking at the lake.

Mayor Lewis said we do have an events coordinator now who takes care of things but we really haven’t zeroed in on that issue, specifically about parking, so I’m not going to blame anyone. If the committee would come back with recommendations my thought is when we approve an event we include this as a requirement. They don’t have to be police officers but parking attendants of some sort and then here’s all the things you need to do if you have over this many people you’re going to have to provide other ways of getting transportation to getting people there – could be a little shuttle or something like that.
Council Member Friede said I wonder if the Operations Advisory Committee could use some help from other community representatives or other departments, there may be input from planning or the police department that would be helpful.

MPT Shuttleworth suggested asking Brenda to go to the Operations Advisory Committee meeting and draw in the people they need and work together to offer some options and solutions. Clearly the car wash parking lot is going to help, the parking lot in front of the Marriott that we don’t direct people to, maybe getting some parking attendants. Brenda has a pretty good handle on what is going on and that’s one of the things so if we’re going to empower her to take care of that then let her go to the committee, poll those guys and come up with some solutions.

Tom Ingram, 311B Atlanta, said last summer I was sitting on the deck, lakeside, and I hear two car doors shut and I thought it was my daughter and granddaughter but I don’t hear any feet on the steps. I go look and there’s a car in my driveway about 6’ behind my truck. I walk out to the street and there’s a couple with two little girls walking up the street. I hollered and said is this your vehicle in my driveway and the guy said yeah, be back in about 35-40 minutes. Is that a problem? The Christmas parade - I told a friend that he could park in my driveway because he said it’s a hassle to find parking. I put a huge sign on the mailbox “Please do not block my driveway”. It’s 6:30, there’s a car across the driveway. I walk out and there’s a lady standing beside the car and I said did you not see my sign and she said yeah, we saw your sign and her husband walks from the other side of the car and said you need to go back in the house the city told me I could block your driveway. I said you’ve got to be kidding, the city didn’t tell you that and the conversation went downhill from there but they did move the car. The Christmas parade, they don’t even attempt to park on the grass, they park completely in the road. They get out and walk to visit with their friends and look at the parade. If there was an emergency at any of our houses from Fourth Street to Lake Park, there’s no way. The fire chief told me it takes at least 12’ straight to operate that truck. We need to try to find another place to stage the Christmas parade. The old Cinema Theater, that’s where it ends – why not start it there and let it end at Atlanta or Spartanburg or Greenville or whatever. There are plenty of parking spaces there and it would not block any of us in on Atlanta like it does now.

Mayor Lewis said that’s not a bad suggestion, it could still come down the same street, same route.

Mr. Ingram said another place is Seventh Street from Plymouth all the way up behind here. That street is three times as wide as Atlanta and one side of it there are no driveways, there’s nothing except wooded land. They could stage there and lead through here down Lake Park.
Mayor Lewis said we’ll talk about it; that’s a good suggestion.
Susan Cortez, 311 Atlanta, said, like her neighbors, I don’t think it’s just the things that happen at the lake. On the 4th of July I worked a 10 hour shift, went grocery shopping and came home with a car full of groceries and from the time I got to Cape Fear Blvd. going down Third Street to where I live on Atlanta there were cars on both sides which limits you to one lane down the middle of the road. I got to my house and I looked and there were three cars parked in my driveway. I live in a stilt house so two of the cars were in my carport right up to my backdoor. I was terrified, it’s a security issue and they’re violating my space. There was also a car parked on my grass where I had just put down grass seed so I had to park almost halfway to the school and that is a couple of blocks up the road. So, I was walking with ice cream dripping out of the bag and needless to say after I got all the groceries put away I called the police station and they said that there was no one there at that time, about 8:00, so I called the state police which was the number they said to call and I was told to call a tow truck. I called the local tow truck company and the gentleman I spoke with told me that he was so sorry, but we can’t do anything because it’s a town ordinance that we cannot tow any vehicles until after 11:00. I said are you kidding me. I go to bed at 10:00 and get up early, I work 10 hour shifts. I am not sitting up until 11:00 waiting and then have to go get my car. In the meantime my husband came home from his job and, again, nowhere to park, he’s parked three blocks away and nobody would help us.

Mayor Lewis said that is not a town ordinance.

Ms. Cortez said the person operating the local towing truck is the person who told me. I was mortified. I’ve only been in Carolina Beach for about 2 1⁄2 years and I absolutely love it here but at that point I wanted to move. I could not believe that this was the way it was being handled. This was on the 4th of July, this happens not just on the Christmas parade, not just events at the lake – it happens all the time and because I live on the corner people are always parking on my grass. I went out and planted a couple of cactus and put rocks around them, a couple of days ago there was an event, I’m sitting out on my porch and I looked out and someone parked right there, opened their car door and stood on the rocks where my cactus plant was. This happens all the time. I just feel like nobody enforces it and I thought well I’m just going to put up stakes and rope it off so no one can park there but it is dangerous and it’s scary when you come home and you find that people are – I have a lot of stuff outside under the house, how do I know they’re not going to steal it. They’re right at my door. I’m one of the concerned citizens and we need to have something done about this because it is not right.

Mayor Lewis said I agree and we’ll definitely look into that. We can’t just manage one event. We need to look at it overall and how to enforce it.

Ms. Cortez said there’s a big lot on Woody Hewett Avenue and on Hamlet. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to put up a parking garage, make some money off of it and solve the problem then it would be safer for the people who live in that area.

Council Member Friede said she thinks part of the problem is that people are lazy, they don’t want to pay for parking and they don’t want to walk more than 100 yards so I don’t know that having a large garage elsewhere would help if there was parking still allowed up and down Atlanta. So I think the first solution is figuring out a way to keep Atlanta from becoming a parking lot. After that if the town finds that it needs more parking then I think that might be the appropriate time but in my experience people are dying to park in that block of Atlanta because they don’t want to walk another 1⁄4 or tenth of a mile even from the Hamlet lot of from one of the free spaces on Lake Park Blvd.

Mayor Lewis said one thing they can do is have the police patrol Atlanta if we make the decision to put no parking signs there then if people park there we can just start towing those cars. Our police department doesn’t really tow that many cars so maybe we should start doing it. I will say the same problem that we have with dogs on the beach, all of a sudden we start writing tickets for dogs on the beach the last two weeks and it’s cured a lot of people because I had a woman call me and say she’s never coming back here again because she got a ticket. I gave her the advice to go up to the north end but she doesn’t like it there. We have a parking problem in a couple of specific areas yours being one because of the lake. Another one seems to be right around the Ocean Grill, Tiki Bar, same thing. I get a lot of people there who have people park all over their yards and streets.

Here are some more photos from the 2011 Wing Fling event at the Carolina Beach Lake: