CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY)– From camping to fishing, Freeman Park is one of the main attractions in the town of Carolina Beach, but the popular beach park had a rocky start to the summer season with closures all weekend.
Monday morning, there were multiple signs warning visitors and residents of the potential closures across the town. The signs read in part ‘limited access to Freeman Park due to heavy erosion.’
Stretching about 40 yards, the north end of the park has been closed. Substantial erosion has limited two way traffic creating a public safety hazard. Residents say, on Saturday, campers on the north end were forced to evacuate. This led to the overcrowding in the accessible area.
Catherine Altman visiting from Virginia says she used to enjoy long peaceful walks on the beach.
“You used to be able to walk for miles and miles… I would poop out before I could walk the whole thing, ” Altman said. “It’s just very sad because [the erosion] is limiting access to the park and it’s getting smaller.”
Altman says she hopes the state could fund additional nourishment projects to save the beach calling these closures frustrating.
Tyler Lockhart has been visiting Freeman Park for the past 9 years and he says it seems like every year the beach gets smaller.
“I don’t know if it’s the storm that’s caused all of this or just the actual ocean being Mother Nature,” Lockhart said. “We’d bring our little camping grill and just enjoy the beach, but it’s kind of hard to now because we used to go way down there and this is as far as we made it.”
Carolina Beach councilman Steve Shuttleworth says the town made an executive decision this past weekend to shut down traffic past zone 12, after it was substantially eroded.
“It stacked everyone up before you got to zone 12 and at that point our fire and police and ocean rescue said ‘Wow. It is so crowded. It is very difficult to get lifeguards and first responders through this area,” Shuttleworth said.
They had to close portions of Freeman Park to vehicles.
Altman says her family has been coming to the north end from Virginia for more than 15 years and she says something must be done to keep them coming back.
“It’s a really cool, unique set of people that come here because you have families,” Altman said. “You have a lot of fisherman. You have surfers, but you also see people on horses and we’ve also seen people with pot belly pigs on the park.”
Shuttleworth says the town is considering a lot of potential solutions.
“Council will be weighing different options with staff and our police, fire and ocean rescue guys, but that may include limited camping to no camping,” Shuttleworth said. “It may include limited vehicles. It may include different hours. It may include different hours for that section of the park.”
Interim Town Manager Ed Parvin confirms the town will discuss these potential solutions at their council meeting scheduled for Tuesday.