CAROLINA BEACH — Over the past several years that Carolina Beach has maintained and operated Freeman Park, the town has seen its fair share of challenges. The town has restricted access to the park in the past but, this time, it’s not because of rogue property owners installing fencing on the beach — it’s due to mother nature.
High tide events have posed problems at the park for some time and the Town Council restricted camping past a certain area on the beach in the past, but after a particularly busy weekend in June coupled with beach erosion and high tides, the town was forced to close the park to the public.
On Tuesday the Town Council heard from town staff along with residents regarding the closure of the park the previous weekend and any potential closings moving forward.
The timing of the closing is unfortunate as the 4th of July holiday approaches — it’s one of the town’s busiest holidays — and rates for a daily pass to drive onto the North End go up to $60 a vehicle.
The town will experience a significant loss of revenue due to the expected early closures, limited camping, restrictions on day passes, as well as the possibility of giving out refunds for those who purchased annual passes and get turned away at the gate. But, in order to keep visitors to the park safe, the restrictions are necessary, town officials say.
“It’s impassible at high tide and you’re going to be breaking the rules and going in the wet sand area. The tide range now is 3.5-feet and it’s only going up as we move towards 4th of July,” Interim Town Manager Ed Parvin said.
The closure is not only an inconvenience for those wanting to drive out to the beach but there are also people who have already booked campsites past the ‘pinch point’ who will have to be refunded.
Over the past weekend one of the concerns for the town was the fact that people were getting blocked in by other beachgoers and unable to leave when they wanted to, Parvin said. The decision to suspend the sale of day passes is to give those who purchased the $200 annual pass a chance to get out to the park, Parvin added.
According to Councilman Steve Shuttleworth, the town sold around 6,000 annual passes. But there are those who purchased the annual pass and will possibly want a refund due to the limited access for the foreseeable future, he said.
“What would be council’s position on being willing to offer a refund or a partial refund on people that decide, based on the fact it’s going to be limited for the rest of the year?” Shuttleworth asked, adding that he was “okay with the move” but it would cost the town revenue.
While the council did not make an official statement on refunds for pass holders, they were open to the idea.
The town will update the status of the park daily on its Facebook page.
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