NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Now that the additional restrictions in New Hanover County have expired, the mayors of Wilmington and the county’s three beach towns are extending certain restrictions.
Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach each extended their restrictions on the beaches, as well as short-term rental and hotels through May 8.
“If we take steps that undo the positive gains we have made, we will end up taking one step forward and two steps back,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said.
On Wednesday morning, Saffo signed a declaration to keep six of the county’s nine restrictions in place a little longer.
The declaration extends the closure of hotels and short-term rentals for non-essential purposes. Saffo says it also extends the closure of playgrounds and other places of amusement.
“It is painful to see our great lodging options continue to remain empty, but at the same time, we have to get this right when we reopen them,” Saffo said.
However, the city will follow the county in loosening restriction on retail businesses, and letting restaurants offer carry-out.
The mayors of the three beach towns also gave on update on where their restrictions stand.
“Essentially we will be continuing exactly what has been the course,” Wrightsville Beach Mayor Darryl Mills said “The beach is still open for exercise purposes only.”
In addition to Wrightstville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are also still only open for exercise-related activities. Short-term rentals in the towns also remain off-limits.
“When you start opening up short-term rentals, you’re not only looking at the surrounding area, but some of these folks are coming from areas far away from here where the rate of incidents is much higher,” Mills said.
Mills explained, it’s not only people in New Hanover County, but other areas we have to worry about.
“We’ll open Mike Chappell Park for all activities except for the playground and for any group activities,” Carolina Beach Mayor LeAnn Pierce said. “We ask you continue using social distance. Our dog park will be open, and our skate park will be open.”
Pierce says Freeman Park will stay closed for now.
While public parking lots remain closed, the towns have faced a lot of push back from residents who don’t live beach front.
“We want to put you back on the beach, Pierce said. “We want you to be there. We did not want to overwhelm the beach, and overwhelm the town and our police with enforcement issues.”
Pierce says they’ve been looking at a tiered reopening of parking lots in Carolina Beach.
“We looked at some of the lots that might be smaller lots, and how we might incorporate slowly opening a lot or two at a time,” Pierce said.
All four mayors acknowledged the importance of getting everyone back to the beaches, and ask people to be patient during this reopening process.
“In any decision we make, at least in the City of Wilmington, what Public Health is telling us, what our doctors are telling us is going to be paramount,” Saffo said.
Pierce says depending on how the weekend goes, we could start to see some parking lots in Carolina Beach reopen as early as next week.
“It’s very important for us to get you back there, but we have to do it safely,” Pierce said. Public health and safety is our number one concern, and we have to balance both of those things.”