By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
The Town of Carolina Beach was the scene of a sad tragedy last weekend when two good samaritans rushed into the waves to save a father and his daughter who were in distress. The father and daughter survived, but the two men who ventured into the ocean to save them lost their lives.
It's October. Lifeguards patrol the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the summer months. There are no lifeguards on the beach throughout the remainder of the year even when the weather is warm and people still visit the beach.
As our Town's reputation has grown over the decades, more and more people travel to the beaches of New Hanover County. Visitors come from Town's all over the U.S., but mostly from North and South Carolina and from within the Cape Fear Region.
The two good samaritans that passed away last weekend were from Town's in North Carolina.
As the population in New Hanover County grows - evidenced by a large increase in residential home construction such as 2,400 homes just over the bridge on River Road - so to will the number of people wanting to visit area beaches.
With that increase will come the increase in the likelihood that local County residents will find themselves in need of aid from lifeguards even after the summer season is over. As long as the weather is nice, people will head to the beach when they have some free time.
The Town of Carolina Beach should consider keeping lifeguard patrols active through the end of November on the weekends. It's hard to maintain the same number of personnel because lifeguards tend to return to college after the summer ends. But having even a handful of guards could help save lives.
This is not to say the Town is at fault for the deaths of those samaritans.
On the contrary. Those men voluntarily risked their lives and God bless their kind and heroic souls. But any person venturing into the ocean should note the risks involved regardless of whether there are lifeguards present on the beach. Yet our local government does collect a Hotel room tax that pays for lifeguards. Time to devote more of those tax dollars to that purpose in order to save as many lives as possible knowing that not everyone can be saved.
Expansion of the lifeguard A number of years ago the Town created Freeman Park on the North End of Pleasure Island. People pay a fee to drive into the park. One day a person drowned while visiting the park. The Town of Carolina Beach did not provide lifeguard coverage at the time (for a park they created on the beach front attracting hundreds of thousands of people each summer).
Ultimately the community called for the Town to provide lifeguard coverage for that area. Now there's coverage in that area.
The Town collects enough revenue from daily and annual vehicle passes at Freeman Park to put away at least $350,000 a year for beach nourishment and inlet dredging projects. Surely they can tap into that revenue to help provide lifeguards during the off season or "shoulder season".
Elected leaders in Carolina Beach have for many years sought to increase the number of people that visit our Island in the shoulders seasons in order to help local businesses enjoy more patronage in the off season.
When the weather is warm in the shoulder seasons, the Town should provide lifeguard coverage at least on the weekends to help protect the lives of those people who were encouraged to visit our area and often enjoy a nice day on the beach.