Editorial: Fort Fisher State Park Now Better Deal Than Freeman Park

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 01 July 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Freeman Park, located beyond the end of Canal Drive on the Northern End of Pleasure Island, is largely outside of the Town of Carolina Beach jurisdiction.
They have authority to manage the area as a park. That was granted to them by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners some years ago. There is a fee charged for four-wheel drive vehicle access to drive on the beach front within the park. The Town doesn't charge people to walk into the park although there is extremely limited options to park near the entrance.
One of amenities that really made Freeman Park an attractive destination for locals and tourists in the warm summer months was camping.
When the Carolina Beach Town Council voted to cut the ability of people to camp earlier this year, they also raised rates. That's a strange business move. Eliminate an amenity and raise your rates? The police department counted over 875 camp sites on a holiday weekend in 2014 so the Council decided to designate 119 campsites starting earlier this year. (See report on page 1-A).
Here's how it all breaks down for visitors and locals alike.
Freeman Park charges $30 per day or $150 a year for a vehicle pass to dive on the beach. The daily rate jumps to $50 on holiday weekends.  Camping is $10 per day and only by advance reservation. Currently all 119 campsites are booked through the end of September. That essentially means camping is no longer permitted at Freeman Park this summer. (It will be free in the off season). Freeman Park has lifeguard and police patrols as well as portable rest rooms on trailers.
Fort Fisher State Park on the southern end of Pleasure Island just south of Kure Beach charges $12 per day or $50 a year for a four wheel drive vehicle permit to drive on the beach.
They don't permit camping or alcohol. There's free public parking nearby in a parking lot as well as at the neighboring parking area at "The Rocks" near the Fort Fisher Civil War Monument.
They have rest rooms housed in a building, seasonal refreshment stand and a picnic area with 12 six-person picnic tables.
They have outdoor rinsing stations and a visitors center.
Just in case you want to take a break from the beach while enjoying Fort Fisher State Park, right next door is the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
This wonderful facility is huge! An vast indoor forest, numerous displays, a touch tank and a 24 foot deep, 235,000 gallon replica of an offshore reef that offers two-story, multi-level views of large sharks, stingrays, groupers, and moray eels. They have classes and summer day camps for the kids.
To sum it all up. Why would anyone want to spend $50 a day or $150 a year to visit Freeman Park when Fort Fisher State Park is far less expensive with more appealing amenities and nearby attractions?
Freeman Park has simply become too expensive.

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