Editorial: Fort Fisher State Park Better Deal Than Freeman Park

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 06 June 2018 17:44

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 are extremely limited options to park near the entrance. One of the 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 curtail the ability of people to camp earlier in 2015, they also raised rates. That was 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 in early 2015.

Here's how it all breaks down for visitors and locals alike.

Currently 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 $20 per day and only by advance reservation. And the campsites are usually fully booked throughout the summer, especially on holiday weekends.

Freeman Park has lifeguard and police patrols as well as portable rest rooms on trailers.

Camping is free in the off season at designated sites.

The Town Council is in favor of raising Freeman Park rates in their 2018-2019 fiscal budget. They will hold a public hearing on those and other rate increase such as parking meters and expanding the hours for parking enforcement during their June 12th, meeting.

The proposal is to raise the daily rate from $30 to $40 and raise the daily rate on holidays from $50 to $60. The annual rate of $150 would be increased to $200 and the Annual Early Bird Special of $75.00 would be increased to $150.00.

The early bird special allows locals to get a discount by buying permits in person from December 1st to the 15th. Online sales of passes starts after that period and the discount is no longer an option.

Fort Fisher State Park on the southern end of Pleasure Island just south of Kure Beach charges $15 weekdays and $25 weekends for four wheel drive vehicle access to the beach. An annual pass is $60 and a Family Pass is $100.

Access is open 24 hours a day Sept. 15 - March 31 and during the rest of the year, vehicles have to leave 30 minutes before the park closes.

In the summer months the park is open from 8am to 9pm. 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 $40 a day ($60 a day on holidays) or $200 a year to visit Freeman Park when Fort Fisher State Park is far less expensive with more appealing amenities and nearby attractions?

Freeman Park is becoming too expensive.

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