Editorial: Freeman Park Issues Coming Up At January Meeting

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 03 December 2014 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The issue of new camping restrictions at Freeman Park and other rule changes has generated a lot of public debate this year. Most recently the public chimed in with hundreds of comments online regarding the decision of the Carolina Beach Town Council, less Mayor Dan Wilcox, to limit the number of campsites to around 100, and charge a $10 fee for camping. Additionally, that's camping by reservation only. (See report on page 1-A).
Many people dislike the change. Many others feel it will help control the number of people that frequent the park and address littering. Mayor Wilcox, who voted against the camping restriction, said if the estimate from the Police Department of around 875 campsites on a busy summer weekend is correct, limiting the number of sites to 100 is a potential 90% reduction. Granted, that 875 number was a non-scientific count of campsites by police officers on a busy holiday weekend, but even if a normal summer weekend were around 600 campsites, then it's still a drastic cut in camping-availability.
Town Manager Michael Cramer attempted to the be the voice of reason and recommended a pilot program to gather data on just how many people camp at Freeman Park each year and then ease into any restriction on the number of campsites.
The crawl, walk and run approach is a very sound and reasonable way to avoid diving into the pool without knowing if you're diving into the shallow or deep end of the pool. Read the depth numbers first. Of course, some politicians have hard enough skulls that they need not worry about impacting the bottom of the pool and decided to cast Cramer's wisdom aside in a rush to achieve total environmental stewardship of the purported environmental nightmare that some claim the park has become.  A park that Council previously voted to take at least $350,000 a year in revenues (after expenses) in order to help offset expensive future multi-million dollar beach nourishment projects rather than leaving that burden to taxpaying property owners through future property tax increases.
Hey, makes sense. Let the people visiting the park pay for it and not be forced to utter the words, "Property tax increase" which usually leaves voters with a bad taste in their mouths.
The Town has already received one request to reserve all 100 campsites for an entire weekend. How will locals feel when they can't camp out there, even though they dropped the cash for an annual permit, because almost every site is booked for the entire summer in April or May? If you have an opinion on this topic, please take time between now and the Council's January 13th, meeting to contact your elected leaders and make your voice heard. You can get their email addresses at www.carolinabeach.org

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