Editorial: Freeman Park And Possible Decline Of Revenue

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 26 June 2019 23:47

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Years ago the Carolina Beach Town Council agreed - at the request of then Councilman Lonnie Lashley - to dedicate around $350,000 a year from revenues generated by Freeman Park to go towards beach nourishment and inlet maintenance.

Freeman Park generates over a million dollars a year. Much of that goes towards operation of the park.

Freeman Park, located beyond the end of Canal Drive on the Northern End of Pleasure Island, is largely outside of the Town's 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 vehicle access to drive on the beach front within the park. The Town, by it's own admission, doesn't charge people to walk into the park. They can only charge for four-wheel drive vehicle access.

Hurricane Florence made landfall not far north of Freeman Park on September 14th, 2018, and brought storm surge that drastically eroded the beach within the park.

The park reopened but vehicle owners were finding it extremely hard to drive on the beach especially during high tides. People could be seen driving their vehicles through saltwater.

It should serve as a reminder every time the Town has to close the park due to intense weather events or lunar tides, that all it takes to eliminate this funding source is for Mother Nature to wake up on the wrong side of the bed one morning and toss a hurricane our way.

The beach within Freeman Park is the "Park." It's major attraction is the ability to drive on the beach with four-wheel drive vehicles.

The Town charges a fee for a daily or annual vehicle permit. In recent years they began limiting the number of campsites to address issues with litter and traffic congestion on Canal Drive.

The beach was already very narrow midway to the northern tip of the Island at the Carolina Beach Inlet.

Another tropical storm or hurricane in the next couple of years could eliminate access to the park altogether. That would effectively eliminate those revenues for an unknown length of time since the area is not part of our area's beach renourishment program. There are no homes or infrastructure in that area to protect and doing so would be a hard sell using local room occupancy tax revenues when the program is already fearing the elimination of federal funding.

Perhaps it's time for the Town to  research a "Plan B"  for alternate revenue sources now rather than later.

As previously stated in prior editorials over the years, don't keep all $350,000  of eggs in one basket hoping nothing bad will happen. And last weekend, due to erosion, the Town has begun closing the park at times. See report here...

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