Council Agrees To Lower Freeman Park "Early Bird" Discount; Remove Barrels

Council Agrees To Lower Freeman Park "Early Bird" Discount; Remove Barrels

Council Agrees To Lower Freeman Park "Early Bird" Discount; Remove Barrels Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 31 October 2018 16:39

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH -  
 The Carolina Beach Town Council agree to lower the "Early Bird" discount for people purchasing annual passes to drive into Freeman Park during their October 30th, workshop meeting. The Council also agreed to remove blue trash barrels located throughout the park and replace them with larger containers in an effort to address issues with people piling up garbage around the blue bins.

Freeman Park, located beyond the end of Canal Drive on the Northern End of Pleasure Island, is largely outside of the Town's jurisdiction. The Town owns the first 1,000 feet beyond of the end of Canal Drive. After that, parcels are privately owned. Private properties west of the front of the dune line are considered private while any portion of a property located east of the front of the dune line is open to public use under State Law as a public-trust area. That includes the dry sand beach east to the high water mark. The wet sand beach belongs to the State of North Carolina. The Town has authority to manage the public-trust beach 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 doesn't charge people a fee to walk into the park. They can only charge for four-wheel drive vehicle access. The Town has the authority under State Law to “regulate, restrict and prohibit” vehicles driving on the dry sand beach within the public-trust area.

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

During the Council's October 30th, workshop Interim Town Manager Ed Parvin said at a previous Council meeting he heard a desire from Council to take another look at the early discount for annual park vehicle passes.

Parvin explained, "Right now our annual permit is $200 and then the Early Bird Special is $150. That typically runs from December 1st to December 15th. That is an increase double from last year."

Parvin said another item of discussion is the cost of environmental expenses such as trash removal.

Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "I think that's why I asked to bring it up was more along the lines that since we had the winter season and the storm we had removed the blue barrels and were hoping to look  at, is there an opportunity for us to go to what I thought the Freeman Park Committee had talked about this summer which was maybe a more "pack it in, pack it out".

He explained, "For me the idea of reducing the fee was based on the fact that our cost could go down if we had less impact. I think the other thing we had discussed previously" with former Town Manager, Michael Cramer, "was the camping. In a variety of places the camp sites have been damaged. Either the ropes are gone or the posts are gone. Relocating those or reinstalling those was problematic" for the State Division of Coastal Management.

Shuttleworth explained, "To my understanding, CAMA has told us we would need to go through a whole new process which they weren't overly supportive of in their current configuration. I was hoping to have a general discussion with Council philosophically as a community and as a Council, where are we on camping, camping around the bend, where are we at with the blue barrels, where are we at with the port-a-johns, are we looking at doing something more environmentally friendly. If we are able to reduce those costs would we consider as a Council reducing either the Early Bird or both the annual permit slightly and the Early Bird."

He explained, "I don't think we can arbitrarily just say let's reduce the pass that we raised because we did a budget based on some of that revenue. It would be nice to be able to do that, but not without some opportunity to reduce cost."

Councilman JoDan Garza said the Freeman Park Committee recently recommended $100 for the Early Bird discount and $200 for the annual pass without the discount. He said the committee also recommended increasing the daily fee for camping from $20 to $40.

Garza explained, "They also felt that removing the blue bins, they were pretty cool with that, but maybe see a few of the bigger bins out there. In regards to moving camping, they were fine with what they saw there now and were fine with keeping that as is."

Shuttleworth said if the blue trash barrels are removed and larger dumpsters are utilized, it would help reduce labor overall but cautioned placing the dumpster to close to the entrance of the park since it could cause a bottleneck creating traffic congestion as people stop to dump garbage. He explained, "The idea was to reduce the amount of labor that it took for us with the can-truck and just to use the roll-off truck to go pick up the big dumpsters and swap them out. If you stage those right at the entrance then you are creating a bottleneck. So maybe it would be a combination of possibly extending the wooden Hatteras Ramp and putting them actually someplace where people can stop but are not in that soft sand. The softest sand is right there at the entrance."

Garza said, "The thing about "carry in, carry out" trash, Freeman Park rules have been that ever since day one. But the more the Freeman Park Committee speaks about it the more they feel that should be the entire beach strand from Alabama Avenue all the way to the tip. Their recommendation was to possibly have an ad-hoc committee to come up with something that's going to benefit the entire community."

Shuttleworth explained, "When we put the blue barrels out there they get full and people just go and put their bag right next to it and say 'hey I tried'. That creates the labor problem where the can-truck goes out, has to pick the can up and then the follow along guy has to get out and pick up the extra trash. Reducing it to maybe a couple of locations of those white roll-off, six or three yard dumpsters that we now have a machine that we can go out and pickup, that's going to dramatically reduce our cost. I would at least like to see us try it. We can always put the blue cans back. If we were willing to do that I could support reducing the annual permit by $25 and taking the Early Bird discount down to $100. I'm not overly inclined to raise the camping reservation personally... although I don't camp out there I do see a lot of families in the summer that like that opportunity. It is something unique about our community. There are only a couple of places in the state you can camp on the beach."

Shuttleworth said camping "around the bend" where the beach narrows towards the northern end of the park is difficult. He explained, "Most of those spots are gone. It's been due to weather, not anything we've done."

Mayor Joe Benson said, "Blue barrels. In favor. I checked in with a couple of Florida Gulf Coast communities... Clear Water is limited. They took an incremental approach to it and found  that trash reduced significantly."

He explained, "If we anticipate decreased revenues then we should expect decrease expenses so that we are not doing anything detrimental to the budget. Whatever those might be. I agree with reducing the rates if we don't have as many camp sites then there is less revenue, but correspondingly we should expect expenses to be reduced."

Shuttleworth explained, "The camp sites are a little bit out of our control. I would not recommend abandoning the camp sites just because we couldn't get them back at this point. I think Mother Nature has taken its course on a number of those around the bend which for me was a safety issue. Long term we can have a different discussion about whether camping is appropriate or not appropriate. At this point I would leave that. Personally I would just like to find out from JoDan and Operations where we could stage two or three of those white dumpsters and then lets just try it without the blue barrels for a while and see how that works."

Council member Leann Pierce said she's in favor of removing the barrels in the park and reducing the number of blue barrels along the entire beach strand. She said, "I'm okay with reducing the blue barrels on the beach strand to just by the access points, maybe one on each side, and let's see how that goes. I don't like them. They are ugly."

Councilman Garza made a motion to drop the Early Bird Special from $150 to $100 for the two week period in December from the 1st to the 15th and to remove the blue trash barrels and replace them with several white dumpsters.

The Council voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

Last year the Early Bird annual passes were $75. When Council approved the 2018-2019 budget which began July 1st, the rate was increased to $150 for the Early Bird discount. This lowers the discount to $100.

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