Carolina Beach Considering Reopening Beach With Restrictions

The Carolina Beach Town Council held a meeting on April 14th. One topic was the issue of reopening the beach strand in the face of increasing  public outcry about access to the beach to run, walk, swim and surf. The Council is communicating with other area beach Towns and the County about opening beaches in the coming weeks. The Carolina Beach Town Council held a meeting on April 14th. One topic was the issue of reopening the beach strand in the face of increasing public outcry about access to the beach to run, walk, swim and surf. The Council is communicating with other area beach Towns and the County about opening beaches in the coming weeks.

Carolina Beach Considering Reopening Beach With Restrictions Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 15 April 2020 20:32

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The beach strand in Carolina Beach may - emphasis on may - be open sometime next week only for exercise following a discussion during the Town Council's April 14th, meeting.

Mayor Leann Pierce asked Town Manager Bruce Oakley about reopening the beach strand on a limited basis during a meeting held April 14th.

Oakley explained, "We have been going back and fourth for a while what we could do. We've talked about opening it mainly for exercise only, outdoor recreation, which [Governor Roy Cooper's] stay at home order does encourage. Of course, keeping in place social distancing, not allowing groups of ten or more. Everybody keeping their space. It does, right now, the way we do it, does challenge our law enforcement because there are people jumping over [beach accesses] and going in. We've discussed possibly opening up certain accesses and maybe still restricting parking  to keep the numbers down so we don't have an influx from further inland coming to our beaches. We may open one or two accesses or limit maybe on parking lots. We are looking  at that as one of the first things we are doing."

If beach restrictions were eased, it would likely not permit beach chairs, umbrellas and tents. Only activities that include active exercise like running, walking, swimming, and surfing.

Oakley said they are also looking at taking steps to allow people to get out and socially distance while exercising.

Pierce said Town officials and elected leaders have been in conference calls with the County and, "We do have a plan how we would reopen. But for the public, restaurants  and bars are not under our control."

Oakley agreed saying the closure of such businesses is under the control of NC Governor Roy Cooper and, "That is the governor. The orders that he put down are orders we have to follow. We can go above and beyond what the governor orders, but anything he sends down we have to follow. The restaurants and essential businesses... we have to follow those" rules.
In North Carolina, counties and municipalities are an arm-of-the-state. Those local governments have to adhere to state laws and declarations of emergency. Local governments can adopt more strict rules in such cases, but can't go against a declaration issued by the Governor.

Pierce pointed out that local governments have no control over the State's closing of bars, restaurants, nail salons, or any other business they declared in the Governor's State of Emergency declaration.

Oakley said, "We can go above and beyond, but we can't be less restrictive."

Pierce said, "One of the biggest questions we had is why can't we walk on the beach. For the public, it's not about it's any less safe to walk on the beach, it's an attraction and it would draw so many people here from all over and that's what we have to be careful of because we are still looking at mitigating the spread of the virus."
Pierce said, "You are making a plan for a soft opening of the beach, and just for the public, that is their number one question, we are looking at that, and if we can put something together and get our county officials to agree, we may be looking at next week maybe?"

Oakley said, "Maybe by the beginning of next week. I know we will be meeting late this week and discussing" allowing people back on the beach with restrictions.

Councilman Lynn Barbee said he hopes all local governments can reach an agreement so one beach doesn't open while others are closed resulting in people massing at a particular local beach.

Wrightsville Beach Mayor Darryl Mills explained in a Facebook post on April 15th, "I want to thank the residents of Wrightsville Beach for your cooperation and patience in meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.  There have been some difficult decisions made that have affected all of us.  I acknowledge that it has been frustrating and difficult for most.  We have been regularly conferring with the New Hanover County elected and public health officials and the mayors of the other municipalities in the County.  We do recognize the potential health benefits of getting outside and engaging in physical activity.  That said, look for an announcement soon that will provide for limited access to Wrightsville Beach for some activities that will be completely spelled out in a press release from the Town of Wrightsville Beach."

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