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Carolina Beach Seeking Permission To Use Beach Rake On Frequent Schedule

The Town of Carolina Beach is seeking permission to use a mechanical beach rake more than twice a year to clean the beach. They wish to use it on a weekly basis and must get state approval.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach continues to pursue more frequent use of their mechanical beach rake to clean the beachfront.
The Town Council voted to purchase the beach rake in September of 2004. The plan was to use a four-wheel drive John Deere 5520 tractor to pull the rake to smooth the sand on the beachfront each morning while picking up trash and other debris such as cigarette buts. The tractor was purchased from Wilmington Lawn & Leisure at a cost of $27,167.00. The Barber HD600 Surf Rake was purchased from the manufacturer (Barber) at a cost of $39,740.00 by "piggy backing" on bids to Myrtle Beach, SC, and Hampton, VA.
Following the purchases, the Town was informed by he North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources they would not permit regular operation of the beach rake and tractor due to the possibility of harming sea turtle nests and shore birds. The Town hoped to sell the rake to Myrtle Beach, SC for $39,740.00 - the same amount it paid for the equipment, but Myrtle Beach turned down the offer.
In 2006 the Town met with representatives from NC Fish and Wildlife and still the Town was only allowed to use the rake twice a year outside of turtle nesting season from November to April. Turtle nesting takes place during the late spring, summer and early fall months.
The Town has a state permit to use the rake twice a year which is due to expire in December 2014. Due to increasing numbers of visitors resulting in trash on the beach, particularly in Freeman Park on the North End of the Island, the Town requested to use the rake once a week in Freeman Park and in an area of the beach in the downtown district.
Freeman Park permits four-wheel drive access to the beachfront for a daily or annual fee. Camping is permitted in certain areas. In 2012 over 8,000 annual passes and 18,500 daily passes were sold with a monthly average of 2,200 vehicles entering the park. For the July 4th weekend, over 3,500 vehicles used the park. The Town picks up trashcans but using the beach rake would allow capturing of smaller items like cigarette butts, bottle caps, etc. The rake tines protrude approximately 3 inches into the sand.
The Town is also seeking permission to install a Hatteras Ramp at the entrance of Freeman Park to help address problems when vehicles get stuck in the sand and block traffic entering and leaving the park.
The Town has a sea turtle nest monitoring program. Raking during nesting season would only occur after the patrol swept the beach each morning for new nests.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said the Town is also requesting to use the same criteria used in Florida where beach raking occurs frequently.
The Town recently met with officials from the State Division of Coastal Management, State Wildlife Resources Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss the request.
Shuttleworth said Carolina Beach is willing to conduct a study to determine the effectiveness of the beach rake for the first year of its use. He said if it were not productive the Town would revisit the need to use the rake. In order to demonstrate the use of the mechanical beach rake, an on-site meeting has been scheduled at Carolina Beach Town Hall on June 10th at 10:30am with various state and federal officials. After a brief discussion, the group will travel to the beach to view the proposed areas.
Shuttleworth said he is optimistic the Town will get permission for more frequent use of the rake and hopes it will serve as a test program with positive results.